Mental health is an important issue to me — my mom is a counselor, and I live with a variety of mental health conditions. Either because of the difficulty of finding a provider, or the stigma associated with seeking treatment, many people turn to the internet for help, and this is totally understandable.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t come without a fair amount of less-legitimate information, and as always, bloggers and influencers might be responsible for promoting “mood support” supplements that don’t really have much research to back them up.
I’ve looked into 5 of the best mood support supplements for women and their main active ingredients. We’ll go through what science says about their potential to impact certain mental health conditions, any potential side effects, and what they claim to treat.
I’m sure it will become more evident as I discuss each one, but please, please, please do not start taking any vitamin or supplement without first consulting with your doctor.
It’s also worth mentioning that vitamins and supplements do NOT have the same level of oversight and regulation as the pharmaceutical industry. While some of these third-party regulatory groups do an excellent job of ensuring the purity and safety of their supplements, not everything you buy online or in a health store holds up to these same standards.
The fact that many of these supplements are “natural” does not make them inherently safer. (Also, they come in a pill, so, uh, do what you will with the definition of “natural” that many of these companies try to sell us.)
HUM Nutrition- Moody Bird
First, I looked into HUM Nutrition’s Moody Bird PMS Supplement. As PMS (premenstrual syndrome) can impact people’s moods pretty severely, it makes sense this might be something that people whose moods fluctuate during that time of the month would seek out.
The key ingredients in this one are chasteberry, said to modulate hormones and alleviate PMS symptoms and dong quai root, which is reported to balance estrogen levels and blood flow to decrease cramps.
There’s been a few studies on chasteberry‘s impact on PMS, but a 2017 review of chasteberry’s effectiveness found that most of these studies were low quality and were potentially too biased to be determinative. (Womp womp).
As for dong quai root, there haven’t been any randomized controlled trials on its effectiveness in PMS. It does have a history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to treat painful menstruation, but there aren’t any studies on this. Additionally, there are no studies on how dong quai might impact hormone treatment or hormonal birth control. Given that it claims to modulate estrogen levels, this is a bit concerning, and so it is not advised for people with endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
FWIW, these are both the active ingredients in FLO Vitamins, another vitamin that purports to be a PMS cure.
Love Wellness #Mood Pills
I’m going to forget the weird branding of #Mood Pills being a hashtag that’s not connected (so #hip and #relatable!) #Mood Pills claim to ease occasional stress and frustration. They contain our friend chasteberry as well as Vitamin B6 and St. John’s Wort. Since we already talked about chasteberry, let’s address Vitamin B6 and St. John’s Wort.
There’s some evidence to suggest that Vitamin B6 supplementation is valuable as a treatment for depression in premenopausal women, but it’s not entirely conclusive. One study on Vitamin B6 showed that it was effective in reducing stress when it was combined with magnesium supplementation.
Vitamin B6 is in foods like chickpeas and tuna, and shouldn’t be too hard to get with a balanced diet, which explains why a Vitamin B6 deficiency is pretty rare. The evidence for Vitamin B6 supplementation is decent, but if you’re eating a balanced diet, you probably don’t have too much to worry about.
St. John’s Wort is a bit of a different story. There is a lot of evidence on St. John’s Wort’s effectiveness — a 2016 review found that it was superior to placebo for mild to moderate depression, and that it wasn’t significantly different than antidepressant medication in mild to moderate depression.
This finding is repeated and iterated upon in many other studies that have occurred since that review (basically a report on all the existing studies) was written. However, and I think this is a big however, St. John’s Wort interacts with a TON of prescription medications, including birth control, blood thinners, antidepressants, and cancer medications.
While their FAQ does tell people to check with their doctor before taking this with birth control or prescription meds, it’s quite hidden in the links. Although the savvy readers of Girls Love Evidence wouldn’t take a vitamin without running it past their doctor first, when it comes to the general public, it’s more than a little concerning to me that this isn’t very clearly stated on #Mood Pills’ site.
Aura Botanical Mood Booster
Aura Botanical Mood Booster is the first mood support supplement that links to the articles to back up their claims on their website (we love to see it). It contains a completely different set of active ingredients, N-acetyl-L-cysteine, folate, saffron, and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid).
Nothing on their site addresses what N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) would theoretically do for mood, but this ingredient’s presence in this supplement is a little bit of a concern for me. In medicine, it’s used to treat Tylenol poisoning and can be a medication for certain lung diseases.
As it is considered a drug, it’s only supposed to be used under FDA guidance, and not as an unregulated nutritional supplement. (If this is confusing, I suggest reading my articles on why supplements aren’t regulated like drugs and my article on unapproved uses of FDA-approved drugs in lash serums). The FDA is currently making a decision on NAC, so we’ll see in a few weeks what the future of this ingredient is in supplements.
According to Aura, folate is supposed to improve cognitive symptoms of depressed mood. The folate used in Aura is 5-MTHF as a glucosamine salt, a form of folate that might be better tolerated than other forms. As with many supplements, there’s the concern that the stability or efficacy of these hasn’t been adequately tested. That said, there is a fairly large body of evidence to suggest that folate supplementation can help with depressed mood.
Saffron seems to cover a lot of mood support concerns — Aura’s site links to suggestions that it might help with PMS, mild depression, stress, and sleep. These studies all have somewhat different dosages than what’s found in Aura, but they tend to all have promising results.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an Omega-3 fatty acid that has been studied as an additional therapy for those with depression who are already taking antidepressants. The results from these studies seem positive. However, a few different studies have suggested that the benefit of Omega-3s seems to come more from EPA, another type of fatty acid, and not so much from DHA.
Spirit Dust Adaptogens for Mood
I thought this powder from Spirit Dust called Moon Dust would be fun to look into since I’ve already looked into adaptogen coffee due to its popularity in the biohacking community. Spirit Dust contains reishi, ashwaganda, astragalus, mimosa bark, dan shen, longan berry, and goji.
Reishi is a kind of mushroom with a seriously impressive history, having been associated with royalty and immortality, and the literature from traditional medicine shows that it might be effective in a variety of mood-related disorders. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of the “reishi” mushrooms on the U.S. market tested in 2017 were actually reishi — the remainder had chemical or genetic differences and were actually different species of mushroom.
In a similar manner, astragalus has a long-documented history of use, with no high-quality studies to show its effectiveness.
Ashwaganda, said to “promote emotional wellbeing” by Spirit Dust, actually seems helpful to reduce stress levels. However, my biggest concern with ashwaganda is that it has been noted to cause liver toxicity, mainly due to other contaminants present in it. (Again, supplements aren’t regulated like pharmaceuticals.)
I didn’t find any studies on mimosa bark and mood, but did find one on the same plant’s leaves in mice that showed a reduction in anxiety. Longan and goji berries also have similar reported effects in mice, but I couldn’t find any human studies to prove their efficacy.
Finally, let’s talk about dan shen, which is said by Moon Juice to “calm the heart”. While I’m no stranger to an elevated heart rate from anxiety and stress, this kind of freaked me out. Dan shen can lower blood pressure, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it will have any impact on heart rate. It does have some potential to treat diseases like cardiac heart failure, but again, this doesn’t give us much to determine what it does for mood.
Rae Rebalance Capsules
This one kept coming up in my research, and I had to review it because I’m now getting ads for it on every single page I visit. Rae’s Rebalance Capsules focus on balancing hormones and mood, but also include digestive enzymes to help during your period.
Rae Rebalance Capsules contain quite a few ingredients, including reishi and St. John’s Wort. As mentioned earlier, St. John’s Wort can interact with a variety of medications, and this isn’t mentioned on Rae’s site. They also contain black cohosh, dandelion, lavender, and digestive enzymes (amylase, cellulase, lactase, lipase, and protease).
I have never heard of black cohosh in my life, which is kind of a surprise given how much time I spend researching this kind of stuff. Apparently, it’s a North American root used for estrogen-related concerns and has been used to alleviate menopause symptoms. I found one review that looked at black cohosh in both pre/post menopause,
These capsules also contain 5 mg of ‘Hymalayan’ pink salt. I’m not really sure what purpose this serves, but it kind of plays into a (now debunked) idea that low sodium levels are responsible for PMS.
Why is it hard to find effective mood support supplements for women?
If you got this far, you probably realize how difficult it is to find a mood support supplement. There are SO many ingredients in each one, and taking the time to review the literature (or lack thereof) is… a lot.
It’s perfectly normal to have ups and downs in your mood, but if you’re here looking for advice about what to take because you suspect more serious problems, please go to a medical professional.
As you’ve probably learned, the ingredients in natural mood boosters are all over the place, and it’s hard to ensure that you’re taking something for mood support that doesn’t interact with other medications, worsen another condition, or waste your money. The best mood support supplements for women are the ones that are the BEST for you — which may very well be nothing.