Anxiety is a depression-related disorder that affects as much as 18% of the adult population each year, and is one of the most common disorders affecting Americans.
It causes high levels of stress and trauma that can hinder even the most mundane daily activities. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder and phobias are all related to anxiety.
The conventional medical treatment for anxiety includes prescription medications and therapy. However, many are turning to natural therapies because they cannot tolerate the negative side effects of certain prescriptions.
If interested in a more natural approach, be sure and consult your doctor before trying any of the following herbs for anxiety, and never discontinue medications without your doctor’s approval.
Chamomile comes in several varieties, including German chamomile and Roman chamomile. However, they are all used to treat the same disorders. Chamomile is a flowering herb that grows throughout Europe, Asia and North America. It has been used for thousands of years and was even used by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.
Chamomile has traditionally been used to treat nervous conditions, such as stress, anxiety, insomnia and colic. Today it is sometimes used to treat inflammatory bowel disease and ulcers. It has a calming effect on the body, but it is not a sedative, so it is okay to take throughout the day. For best results, drink 3 to 4 cups of chamomile tea daily.
Kava kava is among effective herbs for anxiety. It is a Polynesian herb used traditionally as a ceremonial drink. It is mildly sedative and very relaxing. Herbalists use kava kava to help elevate mood and produce a feeling of relaxation and contentment. According to some studies, this herb may help treat insomnia, anxiety and other nervous disorders.
There are no recommended amounts for kava kava, so follow product label instructions and check with your doctor before trying this herb. Because its effects are so powerful, kava kava should not be combined with alcohol or taken before driving or operating heavy machinery.
Lemon Balm, also known as melissa officinalis, is a folk remedy native to Europe. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it was “used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite and ease pain.” Because of its mild effects, it may also be used as a remedy for colic. Studies show that when combined with other like herbs such as passion flower and valerian, lemon balm helps reduce anxiety.
Lemon balm is typically found in capsule and liquid extract form, but it is also sometimes found in herbal teas. The recommended dose is 300 to 500 mg, up to three times per day.
Passion flower is a herb similar to kava kava or valerian, but with milder effects. It is naturally relaxing and can be used to combat stress, anxiety, insomnia, as well as seizures. Like lemon balm, it works best when combined with other calming herbs.
A recent study shows that passion flower is as effective as the drug Serax against generalized anxiety disorders, although more studies are needed. Other studies show that it is more effective in treating anxiety than a placebo. It can be found in herbal teas or liquid extract form. The recommended dose is 3 to 4 cups per day, one cup before bedtime for insomnia.
St. John’s Wort
Although St. John’s Wort is used mainly to treat mild to moderate depression, it can be used to treat all depression-related disorders, including anxiety. In ancient Greece, it was used to treat nervous disorders. One study showed that St. John’s Wort even helps in controlling symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
St. John’s Wort is available in capsules, tablets, liquid extract and herbal teas. The recommended dose is 300 mg, three times per day. However, it may take three to four weeks for this herb to take effect. St. John’s Wort has also been known to interact with certain prescription medications. Do not take it if you are currently taking prescription anti-depressants or drugs for other mood disorders.
Valerian is another flowering herb from Europe. It has been a popular remedy for anxiety and insomnia there since the 17th century. It is even approved by Germany’s Commission E, an agency similar to the US Food and Drug Administration. Like kava kava, valerian has mild sedative effects. It is believed to help increase GABA in the brain, a chemical which has a calming effect. Its effects are similar to Valium and Xanax.
Valerian has an unpleasant taste and odor, so it is not recommended for herbal teas, but it can be found in capsules or liquid extract form. The dose for general anxiety is 200 mg, three to four times per day.
1. National Institute of Mental Health; Anxiety Disorder http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYANX_ADULT.shtml
2. University of Maryland Medical Center – http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/german-chamomile-000232.htm