This article on herbal remedies for anxiety is a guest post from our friends over at Corpina Nootropics.
Feelings of anxiety are a common human experience, but anxiety disorders and chronic anxiety can be damaging, and they’re not uncommon. I’m not a very anxious person by nature, but as of late due to harrowing deadlines and meetings every day, I have had trouble switching off the feelings of overwhelming anxiousness and stress when I get home from work. It began to affect the quality time I spend with my family and made me seem kind of aloof, which is far from the real me.
But work isn’t only a source of stress. In this case, it was a source of advice, too. The best part of having a huge network of people (because I’m in marketing) who are in touch day in and day out is that I get a lot of perspectives on different problems – including more personal topics like anxiety. A lot of these people, myself included, have suffered from anxiety and anxious feelings. Almost all of them deal with daily stress (who doesn’t?). After a few conversations, it became clear that more than a few of them had opted to try nootropics and other natural supplements to combat their stress and anxiety, which got me thinking…
Do I Need to Take Something for Anxiety?
“Just steel yourself and get ‘em, tiger!” This may be a great start to a pep talk, but for those who suffer from anxiety, this approach can be lacking at best. I was never a follower of nootropics or natural supplement trends because I never thought I needed them. But anxiety is a problem and a very real one at that. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America affecting an estimated 18% of the population.1
When it comes to my own health, I have always a big fan of getting benefits from stuff that was grown rather than formulated. It’s a belief that has served me quite well over the years. Though there are many natural therapies for anxiety from meditation to essential oils, herbal remedies have proven to be an especially effective piece of holistic anxiety treatment. I decided that it was time to do some research and find the best supplement for me.
What Should I Take for My Anxiety?
There are several approaches to treating anxiety naturally. Physical practices like yoga and meditation, therapy, and herbal supplements have all become popular natural anxiety remedies. Since I’ve preferred natural methods to most others, I ultimately opted for herbal supplements for my anxiety as well.
The thing about anxiety is that you will not find quick fixes or miracle cures. Real and natural relief from anxiety is not as simple as swallowing a pill – natural or otherwise. But in my search for the best natural treatment for my anxiety, I came across quite a few herbal remedies that have been proven to be effective. Fast forward to today: mentally, I feel a lot lighter and happier. I seem to have no trouble finding time and inclination to spend with my family free from worrying about stuff at work.
Herbal Remedies for Anxiety
I did my research and found natural relief from my anxiety with herbal supplements. In this article, I’ll share the four most effective herbal remedies for anxiety that I found in the hopes that you don’t have to search too hard for help.
1. Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
The most widely used natural remedy for anxiety disorders, kava or kava kava is a root originating in the South Pacific Islands. The native islanders there have been using it for several decades for its calming, anti-anxiety effects along with natural muscle relaxing properties. Kava has a calming effect on brain function similar to more powerful synthetic drugs like Valium (diazepam) without the addictive properties and withdrawal symptoms.
In more recent years, kava supplements for anxiety have come under scrutiny after their use was linked to several incidents of liver damage and liver failure. But the World Health Organization (WHO) along with several researchers believe that liver toxicity is only a risk of certain unregulated kava extract formulations like those that use extract from the whole plant or used acetone and ethanol in the extraction process.2
To safely reap the natural anti-anxiety benefits of kava kava, be sure to only use a water-soluble extract of the peeled kava root.3 Given the lack of study of the long-term effects of kava, this natural remedy for anxiety is best for short-term use or for relief of anxiety symptoms only as needed.
NAR Editor’s Note: When it comes to kava kava supplements, we especially like this one.
2. Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
Another strong contender for naturally soothing your frayed nerves is valerian root, which is the root of an herb commonly used by people who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders. Many have also found that valerian root supplements help in calming anxiety and psychological stress as well.4 Valerian may even help with relieving some of the common physical symptoms of anxiety like migraines and upset stomach. When taken orally, valerian works like a weak sedative in the body by calming the brain and nervous system.
You can find valerian extract in the form of capsules, powder, or even tea. Typical short-term dosages can vary from 400 to 800 mg. I opted for 500 mg capsule and took it right after I got home for work on days when I needed a little extra calm or anxiety relief. For help with anxiety relief throughout the day, you can also divide the recommended amount into two or three equal doses that can be taken at different times during the day. Though effective, valerian is known for its uniquely unpleasant smell. This is an herbal remedy that I find best taken quickly and in capsule form.
NAR Editor’s Note: Our favorite 500 mg valerian root supplement is this one, but there are many great options out there including some that contain less valerian root along with the more potent extract.
3. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Described as a milder form of kava, passionflower has many of the same benefits on the body and nervous system when it comes to relieving anxiety naturally. Passionflower is a flowering vine that grows in southern parts of the US, Mexico, and South America.
It’s most commonly used for reducing anxiety and treating sleep disorders like insomnia. In fact, one study found that while the passionflower extract did not work as quickly in the treatment of generalized anxiety symptoms, it was ultimately just as effective as a pharmaceutical drug known as Serax (oxazepam).5 The passionflower extract also showed little to no side effects that impacted work performance, unlike the Serax.
Because of its proven anti-anxiety effects, passionflower is also used to lessen the severity of the anxiety-related withdrawal symptoms of narcotic drugs like morphine and heroin. Passionflower can be found as a liquid extract or tablet. For treating general anxiety, it is recommended that you use no more than 45 drops of liquid extract or a 90 mg tablet a day.
NAR Editor’s Note: Looking for a good passionflower liquid extract? We like this one.
4. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a perennial herb in the mint family, the same family as herbs like peppermint, basil, and lavender. The aroma of lemon balm leaves has been described as like a hint of lemon, as suggested by the name. Lemon balm is most commonly used in combination with other herbal supplements for anxiety, sleep disorders, and restlessness,6 though the plant can also be used effectively on its own. Lemon balm is also used for digestive problems like gas, upset stomach, and bloating.
Like our other herbal remedies for anxiety, the naturally-occurring chemicals in the leaves of lemon balm appear to have a mild sedative effect on the body that may relieve nervousness. Some research suggests that 600 mg of lemon balm alone can induce a sense of calm in adults, but other studies have shown that lemon balm can be effective against stress and anxiety in smaller doses when paired with other herbal remedies like valerian.7
Lemon balm is generally well-tolerated and has been used safely in clinical studies for up to four months, suggesting that it may be the best suited herbal remedy for anxiety for long-term use.
NAR Editor’s Note: While lemon balm can be used on its own, we love this combination of Cyracos lemon balm (the proprietary extract used in several clinical studies) and L-Theanine.
Anti-Anxiety Herbal Remedy Warnings
Though these herbal remedies are generally recognized as safe on their own, when using a new supplement, it is always necessary to evaluate its safety based on your unique health history and the medications that you are already taking. Many herbal remedies for anxiety work like a mild, natural sedative on the nervous system. While this action aids in relieving common symptoms of stress and anxiety naturally, it also poses some risk of interaction with common substances and drugs used to treat those same symptoms. None of these herbal remedies should be taken with other sedatives alcohol, CNS depressants, or benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium. Of course, always be sure to do your supplement research and consult your healthcare professional when trying new supplements for your wellbeing.
About the Guest Author
Dan Fries writes for Corpina Nootropics, an authorized company that provides natural brain supplements to improve mental performance and well-being. You can read more about nootropics and other natural supplements that can help you power past anxiety here.
- Anxiety Facts & Statistics – http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics ↩
- A re-evaluation of kava (Piper methysticum) – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048557/ ↩
- The Kava Anxiety Depression Spectrum Study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19430766 ↩
- Effect of valepotriates (valerian extract) in generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.1027/abstract ↩
- Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11679026 ↩
- Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230760/ ↩
- Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory-induced stress – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16444660 ↩