If you are looking for a calming drink to ease your nerves, you might be pleasantly pleased by the large variety of natural options out there.
Some drinks for stress relief that I list here might surprise you too, but keep an open mind; they are absolutely worth a try.
The bonus of all the drinks here is that they have a lot of other health benefits too, including improved focus, reduced inflammation, and healthier joints.
Related post: The 12 Best L Theanine Supplements for Focus
Table of Contents
Best choices for calming drinks
From herbal teas and coffee substitutes to probiotic drinks, I recommend always having some calming drinks on hand to help settle the mind and bring back the focus of the things that matter most to you. Herbal tea for anxiety can be really helpful, but there are many other options too.
Also, some beverages can be detrimental to your mental health and sleep, so I will explain which ones to avoid in this post too.
Here are the drinks we will review:
- Valerian Root Tea
- Sauerkraut Juice
- Mushroom coffee substitute
- Tulsi tea
- Kava root tea
- Calm drink
- Chamomile tea
- Cherry juice
- Lavendar tea
- Passionflower tea
- Sleepy tea blends
And also the drinks to avoid:
- Energy drinks
1. Valerian Root Tea
Valerian root tea is becoming a very popular option as a calming drink and this is because it really works.
A review in the American Journal of Medicine of 16 research papers and over 1000 people found that valerian root helped improve sleep quality without side effects. The root cause of many sleep issues, after all, is stress and anxiety.
If you are just trying out valerian for the first time, make sure to try the tea before bed. This is because it can be so relaxing, that you don’t want to risk falling asleep on the job or behind the wheel.
Many people drink it during the daytime and have been just fine, though.
Tip: To make a valerian tea, steep 1 teaspoon dried valerian root in a tea ball for about 10-15 minutes. Add a little honey if desired.
2. Sauerkraut juice
You might be wondering what sauerkraut juice, also known as sauerkraut kvass, has to do with anxiety! As it turns out, research proves it may have a lot of calming effects, and sauerkraut benefits are seemingly endless.
As a natural source of probiotic, fresh and raw sauerkraut contains healthy bacteria that may help improve gut health, which in turn, sends happy and calm signals throughout the body. Research consistently shows that probiotics for anxiety are helpful.
Additionally, sauerkraut contains natural enzymes to help with digestive function and contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals to support a healthy mood.
Tips: A little bit of sauerkraut juice goes a long way, so start with just a small amount. You can mix it in some vegetable juice or in a smoothie if you don’t like the taste of sauerkraut.
Start with 2 to 4 ounces a day and start to reap the calming benefits of more probiotics in your diet. If you would rather, simply eat some fresh sauerkraut to get similar benefits.
Related post: The Best Tea for Anxiety and Stress
3. Mushroom “Coffee” Substitute
Mushroom coffee alternatives are soothing, calming drinks that include medicinal mushrooms known to help with gut health and nerve health, which in turn, has a calming effect on the body. After all, the gut is the second brain and is responsible for making calming neurotransmitters like serotonin.
These coffee substitutes often contain reishi mushrooms, Chaga mushrooms, ashwagandha, and other adaptogenic herbs. A couple of my favorites are Coffee Break and Rasa Herbal Coffee.
Many people find that not only is mushroom coffee relaxing, but it also gives a calm energy and focus that helps them feel better at any time of the day. Mushrooms like these may also reduce cancer risk as well.
Tip: Make sure to look for mushroom coffee substitutes instead of mushroom coffee with real coffee because they can be very caffeinated.
4. Tulsi tea
Tulsi (holy basil) is an herb related to sweet basil that is popular for cooking and in teas across the world, especially in India.
Several clinical studies show that tulsi is helpful for reducing stress and anxiety symptoms. If you haven’t tried tulsi tea yet, it is a perfect way to begin consuming relaxing beverages.
Pretty soon, you may not want to go without this delicious as well as nutritious tea. Research shows Tulsi benefits also include improved blood pressure and improved diabetes control as well.
Tip: Add dried tulsi leaves into a tea infuser and steep for 3 to 5 minutes or use tulsi tea bags. You can add some honey, but most people enjoy the pleasant taste of tulsi by itself.
Tulsi is also available as a tulsi tincture and supplement for people who don’t enjoy teas.
5. Kombucha Tea
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has double the calming ability of many drinks.
This is because it contains natural probiotics that are shown in research to help dampen anxiety symptoms and also contain theanine from green tea or black tea.
Theanine is a relaxing compound used to promote relaxation and sleep.
Tip: Be aware that even though kombucha tea is not as caffeinated as coffee, some types of kombucha can have a small amount of caffeine. Generally, kombucha has less than 25 mg of caffeine per serving.
For people sensitive to caffeine, choose kombucha teas made of ginger, lemon, fruit, or herbs and drink kombucha early in the day. GT’s brand of kombucha tea is considered a caffeine-free brand due to the brewing techniques they use.
6. Kava root tea
Kava root tea has been used for thousands of years to help promote relaxation and is used as part of ceremonial drinks in the South Pacific. Teas in the United States are typically found as kava root extract.
It is often combined with other relaxing herbs and spices to improve the taste.
Some people claim that kava tastes like a foot, but don’t let that deter you. Added flavors of other herbs and spices help disguise any off-flavors of kava. Personally, I enjoy the taste and appreciate its subtle calming effects and its ability to reduce anxiety.
Tips: Avoid any kava product that contains kava leaves as the leaves contain a toxin.
The root is safe to use, but make sure to enjoy it at home while relaxing and not while driving or any activity where you need to focus.
7. Calm Drink
“Calm” brand drink is a relaxing drink as suggested by its name. The active ingredient is magnesium, which relaxes muscles, promotes better sleep and may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially if taken over time and in forms that absorb well.
Most Americans are deficient in magnesium, so it is logical that this magnesium drink could help many people feel better and have fewer anxiety symptoms. Other ingredients in Calm are all-natural too and include citric acid, natural lemon flavor, raspberry flavor, and stevia.
Getting adequate magnesium also helps lower blood pressure and is a key mineral for keeping bones strong.
Tips: Start with 1 teaspoon of the Calm powder and add it to water. Increase to 2 teaspoons as tolerated. You can sip on this drink during the day or right before bed. If you don’t like the flavor, you can find magnesium citrate in gelcaps too.
8. Cherry juice
Tart cherry juice may help improve sleep and has natural calming abilities because it is a natural source of melatonin. It is also very rich in antioxidants.
When people drink cherry juice before bed, they sleep better and for an average of 85 minutes longer, according to research in the European Journal of Nutrition.
Two other research studies have confirmed that tart cherry juice is beneficial for sleep as well: one was with both older adults and young adults and they drank cherry juice both in the morning and the evening.
Older adults experienced an even greater enhancement of sleep quality than the young adults in this study. They also had improvements in cytokines that promote sleep.
Tart cherries may also have beneficial effects on the brain, may reduce arthritis, and may improve memory. Rich in antioxidants, they are also helpful in promoting healthy aging by reducing oxidative stress.
The Journal of Medicinal Foods showed similar results of cherry juice: better sleep duration and quality in older adults. Melatonin levels in the blood also improved.
Tart cherry juice concentrate serving size is usually only 2 tablespoons, so its impact on total carbohydrate intake is moderate at 10 grams per serving. If you want to try tart cherry tea, that is also a relaxing option.
The cost of tart cherry juice is slightly more than most relaxing drink options. However, it is a great way for people to get melatonin naturally. Cherry juice is also great for overall kidney health.
9. Chamomile tea
Chamomile has been used since the times of the ancient Romans for its beneficial effects on mental health.
Research also now proves that chamomile helps with calming the nerves as shown in a clinical trial in the journal Phytomedicine. In a group of 179 people with generalized anxiety disorder, chamomile capsules given at 1500 mg per day reduced symptoms of anxiety compared to placebo.
This dose is the equivalent of 3 cups of chamomile tea per day
Chamomile may also reduce symptoms of depression as well, according to a clinical study in Alternatives in Therapy in Health and Medicine journal.
Using chamomile is also great for health because it helps dampen down inflammation.
Among all of the calming drinks for anxiety, chamomile is a go-to for so many because its effects are almost immediately felt in the body.
Tip: Sip on chamomile tea throughout the day to help dampen the feelings of stress.
10. Lavender tea
Lavender has a long history of its use as an anxiolytic, or substance that dampens down anxiety.
Many studies find that lavender for anxiety is effective for reducing stress and can be used as an herbal tea drink to help calm you down.
A study of heart patients undergoing surgery found that lavender dampens down the stress hormone called cortisol by 70 percent.
Because lavender flavors are so strong, you can add just a pinch of dried lavender buds into your tea infuser.
People like to mix lavender flavors into other teas, such as chamomile or other herbal teas to enhance their potency and flavor.
You can also diffuse lavender essential oil for a calming effect.
11. Passionflower tea
Passionflower is a beautiful purple flower that is traditionally used for conditions like insomnia, irritability, and nervous anxiety. This medicinal flower is even mentioned in biblical references.
Research shows that passionflower reduces stress when used as passionflower tincture. In this study passionflower was given as follows: 15 drops 3 times daily, and given as an add-on treatment to antidepressants.
Some early research also shows that passionflower may help improve sleep time as well.
Passionflower is very safe but should be avoided if you are pregnant and should be avoided if you are taking sedative medications.
Tip: Sip on passionflower tea to help ease the tension of the day or use a passionflower tincture to support a healthy mindset.
12. Sleepy tea blends
If you are new to calming drinks, sleepy tea blends are a good place to start.
There are dozens of varieties of calming teas used to reduce stress and promote sleep, so there is a flavor blend that will suit just about anyone.
The other benefit of calming blends of teas is that you get little bits of multiple kinds of herbs. Combination teas may have additive benefits over single-herb teas.
Common herb blends for sleepy teas include lemon balm, valerian, lavender, chamomile, rose hips, jasmine flowers, rooibos, skullcap, licorice root, and kava root.
De-Stress tea blend even contains the relaxing amino acid theanine with valerian and chamomile. Theanine comes from green tea, but this blend has some of the benefits of green tea without all the caffeine.
Tips: The nice thing about sleepy tea blends is that they can taste great both as hot tea and iced tea. Mix in a little honey or your favorite nut milk to give it some more flavor.
Please note that skullcap is safe for healthy people and even has benefits for calming and sleep. However, it should be avoided if you have liver disease or are on medications like cholesterol drugs, blood thinners, or painkiller medications.
Drinks to Avoid
There are lots of drink options that help you chill out, but there are a few you should also avoid.
While these are popular drinks, it is important to know how they can affect your body and your brain health.
Here are three types of drinks to avoid if you have stress, anxiety, or poor sleep quality.
Although folklore recommends warm milk before bed, the lactose content can be enough to make your gut unsettled for the night.
Dairy beverages can be a common trigger for heartburn too. This can cause you to be restless at night and wake up more anxious than you were.
Warm milk may help sleep for a few select people because it provides a source of an amino acid called tryptophan before bed. Tryptophan helps the body make more serotonin and melatonin.
A better choice for tryptophan would be a slice or two of turkey, hulled pumpkin seeds, some aged cheese (which is low in lactose and has probiotics), or some tuna salad.
These are some foods that calm nerves naturally for some people.
Milk is problematic as you can see; if you still want warm milk, try coconut milk that is heated. Add a little honey and some grated ginger to help settle the stomach.
Alcohol is tempting because it initially seems to calm the nerves, but its overall effect in the long term is to create more anxiety. By robbing the body of nutrients and disrupting a healthy microbiome, the brain is affected in a negative way.
It can also cause gastroesophageal reflux. Reflux from alcohol leads to poor sleep quality and a feeling of a mental drain the next day.
Tip: If you are trying to avoid stress and support mental health, reach for a relaxing tea or mushroom coffee substitute instead of alcohol.
Energy drinks may make people feel good initially, but cause many people’s stress levels to rise later because of the high amounts of caffeine, stimulants, sugar, and artificial ingredients like artificial sweeteners and flavors.
Also causing swings and crashes in energy, these drinks have way more side effects than you are bargaining for.
Tips for energy: If you need caffeine, try to stick to modest amounts of coffee and teas like green tea and cut your caffeine drinks off by 2 pm to avoid unwanted symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.
You can also have an energizing smoothie with nutritious chia seeds, berries, and greens to better support your body’s natural energy. These are foods that help relieve anxiety because of their high magnesium content. They also contain probiotics and prebiotics that support your gut-brain connection.
Before reaching for a cocktail for stress relief or an energy drink try healthier drink alternatives. The best drinks for relaxing include calming tea infusions, sauerkraut juice, kombucha tea, some tart cherry juice, or some mushroom “coffee” substitute for a more sustained benefit for relaxation.
For the best effects, make sure to have these calming drinks regularly as many begin to work better over time.
As with anything, make sure to check with your doctor or healthcare provider before making any changes to your healthcare routine.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.