Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain. GABA has a calming effect on the body with a broad range of effects that include; reduced stress, anxiety and fear, increased relaxation, alleviation of pain, and prevention of insomnia and depression. This makes GABA the perfect “Natural Chill Pill”.
As a result of these properties, GABA has also become a popular supplement in recent years. This is partly because it is not available from many food sources. The only foods that contain GABA in large enough quantities are fermented ones, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, and tempeh.
A team of researchers from the Technical University of Dresden, published their findings in "Scientific Reports" 2015 on how the natural food supplement GABA improved planning and controlling different actions, a crucial skill in real-life environments such as driving a car in stop and go traffic.
Natural GABA as a supplement known as "Pharma GABA" is made through a vegetable fermentation process that uses Lactohacillus hilgardii – a bacteria used to prepare the famous, traditional Korean dish: kimchi.
A study from 2014 shows that subjects administered PharmaGABA:
- Fell asleep more quickly and easily, and more rapidly moved to a state of deep sleep.
- Experienced greater length of valuable non-REM sleep.
- Upon awakening consistently reported a qualitatively better and more satisfying sleep experience.
In addition, blood was analyzed to determine GABA’s rate of absorption, and it was found that GABA was absorbed within 30 minutes of being administered and trace levels dropped off precipitously soon after. This draws a distinct line between the activity of GABA, which metabolizes fully over a very short time, and of sleeping formulations, including prescription and non-prescription sleep aids, which linger in the blood long after rising, resulting in a qualitative decline in cognitive and physical condition. Subjects reported feeling refreshed and alert upon rising after the use of GABA.
Researchers in the field of aging are studying the effects of GABA as it is linked specifically with issues of balance, fine motor skills and motor coordination. As reported in the June, 2018 issue of the journal "Aging" a key role is played by GABA in human movement control.
Researchers report that low levels of GABA in the brain can lead to a multitude of neurological and psychological disorders that include depression, insomnia, anxiety, chronic stress, headaches, muscle pain, difficulty concentrating, negative thought, feeling disorganized and excessive worry.
One of the most intriguing discoveries about GABA is that it can specifically diminish the unwanted thoughts that fuel stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.
According to Julia Ross, MA, the author of "The Mood Cure" and a pioneer in the field of biochemical rebalancing: “GABA acts like a sponge, soaking up excess adrenaline and other by-products of stress and leaving us relaxed.”
Anti-anxiety benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax and prescription sleeping pills like Ambien work by enhancing the naturally calming effects of GABA, binding to GABA receptors, or increasing GABA receptor sensitivity.
Scientists also report on the other properties of GABA that include its: "anti-hypertension, anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammation, anti-microbial, anti-allergy, hepato-protection, reno-protection, and intestinal protection. Therefore, GABA may be considered as potential alternative therapeutics for prevention and treatment of various diseases."("Molecules", May 2019).
Neurological researchers discovered that GABA improved memory and cognitive functions of the brain. In one study with menopausal women taking GABA, symptoms of depression and insomnia were improved by more than 65%.
While the body produces GABA naturally many individuals have less that adequate amounts. In one recent study, GABA levels in people with insomnia were almost 30% lower than those people without the sleep disorder.
GABA could work effectively as a natural relaxant and its effects could be seen within 1 hour of its administration to induce relaxation and diminish anxiety. Moreover, GABA administration could enhance immunity under stress conditions." ("Biofactors" 2006)