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The substance gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter, a chemical used by the human nervous system to send messages and modulate its own function. GABA acts in an inhibitory manner, tending to cause nerves to “calm down.” Drugs in the benzodiazepine-receptor-agonist (BzRA) family (a family that includes true benzodiazepines such as valium, as well as related drugs such as Ambien or Lunesta) exert their effect by facilitating the ability of GABA to bind to receptor sites in the brain. This in turn leads to relaxation, relief from anxiety, induction of sleep, and suppression of seizure-activity.
Unfortunately, when GABA is taken orally, GABA levels in the brain do not increase, presumably because the substance itself cannot pass the blood-brain barrier and enter the central...
As noted above, GABA is still sometimes recommended for treatment of anxiety and insomnia , but it is almost certainly ineffective for these purposes.
In the best of the human trials, 39 people with mild hypertension were given either a fermented milk product providing GABA at a dose of 10 mg daily, or placebo, for 12 weeks. 6 The results indicated that GABA modestly decreased blood pressure levels. However, this study was small and suffered from significant problems in design. Additional research will be necessary before GABA can be considered an effective treatment for high blood pressure.
No serious adverse effects have been associated with the use of GABA. Nonetheless, comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. Maximum safe doses in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.