11 antianxiety herbs
My clients will often come to therapy asking about anti anxiety herbs. Many insist that they will not take medicine to help with their anxiety or indicate that they want to get off the medicine they are taking.
In the 19th century, herbal medicine was used exclusively in China to treat all mental illness. These herbs have frequently been used for thousands of years by different cultures. If there are effective anti anxiety herbs that can be used with anxiety, why wouldn’t we try them first? Did you know that Aspirin, the most common over the counter medicine is a synthetic version of a compound found in the willow tree (Brucker, 2009)? What makes us think that our pharmaceuticals are any more effective than the anti anxiety herbs that have been used by native peoples for hundreds of years?
In considering anti anxiety herbs it is important to pay attention to what is supported by research. Research can tell us much about an anti anxiety herb, such as its maximum safe dose and interactional and side effects. Although research is important, sometimes the research just hasn’t been done. A lack a research doesn’t mean a possible herb doesn’t help with anxiety.
Anti anxiety herb Kava
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) is a tropical evergreen shrub with large heart-shaped leaves and woody stems. The roots of the plant are used to make a drink which has been used for centuries by Pacific Islanders as an inebriant and in rituals and ceremonies.Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) is the most commonly used anti anxiety herb. In recent years, Kava has gained popularity in the United States as an alternative treatment for anxiety disorders.
Current research supports the use of Kava for generalized anxiety but not for other anxiety disorders (Sarris, 2009). A systematic review of six trials found that Kava was more effective than placebo at reducing symptoms of anxiety (Pittler & Ernst, 2000). Kava has also been found to be as effective as the prescription medication buspirone in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) (Volz, Kieser, & Lehmann, 2001).
While Kava appears to be a safe and effective treatment for anxiety, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider before taking any herbal remedy. Kava should not be taken with alcohol or other drugs that affect the central nervous system. People with liver disease should also avoid taking Kava.
If you’re looking for a natural way to treat your anxiety, Kava Kava may be worth trying. Consult with your healthcare provider to see if it’s right for you.
One study actually demonstrated that Kava is of equal benefit to Opipramol ( Naproxen) and Busperone ( Buspar)!
This is important as the side effects associated with these two drugs are not present with Kava. However, Kava has been associated with liver damage, although there is some question about this research.
If you have liver problems you shouldn’t take Kava and there are no studies verifying its safety beyond 4 months. It is not legally sold over the counter in some countries, but is here in the US (Sarris 2009).
How does the anti anxiety herb Kava work?
Current evidence indicates that the neurobiological influence for anxiety ( the biological underpinnings) primarily involves dysfunction of GABAergic, glutamatergic, serotonergic, and noradrenergic pathways (Sarris,2009).
What are these complicated sounding pathways ?
These pathway consist of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that enables neurons exchange signals and keep the body and brain functioning correctly. Without getting into too much complicated detail, each of the prescription drugs we use to treat anxiety affect the pathways above in some way so that they function more like they would in less anxious people.
The exact mechanisms of how Kava works is not known, however, it appears it works in some way with receptors, proteins, and neurons involved in these pathways. Some studies demonstrate that Kava relaxes muscles, and eases the physical symptoms of anxiety.
It is important as with all herbal and vitamin supplements, to ask your doctor about Kava. There is question as to whether it interacts with other drugs, and it also has been associated with liver damage. Don’t just take this on your own (Sarris,2009).
Anti anxiety herb Lavender
If you’re looking for a natural way to ease your anxiety, lavender may be worth trying. A 2010 study found that silexan, a lavender oil pill, was as effective as lorazepam (Ativan) in treating generalized anxiety disorder. Researchers concluded that lavender oil appears to be a possible viable alternative to benzodiazepines for amelioration of generalized anxiety. (Woelk 2010). The safety of silexan was also demonstrated. Since lavender oil showed no sedative effects ( sleepiness)and has no potential for drug abuse, researchers who conducted studies with silexan concluded it appears to be a possible viable alternative to appears to benzodiazepines for amelioration of generalized anxiety (Woelk 2010). So if you’re looking for a natural way to ease your anxiety, lavender may be worth trying.
What are some other anti anxiety herbs?
- Lemon Balm: (Melissa Officinalîs)
Lemon balm is a lemon-scented herb in the mint family. Though it’s native to tropical areas of Asia, lemon balm has been cultivated for centuries in Europe. The plant grows to about two feet tall and has small, lemon-yellow flowers.
Lemon balm has traditionally been used as an herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia. A 2010 study found that lemon balm may help reduce agitation in Alzheimer’s patients. Additionally, a 2012 review of studies concluded that lemon balm may help improve mood and reduce stress levels.
If you’re interested in trying lemon balm for anxiety relief, consider taking it in capsule form or drinking it as a tea. You can also purchase lemon balm extract.
Chamomile is thought to be a relaxant due to its ability to bind to the same receptors in the brain as drugs like Valium(Head,2009). This may explain why chamomile tea is often consumed before bedtime or during times of stress. Chamomile supplements are also widely available in health food stores. While chamomile may have some mild sedative effects, it is important to remember that it is not a replacement for medication prescribed by a doctor. Consult with your physician before taking any herbal supplements.
Ginseng is a popular herbal remedy that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Today, ginseng is most commonly taken as a dietary supplement and is said to offer a wide range of health benefits, including improved mental function, reduced stress levels, and enhanced immunity. Ginseng is also sometimes taken as a natural treatment for anxiety( Head 2009).
A number of studies have shown that ginseng can help to reduce anxiety and improve mood. One study found that ginseng extract was effective in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Another study found that ginsenosides, the active compounds in ginseng, were able to decrease anxiety-related behaviors in rats.
Sage is another herbal remedy that has been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments. Like ginseng, sage is most commonly taken as a dietary supplement or tea. Sage is thought to offer a number of health benefits, including improved mental function and reduced stress levels.
There is some evidence to suggest that sage may be effective in reducing anxiety. One study found that sage oil was able to decrease anxiety and improve cognitive performance in a group of healthy adults (Altshul, 2006). However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.
If you’re interested in trying sage for anxiety relief, it’s important to speak with your doctor first. Sage can interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for everyone. But if sage sounds like a good option for you, it’s definitely worth giving it a try!
One study suggests sage induced calmness and alertness (Altshul, 2006).
- Marapuama or valerian root:
Marapuama is a tropical plant native to Brazil that has traditionally been used as an herbal remedy for anxiety and other nervous disorders.
Research on animals has shown that marapuama can counteract some of the negative effects of chronic stress, including reducing the levels of stress hormones in the body and improving memory and learning.
Marapuama may also help to improve sexual function. A small study in Brazil found that marapuama improved sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction in women with sexual dysfunction.
Data on rats indicate it counteracts some of the effects brought on by chronic stress.
- Green Tea:
L-theanine is an amino acid that is found almost exclusively in tea leaves (Camellia sinensis). This compound is responsible for the unique taste of green tea, and it has also been linked with a variety of health benefits. Some of these benefits include improved mental clarity, increased relaxation, and reduced anxiety levels.
One study that was conducted on L-theanine showed that it was able to significantly reduce stress levels in participants who were exposed to stressful situations (Yamamoto, 2008). The participants in this study were given either L-theanine or a placebo, and those who received the L-theanine experienced lower heart rate and salivary cortisol levels than those
Studies also show L-rheanine induces alpha-brainwave activity, which correlates with a perceived state of relaxation( Head, 2009).
- Thryallis or Rain-of-Gold (Galphimia Glauca):One study suggests this is effective.
This beautiful plant is native to M dailye mealsx withico and Central America, and has been used traditionally to treat anxiety and .nervous disorders. The active ingredient in Thryallis is thought to be a compound called galphimin, which has sedative and calming effects on the nervous system.
You can find Thryallis or Rain-of-Gold supplements in most health food stores, or you can grow your own plant if you live in a warm climate.
- GADBlue Skullcap(Scutellaria Laterißora)
The active compounds in GADBlue Skullcap(Scutellaria Laterißora), including scutellarin and baicalin, have been shown to have anti-anxiety effects. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that these compounds were effective in reducing anxiety-like behavior in rats.
- Jujube(Ziziphus Jujube)
Jujube is an anti anxiety herb that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The jujube fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, and contains compounds that can help to ease anxiety and stress. Jujube can be taken in capsule form, or the dried fruit can be added to tea or coffee. (HEAD 2009)If you’re looking for an all-natural way to reduce stress and anxiety, give jujube a try!
There is no good evidence that the other herbs can be used to treat anxiety disorders, but reason to believe they may be helpful.
Adaptogenic Herbs and anxiety
It is suggested that these herbs help to regulate homeostasis and to influence the mechanisms of our stress response via the hypothalamic pituitary axis( HPA). Anxiety Disorders are strongly influenced by stress. Therefore these herbs may be helpful and relevant in the future research for ameliorating anxiety. There is no good human research to support these claims(Provino,2010).
We learn more and more each day about the way these adaptogenic herbs work on our biology to reduce our stress response. These ancient people who conceived of using these herbs appear to have known something. Other possibly helpful herbs include:
- Withania (Withania somnifera)
- Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
- Siberian Ginsing (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
- Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Rhodiola ( Rhodiola rose)Brahmi (Bacopa monniera)
- Gotu Kola(Centella asiatica)
Provino (2010) Altshul, S. (2006).
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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.