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Mood Support for a Stressed Population

Good Mood Support Good Mood Support

The pandemic has drawn more attention than ever to the importance of mental health. The natural ingredients industry has responded with tremendous growth in the mood support category.

Nobody wants to deal with negative mood, and few people choose to be in a bad mood—but that doesn’t prevent it from happening. Whether one is dealing with an acute mood disturbance due to a situation or circumstance, or whether one is suffering from a mood disorder that impacts their daily life, improving these feelings is something for which many strive. The pandemic has led to an increase in attention toward mental health issues and mood disorders, since it attributed to these for many consumers. Although some may need to turn to pharmaceuticals to help with a serious mood disorder, there are also natural ingredients that can be used to improve mood.

State of the Market

According to Laure Egoumenides, health products manager, Robertet, France, “Sales of mood support supplements totaled almost $140 million from February 2021 top February 2022 ($79.2 million for the February 2020-2021) according to SPINS’ data.” She added that the market is “shared between branded ingredients and botanicals supported by years of traditional use and/or monographs, [such as] lemon balm, lavender and passionflower.”

Beatrice Minin, marketing manager, Gnosis by Lesaffre (France with U.S. offices in East Brunswick, NJ), concurred. “To say the mood support market is dynamic would be an understatement. It underwent a particular surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, where forced social distance has exacerbated the feeling of isolation and mood-related disorders.” Despite this bleak outcome of the pandemic, however, “One positive outcome … is the spotlight it shined on mental health and the decrease in the stigma surrounding mental health.”

Additionally, Minin stated, “I think that the market is extremely crowded today. Consumers expect to be reassured by the brand they chose. They need to know that the product they purchase is of high quality, safe and contains effective ingredients to target their concern, with scientific support that proves its efficacy.”

Brian Quirk, director of R&D, Draco Natural Products, (San Jose, CA) added, “The market is looking very good due to the ongoing needs people have to relieve stress, anxiety and sleep issues that were in part first associated with COVID, but now are more related to other issues such as the economy and international conflicts.”

Furthermore, Quirk added, “What we are seeing is a saturation of the market with competing branded ingredients. This is often the case with multiple ashwagandha brands at higher costs, but I think what happens eventually is that people stop looking at the somewhat tedious and confusing or difficult to understand methods and details of the endless studies the branded ingredients try to use to sell their products. Consumers will often go for the cheaper generic version that has the same bioactive standardizations at comparable levels. For example, people know that salidroside and rosavins in rhodiola are the chief bioactives and these were determined by generic pharmacological studies, not by the branded studies,” he explained. “Another example is withanolides in ashwagandha, which although they have a good number of branded studies, it was the generic studies that determined the bioactivity, so it is not even necessary to use a particular branded ingredient to get a good response. This is similar to the bioactives found in St. John’s wort, schisandra, ginseng and chamomile, as examples.”

Trends/Consumer Concerns

“Since 2020, mental health has become increasingly important, and consumers are focusing more on their overall well-being. This includes stress management, sleep quality, nutrition, etc,” said Egoumenides. “This has a positive impact on the market for mood support solutions.”

As far as trends, one of the most notable, Egoumenides continued, has been the use of CBD in mood support solutions. As a result, Robertet “developed a partnership with Klersun, a vertically managed U.S. company specializing in sustainable hemp supply chain.”

Some of the primary consumer concerns when it comes to mood support supplements include “naturality, a quick and perceived efficacy, scientifically proven efficacy and finished products with simple galenic formulas to be easily integrated into the daily life of consumers,” explained Egoumenides. “Consumers are increasingly turning to health professionals for advice (pharmacists, dieticians, nutritionists, naturopaths etc.). They also do a lot of research on the internet, especially to consult product reviews and proof of their effectiveness. They also inquire about the origin and nature of the ingredients.”

Minin added that “Long-established, legacy ingredients with proven efficacy, such as SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-methionine), have gone through rising consumer demand. They stand out from the newest, trendiest ingredients that may lack historical data on safety and efficacy.” Furthermore, “‘Natural molecules” (of which SAMe is part) is the category with the largest market share and highest expected CAGR [compound annual growth rate]. Herbals follow soon after.”

In addition, Minin said she has noticed that consumers are increasingly focused on a proactive approach rather than a remedial one. “Health is constantly on shoppers’ minds and brands are offering more products with functional ingredients to address mood support and cognitive health beforehand, even when symptoms are barely there.” Furthermore, “Since they are more stimulated (both on social networks, internet and real life) around the importance of mental health and emotional well-being, they have started to perform their own research to better understand the plethora of ingredients available that can answer their specific concerns.”

Quirk stated that the company has “heard that drink shots for mood support have a very high year over year sales in demand of 500 percent, according to an industry article that shared the SPINS data, so we are very encouraged.” In addition, “Adaptogens as a subset of mood support is gaining more familiarity and recognition as being an important support for chronic stress issues.”

Another ingredient to which consumers have been responding, according to Quirk, is NAD+ from NMN. “NAD+ levels have cell revitalizing and energizing effects on the brain that improve mood. It also works by reducing brain inflammation which is causing brain fog and depression. We have worked on herb formulas that boost NAD+ using flavonoid-containing herbs and other NAD+ boosting herbs. Some of these flavonoids or polyphenols modulate monoaminergic neurotransmission in the brain and thus possess antidepressant-like activity in animal models of depression.”1 Cannabinoids are also gaining traction, Quirk noted.

“Consumers first and foremost want something with a proven track record of a mood support supplement being effective, it always a huge boon to find something that truly works so that you’re not wasting your time and money, only to be disappointed,” explained Quirk. “While many products claim to have clinical studies backing them, often when the studies show a significant benefit, it might be 10 to 15 percent over the placebo, but still maybe half or more show no response.”

Quirk concurred with Egoumenides and Minin, stating, “Consumers will often search for websites that delve into some of the scientific background. This is especially true with younger people want to try new and amazing bioactives that have a significant amount of pharmacological research in their mechanisms.” He added that consumers are increasingly demanding food and beverage delivery formats.

Natural Ingredients for Mood Support

Robertet offers an ingredient called MeloRun, “which presents results not only on stress but also on quality of life, irritability and cognition,” said Egoumenides. The ingredient also supports physically active individuals with training and recovery.

One of the company’s most successful ingredients is Extramel, which has been studied to improve general well-being, reduce stress and improve quality of sleep. The company’s newest ingredient for mood support is CBD.

Gnosis by Lesaffre, according to Minin, manufactures SAMe, a natural molecule produced the body, [which] is a Gnosis’ star ingredient for its mood-enhancing properties. “Our Adonat Premium SAMe has a history of almost 30 years, safely used in the U.S. since 1999.” Adonat is the company’s flagship ingredient for mood support. It is “a unique ingredient for mood-related symptoms that can help many consumers to address their issues.”

Gnosis by Lesaffre also offers two other mood support ingredients. “Quatrefolic, the active form of folate, contributes to normal homocysteine metabolism—a recognized risk factor for cognitive impairment—helping to normalize its levels when higher than normal,” explained Minin. The other ingredient is “Emothion (S-Acetyl-Glutathione), which works as a replenishment of glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant with important anti-inflammatory properties [that are] also in the brain.”

Minin continued, “Also of note is our premium MenaQ7 Vitamin K2 as MK-7, which has been shown in clinical study to improve arterial stiffness (i.e., inhibiting calcification that increases cardiovascular risks). Early research is making a link to increased calcification and cognitive impairment. Gnosis is exploring more substantial evidence to confirm the benefits for brain circulation.”

Quirk stated that Draco Natural Products has “a botanical extract that contains the iridoid compound known as catalpol from the herb, Rehmannia. Plant iridoids (i.e., catalpol, geniposide, loganin), and secoiridoids (i.e., morroniside, gentiopicroside, oleuropein, swertiamarin), all showed significant improvement effects on depression. Iridoids exert antidepressant effects by elevating monoamine neurotransmitters, reducing pro-inflammatory factors, inhibiting hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis hyperactivity, increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptors, and elevating intestinal microbial abundance.”

Quirk continued, “BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor is an important pathway is which is thought to be one of the mechanisms that antidepressants work on to reverse depression. The effectiveness is also based on activation of a specific physiological pathway that impacts brain chemistry such as those influencing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels. They have noticed brain atrophy in depression MRI scans and the BDNF helps to reverse that process. Many plant compounds and extracts boost BDNF and the dosage is also critical, as well as the bioavailability to reach the brain through the blood brain barrier.”2,3

Draco Natural Products has put together an extensive database, according to Quirk, “To support our ingredients and their bioactives with numerous pharmacological and clinical studies. Then we support the efficacy by using the same level of actives shown to have a benefit, coupled with extensive traditional use to arrive at a safe and effective dosage.” In many cases, he continued, “traditional herbal formula combinations have shown the best results because they have a synergy that single ingredients lack. In addition, there is some evidence that extracting the botanicals together results in new combinations and efficacies of these phytocompounds. There are a few studies that show how co-extraction of herbs results in these synergies and I can send some of the studies showing this effect, though they are not necessarily for mood support, but illustrate this principle. We are one of the only companies to do co-extractions, whereas most want to do single herb extract products.”

As far as the demand for Draco’s mood support ingredients, according to Quirk, “The greatest demand for an exclusive mood support ingredient has been our rhodiola, but if you also count secondary benefits like immune support, then reishi would be our best. We are using fermentation in some of our extracts as an innovation because there is evidence it improves solubility and bioavailability by generating secondary compounds. Another ingredient we have recently developed is Celastrus paniculata, used in ayurveda for mood and cognition, and it has potent bioactivity according to numerous pharmacologic studies.” The company has comprehensive formulation ideas using “various combinations of herbs and other bioactive supplements” to address mood, stress and anxiety, particularly those that have better flavor for drink shots or stick packs. “These might include Euphoria fruit, lemon balm, lion’s mane and wild jujube seed,” Quirk concluded.

Advice for Finished Product Manufacturers

“The [advice] works for all categories of food supplements,” said Egoumenides. “Naturalness, clinical studies, the reputation of the ingredient, the innovation of the source, the bioavailability of the active, technical information such as solubility … the form for the galenic.”

Quirk added that “It is important to have good documentation of the safety, actives, test methods and identity tests for these mood ingredients, and we are able to support this data. Solubility and GRAS status are also key checkpoints, and since we use water—not alcohol—to extract the botanicals, this makes it easier for compliance. The key selling point,” he added, “is potency, bioactive levels, and dosage—no amount of clever marketing can substitute for that. If you give enough actives, it will deliver a meaningful benefit.” NIE


1 Pathak L, Agrawal Y, Dhir A. Natural polyphenols in the management of major depression. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2013 Jul;22(7):863-80. doi: 10.1517/13543784.2013.794783. Epub 2013 May 6. PMID: 23642183.

2 Duman RS, Deyama S, Fogaça MV. Role of BDNF in the pathophysiology and treatment of depression: Activity-dependent effects distinguish rapid-acting antidepressants. Eur J Neurosci. 2021 Jan;53(1):126-139. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14630. Epub 2019 Dec 20. PMID: 31811669; PMCID: PMC7274898.

3 Khan H, Amin S, Patel S. Targeting BDNF modulation by plant glycosides as a novel therapeutic strategy in the treatment of depression. Life Sci. 2018 Mar 1;196:18-27. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2018.01.013. Epub 2018 Jan 16. PMID: 29341893.


Draco Natural Products, www.draconatural.com
Gnosis by Lesaffre, www.gnosisbylesaffre.com
Robertet, www.robertet.com

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