Supplements Discussed in Withdrawal



I’ve written about supplements in withdrawal before but there still seems to be some confusion about what we can and can’t tolerate. I’ve selected a few here to try and give a brief explanation of why they should be avoided. These are the most common supplements and herbs that people ask about.

The main point is, we have been harmed by a chemical that has given us difficult and sometimes extreme side effects that we are slow to recover from. We live in a society that has been conditioned to believe that a drug or supplement can do us good, even cure us, therefore when suffering, we naturally search for answers to alleviate that suffering. In Benzo withdrawal we come to learn that these beliefs have to be challenged if we are to recover as quickly as we can. The body isn’t the body that used to be able to eat, drink and take a pill as needed because it’s changing. In this state of change it is highly sensitive and doesn’t want to be further abused with chemicals, it wants to be left alone to do what it has to do to fully recover. Once recovered it will accept whatever we choose to throw at it, although I believe this whole process is an awakening that helps us value ourselves more and appreciate the innate health that lies within us all. 


I know this is controversial and I completely understand the need to search for that elusive ‘cure’ as I’ve spent years now doing that for myself. Eventually I think we give in to it all and it’s that ‘giving in’ that supports our recovery in the end. Always remember it was a chemical poisoning that put you in this predicament, that ‘abused’ your body, so maybe better not to possibly do further harm with more chemicals added to the fire. I write this in answer to all the cries searching for something to help the horrors as my heart goes out to you. All I know is recovery is taking place the longer you are free of benzos and believe in your healing.


Remember that supplements, herbs and other so-called natural medicines are not required to be rigorously tested and contain certain fillers, even chaotic doses, that don’t necessarily adhere to what they say on the label. They are products of a money-making pharmaceutical industry intent on selling its wares and making some outlandish claims in order to do this. Please tread with caution if you want to try a product and make sure it comes from a reputable company and take only a small dose to start.


I appreciate that some may need certain supplements or drugs for medical conditions so please just use this for information and stop nothing suddenly.


I’ve compiled the following list so members of Beating Benzos can quickly identify answers they seek for a particular supplement or herb they may wish to try or which has been recommended as helping somebody else. Always remember however you react, good or bad, that this is personal to you. I haven’t detailed the mechanism of action for each substance, just written a brief overview. Any further information can be researched for yourself………



Ashwagandha….an Indian herb (one of many) that causes GABA like activity in the brain in the same way as a benzo. It depresses neuron activity and inhibits nerve cells from firing. It may slow recovery by suppressing the up-regulating of damaged receptors.


CBD oil….Cannabidiol. a naturally occurring substance which can be harvested and mixed with hemp or coconut oil. There’s a lot of confusion around its legality but the vast majority of cannabinoids are controlled substances that may only be legal for medicinal use. It can be taken as a tincture, cream or spray and gradually built up. As it has psychoactive properties it can cause reactions in benzo withdrawal. This substance is best discussed on the groups set up for this purpose.


Chamomile….can be found in the form of a tea or essential oil and is used to help insomnia due to its sedative effects.  It’s likely that an ingredient in this binds to benzo receptors in the brain and depresses CNS activity. It can sometimes be tolerated in a weak dose but use with caution.


GABA Supplements….also known as Pharma GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). This doesn’t cross the blood brain barrier so has little or no effect. It’s an amino acid and neurotransmitter which is not found in ordinary foods. There are various claims for it helping to lower anxiety and improve mood but research is lacking and all we know is that it doesn’t reach the brain in sufficient quantities to provide any relief. If it could do this it would prevent the GABA receptors from returning to normal in benzo withdrawal. Try only with caution.


Ginseng….a Chinese herb said to promote wellbeing. It’s likely the various chemical components called ginsengosides are responsible for any clinical effects it has. The quality of different ginseng products is highly variable and some may contain other substances. There are no rigorous studies to support any of its claims and it has the usual side effects of headaches, dizziness and diarrhea. It’s advised to never take this with antidepressants and possibly benzos as well. 


5-HTP….another amino acid, 5-Hydroxytryptophan which the body naturally produces. A so-called natural product which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. There’s little scientific evidence to show that it can treat any condition safely and effectively. It does have many side effects such diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, decrease in appetite, muscle pain and so forth. It’s best avoided in benzo withdrawal to prevent a worsening of symptoms in the already compromised brain. It must never be used alongside antidepressants as it could contribute towards the development of serotonin syndrome. It also interacts with other supplements such Tryptophan and St. John’s Wort. Unregulated and not evaluated for safety.


Kava….this has a complicated mode of action and may act on GABA receptors in the same way as benzos. It’s illegal in some countries and posses psychoactive properties and is known to have caused liver toxicity and skin rashes. More research is needed and is best well avoided in withdrawal to prevent worsening problems.


Kratom….there’s not enough known about this herb to be sure of its safety. It’s classed as a natural opiod and has mild, opiod-like activity on the brain. Negative side effects of include weight loss, insomnia, skin problems, nausea, aggression, emotional changes, muscle pain and frequent urination. It interacts with opiod receptors in the brain to produce stimulant effects but can have uncomfortable and dangerous side effects which have led to it being banned in several countries including the UK. Its not advised in benzo withdrawal. 


Lemon Balm….Acts on GABA in the brain and is a potent inhibitor of the enzyme GABA transaminase. Sometimes used for digestive problems or restlessness but again has the potential to interfere with GABA repair.


L-Theanine….This is another amino acid found in green tea and in small quantities in black tea. It acts on GABA as well as serotonin and dopamine which are neurotransmitters altered adversely in benzo withdrawal. Only limited data is available supporting any efficacy of the substance. It’s not recommended in benzo withdrawal as it can worsen withdrawal symptoms and should be tapered from. Headaches and dizziness are the most common side effects.


Magnesium….one of the most controversial supplements in benzo withdrawal. This mineral binds with GABA in the brain and so can prevent up-regulation when recovering from benzo withdrawal. Taken long term it has been known to cause difficult setbacks and a reactivation or worsening of withdrawal symptoms. It must be tapered from to prevent upsurges in symptoms especially after a few weeks of use. All forms of magnesium have the same potential to cause problems whether so-called natural, in powders or oils, or in capsule and pill form. Some have found the mineral useful as one off support but this should only be tried with caution. Magnesium is best obtained from foods such as spinach, kale, avocado, bananas, nuts, seeds, some beans, many veg and seafoods. Side effects may be diarrhea, nausea, muscle weakness, lethargy, low BP, urine retention, etc….


Melatonin….a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. It regulates the sleep/wake cycle. It may help sleep if used occasionally when completely off benzos and at very low doses, well under that usually found in supplements. The lower doses, under, are more effective than the higher. Too much can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause insomnia, headaches and dizziness. It should not be used in conjunction with benzodiazepines, antidepressants, birth control pills, diabetes medication, anticoagulants and flumazenil. Use with caution and not continuously to prevent dependence. 


Milk Thistle….sometimes used as treatment for liver problems. Silymarin is the active ingredient in milk thistle and this is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Its unclear of the benefits it has on the body or in benzo withdrawal.


Oregano Oil….a GABAergic substance with the potential to interfere with healing. Used in Greek, Spanish and Italian cooking and has caused reactions for some. Sometimes used for digestive problems to fight against bacteria, viruses and fungi as well as parasites. Use only with caution internally and externally.


Passionflower….this has an anxiolytic effect similar to benzos and can therefore act in the same way as an updose or rescue dose if taken while tapering or recovering. It’s sometimes known as a ‘natural benzo’ for its action on the GABA receptors in the brain. Some research has found it as effective as benzos which may indicate its action on the same receptors and therefore its need to be avoided in withdrawal from benzos.


St John’s Wort….often used for depression. Products tend to vary and there’s no evidence it’s beneficial in benzo withdrawal. 


Valerian….often used as a herbal sedative in the form of a tea or pills. Its method of action is again one that affects the GABA system and it also stimulates an enzyme called Glutamate decarboxylase. It is likely to slow the recovery of GABA receptors. Side effects include headaches, stomach upset, excitability, insomnia. The long term safety is not known.


(Vitamins to follow)