The substance gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter, a chemical used by the human nervous system to send messages and modulate its own function. GABA acts in an inhibitory manner, tending to cause nerves to “calm down.” Drugs in the benzodiazepine-receptor-agonist (BzRA) family (a family that includes true benzodiazepines such as valium, as well as related drugs such as Ambien or Lunesta) exert their effect by facilitating the ability of GABA to bind to receptor sites in the brain. This in turn leads to relaxation, relief from anxiety, induction of sleep, and suppression of seizure-activity.
In the best designed study of GABA for reducing blood pressure (described below), the dosage used was 10 mg daily.
Much higher dosages are sometimes recommended by alternative practitioners for treating anxiety or insomnia, as high as 1000 mg daily, in the (probably vain) hope that some tiny amount of this orally ingested GABA might make it into the brain.
No serious adverse effects have been associated with the use of GABA. Nonetheless, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -