Have you ever felt like this? Anxiety is defined as intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. It can be characterized by symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trouble sleeping and feeling tired.
Anxiety is at an all time high in our current society. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA):
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
- It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
- Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
- Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.
The bottom line is with today’s fast-paced, demanding society, people are experiencing increased levels of anxiety from the time they are children throughout all stages of life. This is a huge issue for a lot of people!
As someone who has experienced general anxiety through a lot of life, I truly believe that exercise, yoga and meditation go to great lengths to combat anxiety and combination anxiety/depression disorders. However, there are additional herbal and completely natural remedies you can supplement with to help control the symptoms of anxiety.
Valerian, also known as Valeriana officinalis, is a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia, which contains a substance known as valerenic acid. Valerenic acid affects gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain, which control fear or anxiety experienced when nerve cells are overexcited. This ancient remedy dates all the way back to the Greek and Roman Empires when it was used by Hippocrates to treat headaches, nervousness, trembling and heart palpitations. Modern day alternative practitioners believe that it can treat insomnia, anxiety, headaches, digestive problems, menopause symptoms, and post-exercise muscle pain and fatigue. Its natural affects are similar to those of Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam) which also act on GABA receptors, but Valerian has many fewer side effects than going the chemical route. The average person will notice the effects in about 30 minutes. It’s best to try this herb before bedtime as it has been known to cause drowsiness and it could put you right to sleep. Oh, you should probably also be aware that this does not smell pleasant. It has an odor similar to stinky feet. But, if you can get past it for 2 seconds and swallow the pill, you’ll be G2G.
When the flowering part of this plant is dried, it can be used as a supplement to treat anxiety, insomnia and other sleep disorders, restlessness, tension, excitability, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness, and irritability. Some research suggests that taking a combination of hops extract plus valerian extract at bedtime helps some people fall asleep faster. However, this will not take effect immediately. It appears to take 28 days of treatment to see these benefits taking hops alone. However, a combination of valerian extract and hops extract seems to improve sleep quality similarly to bromazepam (Lexotanil) when taken for only 14 days.
Native Americans have used passionflower for various ailments, BUT there are currently about 500 species of passionflower that we are aware of. Not all of them will help an anxious mind. If you go this route, aim for Passiflora incarnata, which is the only known strand that may treat anxiety and insomnia. P. incarnata may be listed in different ways, including purple passionflower and maypop. It appears to boost the level of GABA in your brain, similar to valerian. However, my experience with passionflower has been that it has minimal effect compared to valerian root. This could be because according to studies, participants didn’t notice improvements until they had been drinking a daily dose of purple passionflower tea for 7 days. Still, a more gentle option to try that can be utilized throughout the day as opposed to just bedtime.
Lavender is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. When the flower spikes of certain lavender species are distilled, it creates an essential oil which can be used to treat anxiety, insomnia, depression and restlessness. Lavender oil has many beauty benefits to the skin and hair, but when used to treat anxiety, it is most commonly used as aromatherapy. The lavender scent can be used as an effective instant anxiety reducer whenever and wherever you need a little calm.
California poppy is a plant that is native to southwestern United States. While it is often confused with the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), Eschscholzia californica is related, but much more gentle. It can alleviate anxiety when used in combination with other herbs and the mineral magnesium. In addition to having a promising effect on anxiety, protopine and allocryptopine alkaloids were also found to block human serotonin and noradrenaline transporters and possess antidepressant-like effects.
Ashwagandha is classified as an “adaptogen,” meaning that it can help your body manage stress. “Ashwagandha” is Sanskrit for “smell of the horse,” which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera, and it’s also known by several other names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry. The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions. For example, it can lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol, boost brain function and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression. Researchers reported that it blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group. In another six-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo.
St. John’s Wort
This is one of the most effective supplements to manage anxiety and even depression. However, there are a lot of warnings because it can interact with many medications, and make you more sensitive to UV rays. St. John’s wort is a flowering plant named because the bright yellow flowers were said to bloom for the first time around St. John the Baptist’s birthday. The word “wort” means “plant” in Old English. In a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers looked at 29 previously published clinical trials (with a total of 5489 participants) that compared the effects of St. John’s wort to a placebo or standard antidepressant medication for a period of four to 12 weeks. They found that the effects were equal to that of standard antidepressants, but obviously had less side effects. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or you are taking oral contraceptives or any other medication, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking St. John’s Wort.
Skullcap (sometimes spelled scullcap) is the common name for Scutellaria, a genus of flowering plants in the mint family. The name is derived from the Latin word scutella, which means “little dish,” as the small flowers of these plants have a dish-like shape. Skullcap is not to be confused with death caps, which are a highly poisonous mushroom. The leaves of American skullcap have been used in traditional herbal medicine as a sedative and to treat conditions like anxiety and convulsions. The plant was frequently used by Native Americans for its powerful medicinal properties. It is sold in capsules, powders, and liquid extracts. Dried parts of the plant, such as its leaves, are likewise used to brew tea.
CBD is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in marijuana and hemp plants. Not to be confused with THC, which is the hallucinogen that causes a “high”, CBD oil is thought to work with a brain receptor called CB1. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond. Several studies suggest potential benefits of CBD for anxiety, although there is much more research to be conducted to understand exactly how this works. Studies have also shown some benefits for other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD may also help treat anxiety-induced insomnia. CBD oil isn’t my favorite natural remedy because I noticed more long-term anxiety from extended use. So, always be careful and take note of how you feel when trying any new supplement, especially one that has so much more research to be done. CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people who take CBD may experience side effects, including:
- gastrointestinal discomfort
- sleeping difficulties
- mood changes
- dry mouth
There are many natural ways, physical, mental and supplemental to chill out and start feeling better. As a disclaimer, this information should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical disorder and is for informational purposes only. But, if you’re experiencing heightened anxiety and don’t like the idea of introducing harsh unnatural chemicals to your body and brain, these are some good tried and tested options to consider. Take control of your anxiety instead of letting the anxiety take control of you.