A vast array of products in the stress and anxiety market give retailers a multitude of options to help ease the stressors of modern life for both children and adults.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some type of anxiety disorder, yet only about one-third of those suffering seek treatment. Anxiety disorders develop from an intricate set of risk factors, including genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, personality and lifestyle factors such as stress.
The American Institute of Stress has stated that an estimated 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. Job stress tops the list as the leading source of stress, but stress appears to be present at all stages of life, affecting children and older adults as well.
“We live in an increasingly fast-paced world,” stated Kurt Forstmann, director of hemp products at Colorado-based Aceso. “Technological advances have spurred exponential growth and change on many fronts, and this has created a lot of stress in people trying to keep up. There are increasing demands from our jobs and from our families, and particularly in urban centers, there are increasing demands on our time from greater traffic volume and longer lines in stores.” Chris Meletis, ND, a naturopath with Oregon’s Wild Harvest headquartered in Oregon agreed.
“We live in a stressful world and daily stress works against our efforts to stay optimally healthy,” said Meletis. “When you get stressed, you no longer are in a state of ‘ease,’ rather you are in a state of ‘dis-ease,’ he continued. “The solution is to strategically minimize our stress exposures while also working to guard against the ravages of stress.”
Forstmann noted that these increasing demands on people create a rising need for natural remedies and incre-dible potential for the supplements market. Randy Buresh, RN, co-founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest agreed.
“The demand for stress and anxiety herbal supplements is strong and growing,” he said. “We have always known that chronic stress effects the body in many ways, and that nature has provided us with a vast array of medicinal herbs that will help the body return to a healthier state. To be truly healthy, you must identify the cause of stress and restore balance.”
Consumer education has made a huge impact on the market as well. “Consumers are getting smarter when it comes to what they ingest,” explained Marci Clow, MS, RDN at Rainbow Light in Florida. “They’re asking health care practitioners tougher questions often related to frustrations with side effects of drugs,” she said.
“Overall, the category appears to be maturing and evolving with more evidence-based products emerging and more consumers and health care professionals alike recognizing that dietary supplements can be a part of a healthy lifestyle to support stress and anxiety issues,” Clow stated.
Kids and Stress
Dr. Frank King, founder and president of King Bio located in North Carolina, shared that one market trend his company recognized was that even young children today are suffering from stress. “The American Psychological Association reported recently that 33 percent of children are experiencing stress-related health symptoms, such as sleep problems, headaches and upset stomach,” he explained.
Building on the success and popularity of King Bio’s adult stress and anxiety offerings, the company formulated the Kids Stress & Anxiety product. “Dr. Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, discovered an enormous benefit to having children use homeopathic medicine,” King said. “The correct homeopathic remedy could relieve not only the symptoms the children inherited from their parents, but also prevent that child’s future offspring from suffering those tendencies. It stops those genetic predispositions from repeating, generation after generation. This is the driving force behind why we place such emphasis on our new kids products.”
Products for Stress and Anxiety Relief
According to Meletis, B vitamins are essential for modulating the stress response and brain chemistry. “They work in synergy with one another and are all important for helping support a healthy nervous system,” Meletis explained. “Vitamin B6, as reported by the Linus Pauling Institute, is involved in over 100 health-promoting enzyme pathways in the body including the creation of serotonin the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter,” he said.
“In today’s world, there are many daily stressors and sometimes we require a supplemental B-complex to assure adequate levels of these water-soluble nutrients to support healthy energy production, mood, well-being and nervous system health,” added Clow.
Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stressors through a protective mechanism. “They protect the mitochondria from stress-induced damage by stimulating cells to produce proteins that return the body to a place of homeostasis and rest after periods of stress,” explained Dr. Pete Sulack, founder of StressRX.com, a division of Unhealthy Anonymous, Inc. in Oklahoma.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a safe and effective adaptogen commonly referred to as Indian ginseng that used in ayurvedic medicine to help the body combat stress. Results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that ashwagandha root extract was effective at improving resistance towards stress, and study subjects also reported an improved quality of life.
The University of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine guide lists holy basil (Occimum sanctum) as another adaptogenic herb that may provide relief from symptoms of stress and support adrenal health. The recommended dose for stress support is 400 mg daily. While generally considered safe, holy basil may have a blood-thinning effect and should be used with caution when combined with other medications known to thin the blood.
Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as eleuthero or Siberian ginseng, is widely used in Russia as an adaptogen to cope with physical and mental stressors. The active ingredient in the herb (eleutherosides) may also help stimulate the immune system.
Oregon’s Wild Harvest has developed Stress Guard, a blend of organic adaptogenic herbs holy basil, ashwagandha and licorice as well as organic B vitamins to support brain function. In addition, the supplement contains a clinically proven dose of L-theanine and organic skullcap to promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety without causing drowsiness. Stress Guard (available in 90-count for 30 days of supplementation) is a non-GMO (genetically modified organism) vegetarian capsule that does not contain dairy, wheat, gluten, soy or corn allergens.
Rainbow Light offers Zen Therapy, a vegan, gluten-free tablet formulation that contains nutrients to help promote a healthy nervous system combined with a botanical blend to maintain calm and relaxation. In addition to a high-potency vitamin B complex, the product contains eleuthero as well as soothing valerian and California poppy. California poppy promotes relaxation and is used to help symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and nervous tension. Zen Therapy does not cause drowsiness or impair focus, so it is safe to take during the day.
Rainbow Light’s new food-based line, Vibrance, offers two multivitamins that are targeted for supporting energy, vitality and managing stress. Men’s Multivitamin plus Stress Support and Women’s Multivitamin plus Stress Support are food-based capsules that feature highly bioavailable B vitamins to counteract stress and support a healthy nervous system response as well as magnesium to promote calm.
StressRX capsules, from the StressRX division of Unhealthy Anonymous, Inc., contain a unique blend of adaptogenic herbs to reduce the effects of stress, increase energy and boost immunity. The all-natural formulation contains ashwagandha, rhodiola and cordyceps—three adaptogens that work together to calm the body’s response to stress.
“An estimated 70 percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diets, and stress can cause magnesium loss by reducing normal retention in the kidneys,” said Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA, the senior nutrition education manager at NOW Foods in Illinois.
“A magnesium deficiency can magnify stress because serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that is boosted artificially by some medications, depends on magnesium for its production and function,” added Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical advisory board member for the Nutritional Magnesium Association.
Natural Calm from Texas-based Natural Vitality has been the best-selling magnesium supplement in the natural products market for over a decade. Natural Calm is an effervescent drink that balances magnesium levels and calcium intake that helps consumers feel more relaxed and less stressed. Natural Calm’s ingredients are non-GMO and include raspberry/lemon, orange, sweet lemon and cherry flavors as well as the original unflavored product.
NOW Foods offers Magtein non-GMO, vegetarian capsules made with magnesium-l-threonate, a highly-absorbed, patented form of magnesium that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to facilitate learning, memory and relaxation.
Hemp and Cannabinoids
CBD or cannabidiol has been recently introduced into the stress and anxiety product category, with a bigger presence during the past few years as a result of the national trend toward cannabis legalization.
“There is a common misconception that hemp is another euphemism for marijuana,” stated Forstmann. “While they both are cousins within the cannabis genre, they are indeed separate species of plant. As such, hemp and CBD derived from it are legal across the U.S. and in many countries around the world—but thanks to the misconception mentioned above, it is only now entering the national dialog around anxiety wellness.”
Studies looking at the brain’s electrical activity have demonstrated that anxiety may be a result of neuron hyperactivity. “CBD has been shown to bind receptors, preventing neurons from generating electrical currents and calming them,” Forstmann described. “CBD has also been shown to redistribute blood flow within the brain in ways associated with a reduction in anxiety.”
Aceso’s Calm product combines the naturally occurring cannabinoids in hemp with the terpenes linalool (from the lavender plant) and limonene (from grapefruit) to create a fast-acting, non-sedative formula. The product has two delivery system options: a powdered delivery method that mixes easily with water or a tincture spray applied under the tongue.
“There are two features that make Calm unique from other CBD anti-stress products starting to come on the market,” said Forstmann. “Our spray and powdered delivery systems offer a better tasting, cleaner and more convenient way for people to consume [the product] and our patented blend of CBD and historically proven botanicals creates an ‘entourage effect,’ wherein the individual components assist the others in affecting the targeted outcome.”
In 2016, New Jersey-based MetaCan launched their HempFusion line that included the stress-specific capsule formulation HempFusion Stress. The product contains a unique full-spectrum phytocannabinoid oil extracted from hemp, along with black pepper fruit and clove oil.
“The body makes its own cannabinoids called ‘endo’ cannabinoids,” said Jason Mitchell, MetaCan’s co-founder and president. “So when we supplement with plant-based cannabinoids, we may be able to support our body in a way that has not been done before with other products.”
This formulation is a great option for those who seek stress support in addition to daily endocannabinoid system support. HempFusion Stress also includes Sensoril, a patented form of ashwagandha.
“Homeopathy and supplements are in two different categories,” explained King. “Both are natural, but homeopathic medicine is considered a pharmaceutical drug product, and as such, can make health claims that address specific symptoms.”
Kids Stress & Anxiety is the newest formulation in King Bio’s Stress product lineup. The product has 17 homeopathic ingredients in three potencies that relieve symptoms of stress including irritability, restlessness and a nervous stomach. “Children need natural help in coping with stress, and homeopathy, since it has no known negative side effects and no known drug interactions, is the safest suggestion retailers can offer,” King added.
For adults, King Bio’s Stress Control is a top seller. The formula has the five flower remedies plus 19 homeopathic ingredients to address all types of stress. The 24 ingredients are available in three different potencies. The oral spray delivery system can be easily administered anytime or anywhere.
“Thanks in no small part to the perceived and real stresses in modern life, we find the need for relaxing formulas to be constantly growing,” said Levin. “The category goes beyond orally ingested products to aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, and other stress reduction techniques,” he continued.
NOW’s most recent introduction in the stress management category are aromatherapy blends. The company’s “Peace, Love & Flowers” blend combines ylang ylang, orange and patchouli essential oils for a sweet floral scent that is calming, soothing and uplifting. This blend is also available in a kit called “Let There Be Peace & Quiet,” which contains bottles of lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus pure essential oils along with a bottle of their “Peaceful Sleep” blend.
NOW also has a line of ultrasonic essential oil diffusers that use tap water to diffuse your favorite essential oils and enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.
Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager at Betsy’s Health Foods in Houston, TX expressed that stress and anxiety is a constant area of concern for customers. “We try to offer a whole person approach for our customers,” she stated. “One of my recent blog posts about starting a meditation habit has been mentioned in the store. Customers seem to be looking for even more information from us about things they can do to help with stress above and beyond supplement choices.”
According to Billingslea, the best resource is an educated staff. “We train our staff to be like detectives, asking the right questions about a person’s nutritional challenges and goals, lifestyle choices, overall health and medications for safety purposes so that we know which products a consumer may be most interested in,” she offered.
Andrew Aberth, regional vitamin and cosmetic operations manager for Lassen’s Natural Foods and Vitamins headquartered in Ventura, CA placed the stress and anxiety category as one of the most frequently shopped supplement areas. “The category is saturated with options and can be difficult to navigate and choose the right product without an employee recommendation,” he explained. “Customers want a starting point.”
“We have been seeing a lot of specific formulas lately,” shared Mo George-Payette, CEO of Mother’s Market & Kitchen with corporate offices in Costa Mesa, CA. “The stress and anxiety spectrum is so vast, so it’s nice to see products that are addressing varying degrees of the issue.”
Tips for Retailers
One of the main challenges for retailers according to George-Payette is directing customers to which aid is more suitable for their specific needs. “With the large selection [of products] available, a lot of trial and error may be required,” she added.
Forstmann stated that one of the best things a retailer can do to generate excitement in this category is to be aware of what’s going on in the world and particularly understanding what stressors their customers may be experiencing. Once the stressors are understood, he explained, retailers can tie in their supplement options through sidewalk sandwich boards, in-store signage, prominent shelving, as well as local, digital and traditional advertising.
Clow added that retailers should use their expertise to guide consumers to trusted brands and products and point to products that use evidence-based ingredients. “Most importantly,” she said, “retailers should always encourage customers to have an open dialogue with their health care practitioner about any dietary supplement they are considering to support a particular health issue including management of stress or anxiety.”
“The verbal interface at the point of sale is an important exchange because it helps guide consumers to the supplement products that are well suited for their individual needs,” she continued. “It is essential that discussion of these products is accurate and legal. Retailers need to avoid offering medical advice or suggesting that supplements can treat a disease or replace prescription drugs.” Clow recommended that all retailers should refer to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN) Roadmap for Retailers to understand the responsibilities and laws around discussing supplements with customers. VR
For More Information:
Aceso, (888) 297-1242
King Bio, (800) 543-3245
MetaCan Group, (877) 669-4367
Natural Vitality, (866) 416-9216
NOW Foods, (800) 999-8069
Oregon’s Wild Harvest, (541) 548-9400
Rainbow Light, (800) 635-1233
Unhealthy Anonymous, Inc., (918) 521-7777