Gencor, Irvine, CA, offers affron, a “new generation extract” obtained from saffron stigmas (Crocus sativus L.) and is the first saffron extract standardized by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to Lepticrosalides, the bioactive compounds that help to improve mood (crocins and safranal). Chase Shryoc, vice president of sales and business development at Gencor, explained that affron has five clinical studies backing its positive effects on mood improvement, anxiety, and sleep difficulties, one of which is considered the most extensive clinical study on dose-response effectiveness performed with a commercial saffron extract.
“This double-blind, parallel, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial indicated a significant decrease in negative mood and symptoms related to stress and anxiety at a 28 mg/day dose,” he said. Researchers concluded that affron increased mood, reduced anxiety, and managed stress without side effects, offering a natural alternative to standard treatments (Complement Ther Med, 2017).
Another recently published study showed improvement in anxiety and depressive symptoms in youth ages 12 to 16 years old with mild-to-moderate symptoms (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2018). “The eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted in Australia and used the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS), a 47-item questionnaire which has been shown to accurately assess anxiety and depressive symptoms in clinical and schools-based youth. The RCADS measured outcomes by both the children and parents. Based on the youth self-reports, affron was associated with greater improvements in overall symptoms of separation anxiety, social phobia, and depression,” noted Mr. Shryoc.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been buzzing in the natural products market in recent years. “CBD is one of the 100+ naturally occurring compounds in the hemp (and marijuana) plant, but unlike THC, it doesn’t cause that ‘high’ so often associated with cannabis,” explained Stuart Titus, PhD, CEO of Medical Marijuana, Inc, Poway, CA. Though non-psychoactive, Dr. Titus noted that CBD has neuroprotective benefits, and antioxidative properties that could be helpful in treating a wide variety of conditions. “Many users report a relaxed focus—by that statement it can be inferred: CBD helps to calm or relax the central nervous system. There is nice research on the anti-anxiety benefits (Neurotherapeutics, 2015), which really amounts to the central nervous system relaxation effects. CBD also seems to have a positive impact on the ANK3 gene family, which regulates one’s ability to cope with stress.”
To address sleep disorders as well as stress and anxiety in a natural way, Naturex has developed Cyracos, a proprietary lemon balm extract with high levels of the plant’s naturally-occurring bioactive compounds. “Hydroxycinnamic acids and rosmarinic acid have been found to have a positive effect on GABA—the neurotransmitter that helps manage stress,” explained Romain Thévenot, global category manager – wellness for Naturex. “Cyracos was designed by selecting a specific cultivar of lemon balm and optimizing the extraction process (with water and ethanol only) to achieve the highest amounts of these actives. The ingredient was clinically investigated and shown to significantly reduce insomnia, anxiety manifestations, and anxiety-related symptoms, with a dosage of 300 mg twice daily (Med J Nutrition Metab, 2011).”
KAVOA, a standardized extract of Kava root (Piper methysticum), is Applied Food Sciences’ contribution to the mood health, relaxation, and sleep supplement market. “Kava has been used for over a thousand years in the Pacific islands as a social and ceremonial drink due to its ability to relax and improve the mood of participants,” said John Kathrein, ingredient coordinator. “Scientific research has shown a class of biologically-active compounds, known as kavalactones, which contribute to these properties of kava through their interaction with a variety of mood stabilizing processes within the body. These include increasing GABAergic activity and decreasing activity of Ca2+ and Na+ voltage-gated activity. Furthermore, clinical trials using standardized extracts of kava have been shown to increase cheerfulness indices using the state-trait-cheerfulness-inventory (STCI), and decreases in the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA) compared to placebo controls.”
KAVOA, he added, is an extraction of noble cultivars of kava that is standardized to a 20% kavalactone content, the active constituents of kava. “In particular, the extraction process has been optimized to enhance the kavain and dihydrokavain content, the two kavalactones research suggest contributes the most significant effect to mood and sleep benefits.”
OmniActive has been actively researching the role macular carotenoids play in mood and sleep, with its ingredient Lutemax 2020. The LAMA II (Lutein, Vision And Mental Acuity II) study published last year in Nutritional Neuroscience, set out to determine the extent to which Lutemax 2020 (lutein and zeaxanthin isomers [RR-zeaxanthin and RS (meso)-zeaxanthin]) could relieve psychological stress.
“In this study, investigators recruited 58 healthy young adults to take either one of two doses of Lutemax 2020 (13 mg and 27 mg, respectively) or placebo for one year. During the study, the researchers measured blood cortisol, psychological stress, and mood at baseline, six, and 12 months,” explained Brian Appell, marketing manager.
Results found that supplementation with Lutemax 2020 for six months significantly increased serum carotenoid levels as well as MPOD (macular pigment optical density), which experts say is a good indication of the body’s supply of lutein and zeaxanthin, including the brain. “Both groups had significantly lower serum cortisol levels. And overall, researchers found that both supplementation groups also experienced improved psychological stress as well as physical and emotional health compared to placebo,” noted Mr. Appell.
Additionally Lutemax 2020 has been linked to benefits for sleep. The B.L.U.E. (Blue Light User Exposure) study was a six-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at the University of Georgia that examined the importance of supplementation with macular carotenoids from Lutemax 2020 on visual health and performance, physical indicators of excessive screen time, and sleep quality during long-duration exposure to digital screens and other sources of high-energy blue light. Results found supplementation with Lutemax 2020 significantly improved overall sleep quality beginning at 3 months and continued through the end of the study.
Pharma Foods International offers the ingredient PharmaGABA, featuring GABA—a well-known compound derived from amino acids that acts by inhibiting neurotransmitters on the autonomic nervous system. “When GABA is ingested it acts on parasympathetic system,” explained Atsushi Yamatsu, vice director, GABA brand manager. “It has been reported that the parasympathetic system is responsible for controlling mood, stress, and quality of sleep. Several clinical studies performed around the world have shown that GABA consumption can relieve stress, improve mood changes, and improve quality of sleep.”
Lonza Consumer Health & Nutrition (CH&N) has a range of ingredients to support mood regulation and aid sleep and relaxation. For example, Lonza’s Relora brand is a proprietary blend of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense bark extracts and has been shown to improve mood and overall stress. “The science-backed ingredient is supported by three peer-reviewed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that demonstrate its positive effects on mood state scores and weight maintenance in stress eating,” said Juliana Erickson, senior category marketing manager.
In addition, its Seditol ingredient is a proprietary blend of Magnolia officinalis bark and Ziziphus spinosa seed that has been reported to support sleep and relaxation. “An alternative to over-the-counter products that can often leave consumers feeling groggy in the morning, the Seditol brand offers another approach to managing sleeplessness, stress and anxiety,” noted Ms. Erickson. “According to research conducted by NMI and commissioned by Lonza CH&N, 87% of supplement users rated the Seditol blend as relaxing, 83% found it a helpful sleep aid, and 83% said it supported in reducing fatigue.”
Sensoril is a standardized extract of both the leaf and root of the Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) plant supplied by Natreon. It is known for its ability to support stress reduction, sleep, and mood. “Its unique bioactive constituents give Sensoril adaptogenic properties,” explained Bruce Brown, president of Natreon. “Adaptogens are known to energize the body, increase the ability to resist and recover from stress, and support a feeling of balance and normalization.”
According to the company, Sensoril provides long-lasting relief from symptoms of stress while improving mood, without any negative side effects. “It helps reduce stress, fatigue, and tension, while also counteracting the negative effects of stress.” Mr. Brown pointed to a human clinical trial in which participants with moderate levels of chronic stress were given Sensoril or a placebo daily for 60 days (JANA, 2008). “Subjects given Sensoril experienced significant reductions in individual stress-related symptoms including: irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, sweating, headaches, muscle pain, and heart palpitations.”
Sleep researchers have found that lack of adequate sleep can lead to a reduction in the ability to concentrate, learn, and remember. It can also interfere with immune function and mood regulation, Mr. Brown added. “By lowering serum cortisol, Sensoril is able to help the body return to a healthy circadian rhythm and get more restful nighttime sleep. This was confirmed in a human clinical trial that showed that subjects administered Sensoril showed a 68% improvement in the ability to sleep, compared to subjects that received a placebo.”
PLT Health Solutions, Morristown, NJ, provides Zembrin (Sceletium tortuosum) to help address the issues of concentration, focus, and mood in sports performance. “Zembrin is a unique opportunity for sports nutrition formulations: an experiential and rapidly acting botanical extract where users actually feel its benefits and experience enhanced mood, concentration, and relief from stress,” explained Barbara Davis, PhD, RD, vice president, medical & scientific affairs.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial using functional MRI (fMRI) technology showed that 25 mg of Zembrin reduced anxiety-related activity of the amygdala and its associated circuitry within 2 hours of administration (Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014). “These results provide the first evidence for the areas of brain where Zembrin acts, and confirmation of the potential for Zembrin to help in the management of stress,” said Dr. Davis.