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A ball and stick model of the GABA molecule chain. GABA is one of the most interesting chemicals in the Sutherlandia plant, as it affects mood as well as the body.


What is it?

GABA stands for Gamma Amino-Butyric Acid and has the chemical name of 5-(Aminomethyl)-3-(2H)-isothiazolone. It was first isolated and identified in 1950. In the body, GABA serves two critical roles. It is arguably the most important inhibitory neuro-transmitter in the Central Nervous System, permitting nerve impulses to transient the brain synapses and is responsible for the modulation of brain dopamine. The number of synapses using GABA is much greater than that of all other neurotransmitters. It also plays a vital role in helping the body burn fat.

It is manufactured in the body from glutamine (an amino acid) and glucose.

What are its benefits?
GABA deficiency has been linked to depression, panic attacks and anxiety. There are also indications it can be linked to epilepsy and schizophrenia. The introduction of even moderate supplemental amounts can assist in reducing or eliminating these symptoms. It promotes calmness and lessens anxiety. In some individuals, it may be able to assist in better sleep cycles.

GABA plays a vital role in metabolism. It stimulates the anterior pituitary gland to produce greater levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH plays a critical role in muscle building and also in the burning off of body fat. As such, GABA can be of benefit to athletes and body builders.

Are there any side effects?
There are currently no known examples of any side effects with the use of supplemental GABA due to lack of sufficient study in humans. There are no known harmful drug interactions.


One potentially negative aspect of GABA is its ability to increase the threshold of pain tolerance in an individual. This can lead some individuals, particularly body builders and professional athletes, to push themselves beyond safe limits of exertion and cause themselves serious injury.

Pain must be regarded as the body's warning system that its limits are being pushed. Extreme care must be taken by individuals using GABA to ensure that they are not ignoring the warning signals of their bodies that safe limits of exertion are being exceeded.

Of Interest
The US National Institute of Health is sponsoring advanced clinical trials of GABA for the treatment of various stress and panic disorders. Click here for full details.


A very interesting study performed on mice showed that a deficiency in GABA led to greater trepidation and nervousness. You can read this easily understood study here.


The New England Journal of Medicine has numerous articles and studies relating to GABA in the treatment of everything from sleep disorders and epilepsy to alcoholism and obesity. Click here here see them.



PMS in women has been linked to GABA dysfunction at Allegheny University. Click here for more information.


The BBC reports on a discovery involving GABA that promises better treatment for schizophrenics. Details here.


The Scientific American has a report on how GABA can have a role to play in treating various types of addiction. Read the story here.


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