Herbal Remedies for Anxiety
Everyone has been anxious at some point in their life, whether it be over love, school, work or that big presentation due tomorrow. Anxiety, fear and worry are all completely natural human feelings. Yet for some anxiety can be more than a normal occurrence and endure for an extended period of time affecting their physical and mental well being. This is commonly called an anxiety disorder.
Fortunately even though millions of people suffer from anxiety, there are many types of treatment available - medical, therapeutic and herbal. This article overviews some of the more common anxiety disorders and herbal anxiety remedies that possibly can help.
Common Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People suffering from GAD often feel an unrelenting worry or fear that is out of proportion to the actual event and are compulsively worried for extended periods of time hampering their physical interactions with the world and other individuals.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People suffering from OCD tend to have bothersome and intrusive thoughts that generate anxiety (obsession) and perform repetitive actions (compulsion) like excessive hand washing to try and reduce their anxiety. The person's actions often cause them to lose valuable time and ostracize themselves from others.
People suffering from a Panic Disorders often have panic attacks, which are extreme bouts of fear that strike them without warning when performing a task. The symptoms resemble that of a heart attack and can last anywhere from a couple minutes to up twenty minutes though some people can have them come and go over a period of hours.
People with a phobia suffer fear and anxiety when they see a specific thing and feel something awful will happen to them if they encounter that phobia. Phobias can range from the common to the extreme including things like spiders, snakes, social interaction and even loud noises.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
People suffering post-traumatic stress feel an extreme amount of fear and anxiety due to a severe trauma they suffered such as a hostage situation, a serious incident, a life changing accident, serving in combat, etc.
While these are only a few of the many anxiety disorders that exist, there are often treatments available for people suffering with them - therapy, medical and herbal. Of all of these herbal remedies are perhaps the oldest and while they may not cure someone of a disorder they can help soothe their anxiety. Even without an anxiety disorder, people who are worrying or anxious can benefit from a simple herbal remedy.
Herbal RemediesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Common Herbal Remedies for Anxiety
There are thousands of herbs in the world that all offer some form of health benefit. Many of these herbs have then been refined as a basis for pharmaceutical drugs in treating various ailments. Yet herbal remedies themselves remain fairly simple and natural and there are several that show some benefit in reducing anxiety.
Chamomile is a small daisy like flower that has been made into a tea, a tablet and shaped in many other forms. While scientific studies have not really studied Chamomile, many people's personal accounts say that it does in fact reduce their anxiety. One of the best ways to use Chamomile is to make or buy Chamomile Tea, a sweet drink that offers great benefits. Given its low risk to most people, it offers not only benefits in reducing anxiety but also as a muscle relaxant and soothing upset stomachs.
Kava has been grown and used through the Pacific Ocean for hundreds of years and by utilizing the roots of this pepper like plant which contain kavalactones, it has been made into an herbal supplement and a drink. The drink combines Kava powder (ground up Kava root) which is soaked into water or milk. Hot water or liquids are not used as it kills the kavalctones which generate the soothing benefits of the drink. Always follow directions if making your own.
When one takes Kava their tongue and lip may go a little numb (only temporary) followed by an increase in talkative behavior, clear thinking, calm muscles and finally a feeling of well-being. Anxiety should clear away or at least become marginalized. Falling asleep becomes easier and more restful with people waking up more alert.
Some studies have suggested liver damage may result from extended use of Kava. However this seems to be a result of extended use of the herbal Kava supplement rather than the drink. Water soluble Kava has not been proven to cause liver damage and is how the Kava drink has traditionally been prepared by Pacific Islanders for hundreds of years. It is also thought that improperly prepared Kava by including ground up stem or leaves and the processing process of Kava used in making the supplement could cause the liver damage. If you already have liver problems, it may be best to avoid Kava. A tiny portion of people who use Kava may be allergic and have skin irritation or a rash and if so should not use Kava. There have also been some indications that Kava can become addictive.
Passionflower is a climbing vine that is considered a calming herb in folk medicine which has been borne out in studies. The herb is available in extracts, tea, dry herbs and tinctures like most other herbal medicines. A double blind study showed it worked in decreasing general anxiety disorder with less effects than the anti-depressant Oxazepam, though bigger studies are needed. Passionflower can serve as a sedative and helps sleep, improve anxiety, asthma, rapid heart rate and other problems. The full cause of why is unknown but there have been no major cases of side effects from use. It is often used with Valerian or other herbal supplements. Nausea, headaches and drowsiness may be possible side effects in some people and allergic reactions are possible.
Valerian is a sweet scented pink or white flower that grows in the Northern Hemisphere and was first found in Europe, being used by the Romans and ancient Greeks. Valerian is also the name of a nutritional and dietary supplement in capsule form made from the roots of the above flower and can also be used in a tea. Valerian serves predominantly as a treatment for insomnia due to being a mild sedative but has shown some affect in reducing anxiety.
However in some people, Valerian has had an opposite effect by actually increasing nervousness and anxiety. Other side effects include headache, dizziness, nausea and increased drowsiness while an allergic reaction of rash, hives, difficulty breathing could occur. There is also the rare possibility of liver damage though the exact reason is unknown whether it is how the herb is prepared, the dosage, etc. Proper monitoring can reduce any impact on the liver.
Of the many types of wetland loving Skullcaps, the Common Skullcap (found in Britain, Europe and Asia) and the Blue Skullcap (found in America) are known for their sedative abilities and help in treating anxiety, insomnia and nervous tension among other ailments. The most common side effect of Skullcap is muscle aches and increased body temperature, though Skullcaps is also known to cause liver damage.
Lemon Balm is from the mint family and originally found in southern Europe and the Mediterranean before being transported around the world. It is a useful herb that has been used since the Middle Ages. Studies have shown Lemon Balm reduces anxiety and mood disorders as well as reducing fevers and helping digestion. It is not a sedative and is commonly used in teas or as an extract. Some people have used it as a skin cleaner or bug repellent. There are no major side effects though rarely some people may feel nauseous or dizzy after consumption.
Anxiety can be a serious issue and before any beginning serious treatment, medical or herbal, you should consult a doctor or physician. If you are taking an herbal remedy and suffer serious side effects, overdose or have other issues discontinue use and seek immediate medical help.
Some of the above herbs can affect the liver, which may be a result of improperly prepared supplements as regulations can be lax and more general for herbs as opposed to regulated drugs. Alcohol users, people with liver disease, on medication or pregnant or breast feeding should definitely consult a doctor before using any of these herbal remedies as the combination can cause serious harm if improperly used.
All information presented here is for educational purposes only and does NOT represent any form of medical advice. This information is not exhaustive and should not be used in place of regular medical exams or a doctor or other health professional's advice. Consult your doctor before beginning any herbal treatments as some herbs may conflict with prescribed medicines. Should you have any health care related questions or feel you may suffer from an anxiety disorder, please call or see your physician or other health care provider immediately.