Last Updated: September 28 2022

GABA is the 'downer' neurotransmitter that counters glutamate (upper), as the two mediate brain activation in a Yin-Yang manner. Highly important in the brain, oral ingestion of GABA is complex due to its difficulty in crossing the blood brain barrier.

GABA is most often used for

What is GABA?

GABA is a neurotransmitter with a number of functions in the brain. It regulates many depressive and sedative actions and is critical for relaxation.

Ingested GABA does not appear to reach the brain in appreciable amounts, meaning oral supplementation can’t be assumed to replicate the effects of GABA as a neurotransmitter.

What are GABA’s main benefits?

As a neurotransmitter GABA has sedative and calming effects. In line with this, a number of medications and supplements activate the same receptors as GABA and these tend to promote sleep and/or reduce anxiety.

There is limited human research on oral GABA supplementation. A few small studies have found improvements in sleep quality following GABA supplementation, but the evidence is not strong.

What are GABA’s main drawbacks?

Oral GABA supplementation appears to be fairly safe and well-tolerated. Although not well-studied, GABA may lower blood pressure which could lead to hypotension (low blood pressure).

How does GABA work?

GABA exerts various effects by binding to GABA receptors. Aside from the brain, areas in the body with GABA receptors include the pancreas, certain immune cells (e.g., lymphocytes), and the gastrointestinal tract. The role of GABA in these cells and tissues is an area of ongoing study.

What else is GABA known as?
Note that GABA is also known as:
  • Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
Dosage information

Supplemental GABA has been used in humans (for the purpose of enhancing growth hormone metabolism) in the dosage range of 3,000-5,000mg GABA. It is unsure if this is the optimal dosage.

Join our supplement information course

Don't miss out on the latest research

1.^Petroff OAGABA and glutamate in the human brainNeuroscientist.(2002 Dec)
7.^Shyamaladevi N, Jayakumar AR, Sujatha R, Paul V, Subramanian EHEvidence that nitric oxide production increases gamma-amino butyric acid permeability of blood-brain barrierBrain Res Bull.(2002 Jan 15)
8.^Cavagnini F, Invitti C, Pinto M, Maraschini C, Di Landro A, Dubini A, Marelli AEffect of acute and repeated administration of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) on growth hormone and prolactin secretion in manActa Endocrinol (Copenh).(1980 Feb)
9.^Cavagnini F, Benetti G, Invitti C, Ramella G, Pinto M, Lazza M, Dubini A, Marelli A, Müller EEEffect of gamma-aminobutyric acid on growth hormone and prolactin secretion in man: influence of pimozide and domperidoneJ Clin Endocrinol Metab.(1980 Oct)
10.^Powers ME, Yarrow JF, McCoy SC, Borst SEGrowth hormone isoform responses to GABA ingestion at rest and after exerciseMed Sci Sports Exerc.(2008 Jan)
11.^Nindl BC, Kraemer WJ, Marx JO, Tuckow AP, Hymer WCGrowth hormone molecular heterogeneity and exerciseExerc Sport Sci Rev.(2003 Oct)
12.^De Palo EF, Gatti R, Antonelli G, Spinella PGrowth hormone isoforms, segments/fragments: does a link exist with multifunctionalityClin Chim Acta.(2006 Feb)