Anxiety is no laughing matter. In the United States, about 44 million suffer from anxiety disorders, which can be anything from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to panic attacks. Fear, uneasiness, or worry over the future can chronically occur and take its toll on everyday life.
A source of relief are natural anxiolytics or anti-anxiety remedies, which can come in the form of food, herbs, spices, and other plant-based substances.
Anxiety-Busting Herbs to Explore
Research reveals that dietary composition and habits both can influence anxiety. It might even go as far back as the mother’s diet while she was pregnant. In animal models, for instance, a high-sugar diet led to increased anxious behavior. In animals prone to obesity, taking away a high-sugar, high-fat diet was linked with anxiety.
Here are specific herbs that have demonstrated anti-anxiety properties, having potential to be explored as safe, effective natural anxiolytics.
- Kava – Also known as kava kava, the plant Piper methysticum is among the most studied herbs for anxiety, showing effectiveness against mild cases in humans. It’s usually used as tincture in 3 to 5 ml doses. Note, however, that there aren’t enough studies vouching for its safety during pregnancy, among liver disease patients, and among frequent alcohol users.
- Chamomile – Not to be missed on this list is chamomile, a favorite tea in the evening to calm the nerves and quiet the mind and body. This flowering herb is used as a stress reliever and anxiety buster in tea, extract, tablet, and topical cream forms. It’s long used as a long-term therapy for GAD, shown in studies to help against a relapse of GAD symptoms. Even if relapse does occur, the symptoms are found less severe. Note, however, that some individuals are allergic to chamomile, which can also interact with drugs like blood thinners.
- Valerian – The root of this herb has exhibited powerful sleep-promoting effects. Insomnia and poor sleep, after all, have been shown to contribute significantly to anxiety. In capsule form, valerian root has been seen as effective as Valium for anxiety reduction. It may be used as tea, tablet, and tincture, but while generally safe there’s no information on its long-term use and safety among pregnant and nursing women, along with children under 3 years old.Lavender – A leading anxiolytic in the herbal world is this flowering plant that belongs to the mint family. It helps calm the nerves and anxiety naturally by making tea from the leaves, using it as aromatherapy, and using the essential oil as base oil for massage. You may also simply add its flowers to your bath.
- Lemon balm – It’s used as a treatment for nervous insomnia, with experts pointing to its molecules in helping contain anxiety. Lemon balm can be used as tincture for sleep and anxiety improvements. Aromatherapy using its essential oil, has been found in a trial to calm the subjects with Alzheimer’s disease.
- St. John’s wort – This perennial plant native to Europe as well as parts of Asia and the Americas finds its flowering tops used for botanical preparations. Hypericin is perhaps its most studied compound, yet current knowledge points to hyperforin and related compounds as responsible for the plant’s positive effect on mood. It’s mostly explored for depression but also applies to anxiety cases, believed to increase brain levels of serotonin and decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in the environment.
Other Potential Anti-Anxiety Agents
Cannabidiol, most popularly known as CBD or the active ingredient of cannabis, is widely studied for its calming effect on the central nervous system. It is used in tablet, liquid extract, topical cream, and even vape liquid forms. CBD is deemed beneficial and continues to be studied for anxiety-related disorders.
A number of vitamins, minerals and amino acids are considered natural anxiolytics as well. L-lysine is often combined with L-arginine to influence brain neurotransmitters positively as they are involved in stress and anxiety. Magnesium, on the other hand, is taken in combination with specific herbs to help curb anxiety.
Even nootropics, or brain enhancement agents, have been seen to assist against anxious feelings and behaviors. They usually contain anxiolytic properties that allow undistracted focus, reducing the occasional nervousness and stress suffered daily. The mechanism behind this: preventing free radicals and boosting oxygen to the brain, paving the way for increased clarity and mood enhancement.
While it’s often more affordable and accessible, an herbal supplement for anxiety should be of high quality and its benefits should far outweigh any purported risk. Do your due diligence in trying herbal remedies for anxiety. Speak with your healthcare provider or the mental health therapist you’re seeing to confirm that taking these herbs is all right, particularly if you’re taking prescription medications or have a complicated medical history.
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