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Natural Calming Herbs for Anxiety

Updated on December 3, 2015

Natural Treatment of Anxiety with 3 Best Calming Herbs

Try the extracts of these calming herbs for natural treatment of anxiety:

  • Passion Flower
  • Magnolia Bark
  • Lemon Balm

For many people who suffer from anxiety, herbal remedies work as well as prescription drugs.

Extracts of these anti-anxiety herbs are available in supplements, drops or powder.

Even though drinking herbal teas is certainly beneficial (and always a pleasant experience), the healing properties of herbs are far more potent in the extract form.

Therefore, take the extracts when using herbs for natural anxiety medicine.

Passion Flower Botanical Drawing
Passion Flower Botanical Drawing | Source

Passion Flower

The passion flower plant, whose scientific name is passiflora, is easily identifiable by its exotic and totally unique flowers.

Native to Central and South America, over 400 varieties of this plant now exist throughout the world.

Most varieties of passionflower grow as vines that can be as long as 30 feet. In tropical climates, this flowering herb is a perennial. In climates with cold winters, passion flower is an annual, and is often used as a beautiful ornamental vine adorning posts and lattices.

This easy to grow vine likes lots of sun and dry soil.

The distinctive flowers vary in color from purple, blue, red, white, pink, and green.

Passiflora Incarnata Purple Passion Flower
Passiflora Incarnata Purple Passion Flower | Source

Passion Flower For Anxiety

Passiflora Incarnata, the purple passion flower, is the one most used for medicinal purposes. Purple passion flower is also known as "maypop."

Modern scientists believe that passion flower increases levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it lowers the activity of the brain cells to which it binds. The function of GABA is to clam down nerve cells that are overactive and overexcited.

The result of increased GABA activity is a more relaxed and tranquil state of mind.

Drugs like Valium and Librium act to increase GABA, but doctors and patients alike are concerned about the addictive properties and side effects of these drugs,

However, passion flower, especially if taken in the extract form, seems to increase GABA actiivty to a significant degree for many anxiety-sufferers. One can take passion flower without having the concerns associated with pharmaceutical drugs.

History of Passion Flower

This flowering herb has a long history as a remedy for anxiety among the Native Americans of Central and South America.

The first known Europeans to encounter this unusual plant were Spanish explorers in Peru. They gave it the name it is now known by, since the different portions of the dramatic flower reminded them of the Crown of Thorns from the Passion of Christ.

The European explorers took passion flower back to Europe, where it became valued for its many health benefits as well as for its beauty.

Today, the leaves, stems, and flowers of this plant are used all over the world as a natural remedy for anxiety and other ailments.

Magnolia Officinalis
Magnolia Officinalis | Source

Magnolia Bark

When I first heard of Magnolia Bark, I wondered if it came from the magnolia tree in the southern United States. I found out that only a little bark is harvested from this iconic southern tree for this purpose.

By far, most of the magnolia bark used as a medicinal herb has historically come from a deciduous tree that grows in China called Magnolia Officinalis. (The southern magnolia is an evergreen whose official name is Magnolia Grandiflora.)

The southern magnolia with its gorgeous white flowers and luxurious leaves adds enchanting beauty to the southern landscape. However, the Magnolia Officinalis from China, besides having its own beautiful leaves and flowers, is the primary source of the herb that is a natural remedy for anxiety.

Magnolia Officinalis Flower
Magnolia Officinalis Flower

Magnolia Bark for Anxiety

Within the bark of the stem, branches, and roots of Magnolia Officinalis is a particular compound known as honokiol that is responsible for the anxiety relief obtained by using this herb.

In recent years, honokiol has been the subject of a great deal research, particularly in Japan. Its far-ranging effects on the human body include significant anti-oxidant and anti-cancer activity as well as anxiety relief.

Research has shown honokiol to raise the levels of GABA in the brain to a level that actually exceeds the level created by certain pharmaceutical drugs designed for that purpose. But it does so without raising GABA levels in the rest of your body, so you don't experience the overall weakness, lethargy and fatigue that is a frequent side effect of drugs like valium or zanax. Neither do you have to worry about it creating any kind of dependency in your system.

Magnolia bark has been described as the herb that is "too good to be true." As a significant anti-cancer agent, and as a natural treatment for anxiety, this natural herb may turn out to a true "wonder drug."

Mountain Landscape China
Mountain Landscape China

History of Magnolia Bark

Magnolia Officinalis is one of about 250 trees in the genus Magnolia. The genus was named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), who invented the concept of plant families.

The Chinese name for the tree later designated as Magnolia Officinalis was "houpu tree" and the thick bark was simply called "houpu."

The first European to introduce this tree to the western world was Augustine Henry, the Irish botanist who loved the flora of China. In 1885, he sent samplings of the tree back to Britain.

A horticulturist for Harvard University named Alfred Rehder, was the person who, in the early 1900s, designated this tree as Magnolia Officinalis, to indicate its medical importance.

Chinese writings that mention of houpu as a remedy for various ailments dates from 100 A.D. These early writings indicate that houpu was used to treat headaches and the ill effects of extreme cold and heat.

Later Chinese writings focus on using houpu to treat "fright qi." This term refers to fear and anxiety arising from digestive problems, and the emotional turmoil associated with shortness of breath.

Magnolia bark as a remedy for many ailments including anxiety has a long history in Asia spanning thousands of years. In recent decades, the rest of the world has been learning about this amazing herb.

Lemon Balm Plant
Lemon Balm Plant

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is native to southern Europe, but is now cultivated all over the world. It is also called commonly called "Sweet Melissa" or just "Melissa," which is part of its official name, " Melissa Officinalis."

The lovely lemony fragrance of lemon balm makes it a delightful herb for the garden. Honey bees think so, too; it is one of the most powerful plants for attracting bees. In fact, the word "Melissa" is a Greek name meaning "bee."

Lemon balm is a fast growing perennial plant for your garden. It propagates easily on its own, and is easy to root.

As a crop, lemon balm is prized not only by the field of natural medicine, but also by the food, cosmetic, and perfume industries, and by manufacturers of household cleaning products.

This herb, a member of the mint family, grows to 2 to 3 feet high. In the summer, it has little white flowers that appear where the leaves meet the stem.

Lemon Balm White Flowers
Lemon Balm White Flowers

Lemon Balm for Anxiety

Just the name "lemon balm" sounds like it will calm your frayed nerves and make you feel more relaxed and peaceful. And that is exactly what this herb has been doing since at least the time of ancient Greece.

One of the most important healing compounds in lemon balm leaves is rosemarinic acid, which increases the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that keeps the brain from becoming over excited. Rosemarinic acid is also a powerful antioxidant as well. Lemon balm also contains the aromatic hydrocarbon terpene, which contributes to the calming effect.

Research has shown that, when combined with the herb valerian, lemon balm can be especially effective at reducing anxiety and in promoting restful relaxation, without the side effects of pharmeacutical drugs. However, lemon balm by itself has been used since ancient times to calm nerves and provide anxiety relief.

Melissa Officinalis has been approved by the German Commission E (an official body similar to the FDA) as treatment for nervous sleep disorders. A similar organization, the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy, lists lemon balm as useful for restlessness, irritability, and general tension.

Medicinal Herb Garden
Medicinal Herb Garden
Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen

History of Lemon Balm

As far back as 77 A.D., lemon balm was described by the Greek physician Dioscorides as being an aromatic herb favored by bees. Its crushed leaves were spread on hives to entice bees to return. He also prescribed lemon balm, or melissa, as an herbal treatment for gastrointestinal problems.

The Emperor Charlemagne (742 - 814) was instrumental in spreading the use of lemon balm by ordering that it be planted in every monastery garden. In those days, one of the reasons people visited monasteries was for help with physical ailments. Many monks held deep knowledge of the medicinal properties of herbs, and monastery gardens were full of plants for that purpose.

A special tonic made in monasteries during this period was called Carmelite water, which contained lemon balm as a main ingredient. Carmelite water was highly valued as a cleansing tonic and was used for various kinds of sickness.

A renowned Arab physician whose Latinized name is Avicenna (980-1037), wrote that lemon balm "causes the mind and heart to be merry."

The holy nun Hildegard von Bingen (1098 - 1179), a renowned musician, herbalist, and healer, recommended eating lemon balm "to make one more joyful." She wrote that lemon balm "has the strength of fifteen other herbs in itself."

The Elizabethan herbalist John Gerard (1545 - 1611) said lemon balm will "comfort the heart and drive away all sadness."

Lemon balm continues to be highly valued today for its many healing properties, including its ability to calm agitation and tension.

Anti-Anxiety Herbs - Conclusion

While writing this article, I've learned a lot about passion flower, magnolia bark, and lemon balm,

Of course, nothing written here is to be taken as medical advice.

However, I do hope you share with me the appreciation of the long history of these herbs. Each one has been an important natural herb for various health problems, and has served as a natural treatment for anxiety

© 2014 SusanSaies


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    • SusanSaies profile image

      SusanSaies 2 years ago

      No doubt the passion flower added exotic beauty to your garden. How wonderful it is that nature gave purple passion flower the ability to increase GABA in the brain.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I did not know that passion flower has this use. We used to have a plant in our garden.

    • SusanSaies profile image

      SusanSaies 3 years ago

      Thank you, Peg for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed this article about natural herbal remedies.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I like the idea of using natural herbs to remedy issues like insomnia, which I've experienced for years. Your description of these extracts and their history is well-explained and interesting. The lemon balm leaf looks a bit like mint leaf.

    • SusanSaies profile image

      SusanSaies 4 years ago

      Thank you for your very interesting comment about passionflower! When I work on this hub again, I will add the info about Passiflora Incarnata. It's truly an amazing plant, and so beautiful.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 4 years ago from Odessa, MO

      There are hundreds of species of passionflower, but the only one that is in common use medicinally is P. incarnata--which is amazingly hardy (to Zone 4 or 5 with a heavy mulch, supposedly) and rampageous. Grows like crazy and will provide lots of plant material. Maude Grieve mentions several other species with medicinal value of one kind or anotther, but they are rarely used. (Some kinds are poisonous.)

      A super interesting species!


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