If you’re feeling stressed, don’t rely on liquid relaxation products to relieve your tension. While energy drinks are promoted to give you an extra boost, relaxation drinks* are marketed to do just the opposite and help you, well, relax. These products commonly contain the amino acid theanine, as well as several different plant-based ingredients. But the science doesn’t support the use of relaxation drinks to decrease stress or anxiety, and consumers should be cautious of two ingredients: kava and melatonin. Bottom line, if you’re feeling stressed, try to identify the cause, and then use stress management strategies backed by scientific evidence.
Do relaxation drinks work as they claim?
There is insufficient scientific evidence that relaxation drinks are effective for reducing stress or anxiety. Certain individual ingredients, such as kava, chamomile, valerian, theanine, and passionflower, are promoted to have anti-anxiety effects. However, with the exception of kava (see below), the evidence is limited, and more research studies are needed. Relaxation drinks may not actually make you feel relaxed, but several products warn that they can cause drowsiness.
What ingredients should I watch out for?
) is a plant native to the South Pacific and is used to help with stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and concentration. In 2002, FDA released a consumer advisory warning about the potential risk of severe liver injury associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements. You can read more about kava in this factsheet
from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
is a hormone made by the body that helps regulate your sleep. It’s also available as a supplement and is used as a sleep aid. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), melatonin is not approved as a food additive for conventional foods, and it does not have GRAS
(generally recognized as safe) status. Therefore, if your relaxation drink has a Nutrition Facts panel (indicating it’s a conventional food and not a dietary supplement
) it should not contain melatonin. In fact, FDA has sent warning letters to several relaxation drink companies for selling beverages that were adulterated (containing an unsafe food additive) with melatonin. Melatonin can only be in products marketed as dietary supplements, and you should use them under the supervision of your doctor. Because melatonin causes drowsiness, flight personnel especially should be wary of products containing this ingredient. For more information, please read OPSS’s article about melatonin
Kava and melatonin aren’t found in all relaxation drinks, so be sure to read the label to see what else is in the drink. Also note that most product labels state these products are not intended for children or those who are pregnant or nursing.
Until there is more research on relaxation drinks, service members should take caution with these products. Relaxation drinks have yet to be shown effective for reducing stress and anxiety, and some may contain ingredients that can negatively affect you and your ability to perform. Avoid consuming these products before missions, trainings, and operating any vehicles when alertness and readiness are of utmost importance. In the meantime, try to determine the cause(s) of your stress and find other ways to relax. Please visit HPRC’s Stress Management
for more information.
*Note: Liquid supplements cannot be labeled or marketed with terms such as “drink” or “beverage,” but for the purpose of this article, we use the term “relaxation drink” to include both food and supplement products.