Herbs For Anxiety: Do They Work And Which Are Best?

Updated October 02, 2018

People who suffer from anxiety have many options for treatment. They can do simple self-help measures like exercising or eating healthy foods. They might choose to talk to a primary care doctor or psychiatrist about medications. Another choice is to use herbs for anxiety relief. Here's a comprehensive list of herbs that have been used over the centuries.

Ways To Use Herbal Remedies For Anxiety

Herbal remedies can be used in different ways to treat anxiety. The two main uses are as alternative medicine and complementary medicine. If you take herbal remedies, it's important to understand the risks involved and know about the different forms of the herbal remedy.

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Herbs As Alternative Medicine

If you take herbs as an alternative medicine, that means you're taking it instead of prescription medications. In some ways, the use of herbs as an alternative is safest, because you don't have to worry about drug interactions with your prescription medication.

However, you still need to be aware of adverse interactions between various herbs if you take more than one. Also, if you take only herbs for anxiety without the supervision of a health professional, which often is the case, you may put your health at risk. Many people work with an herbalist to avoid going it alone and to get some assistance from someone experienced in using herbs for anxiety and depression.

Herbs As Complementary Medicine

Using herbs as complementary medicine means that you take them along with traditional medical treatments such as medications. If you take any medications and decide to add herbs for an extra boost, it's extremely important to tell your doctor you're using them.

Depending on how familiar your doctor is with herbal remedies, they might warn you against using them with your medications or support you in using them. If they decide to work with you, they might suggest specific herbs or herbal supplements to use, follow your use of them, chart your reaction to them, and watch for side effects.

Risks Of Taking Herbal Remedies

Using herbal remedies is not without risk. Aside from the risk of adverse interactions, there are risks related to the actual form of the medicine you take. Since herbs aren't monitored by the FDA, the strength and quality of herbal supplements might not be uniform.

Form Of Herb

Herbal remedies can come in many different forms. Some of these are:

  • The raw plant
  • Herbal supplements
  • Essential oils
  • Tinctures
  • Teas
  • Powders
  • Fluid extracts
  • Juices
  • Capsules

It's important to talk to someone familiar with these herbs, preferably an experienced herbalist or a medical doctor, to make sure you're using the best form of the herb for your purposes.

Benefits Of Herbs

People who find help from herbal remedies often cite several reasons for their choice. Some reasons they give are:

  • Herbs are more cost-effective than prescription medications.
  • They're less likely to cause side effects.
  • They're less likely to lead to dependence.
  • They don't require a doctor's visit or a prescription.

Although these reasons sound attractive, though, they only tell a part of the picture. Certain herbs and herbal preparations can be extremely costly. Many herbs cause serious side effects. They may not require a doctor visit or prescription, but it's still important to discuss them with someone who understands them.

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List Of Most-Used Anti Anxiety Herbs

This first list of anti anxiety herbs contains the most commonly used herbs for anxiety. The reason they're used most often is because many people have found them to be effective. Are they the best herbs for anxiety?

It's hard to say for sure without more scientific studies than the small amount of research that has already been done. Another factor in which anxiety herbs are best is that everyone is different, and what works for one person might be completely ineffective for someone else. The following are among the most common herbs for anxiety.

Chamomile

Chamomile is an important anti-anxiety herb. It's been used since ancient times for a variety of medicinal purposes and in many different ways. Most people who use chamomile for anxiety make a tea with it. Others use the essential oil for massage, which has proven effective in reducing anxiety.

Chamomile is safe for short-term use for most people. If you take blood-thinning drugs, though, it can increase the risk of bleeding. You may also have an allergic reaction to chamomile.

Green Tea

Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine. It's because of L-theanine that green tea can help with anxiety. L-theanine has been shown to lower blood pressure and act as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It brings relaxation without causing drowsiness. L-theanine is now being used as a food ingredient because of its ability to intensify alpha brain waves that promote relaxation. However, its main use as an herb for anxiety is still at this point in the form of tea.

Hops

Hops is often used as an extract, an oil, or in hops pillows. If it's used in a tea, it's usually combined with other herbs such as mint or chamomile. Hops is a sedative, so it's important to take care that you don't take it along with prescription sedatives or other sedative herbs.

Kava

Evidence has shown that kava does have a positive effect for people with anxiety. However, the FDA has warned against the use of kava in dietary supplements. Why? After several reports of liver toxicity related to kava use, there were questions about its safety. Talk to your doctor if you're thinking of taking kava. This is especially important if you have any liver problems.

Lavender

Lavender taken orally may help anxiety, but there hasn't been much confirmation of that in research studies so far. At the same time, lavender can have side effects that include: constipation, headaches, reduced appetite, increased sedation with other sedatives, and low blood pressure. Lavender can also be used in aromatherapy.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm has shown some promise in relieving nervousness and excitability that is often a part of anxiety. Lemon balm is considered safe, although you may have nausea and abdominal pain as mild side effects.

Passion Flower

Passionflower has been used as one of the folk remedies of natural herbs for anxiety. More recently, research has shown that passionflower extract is effective for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. It calms the anxiety without causing drowsiness.

St. John's Wort

St. John's wort is one of the most popular herbal medicines. However, it isn't yet clear how effective it is for anxiety. One study found no anxiety reduction at all in people who took St. John's wort. It is still often used as an herb for anxiety and depression, primarily because it's helpful for the depression component.

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Valerian

Valerian is a sedative herb often used to promote sleep. It has been used for anxiety, but modern research has shown little evidence of its effectiveness for anxiety. Some people use it to help them sleep when anxiety keeps them awake.

List Of Other Herbs For Anxiety

In addition to the most commonly used herbs for anxiety and stress, more herbs have been used over the years. Little research has been done to validate or negate claims that these herbs are effective and safe. However, if you haven't had any luck with other herbs for anxiety, it might be worth your time to talk to your doctor or naturopath about these other herbs.

  • Bergamot
  • Black Horehound
  • Bugleweed
  • Cowslip
  • Fennel
  • Ginkgo Biloba
  • Hyssop
  • Jamaica Dogwood
  • Lemon Grass
  • Maritime Pine Bark
  • Mistletoe
  • Motherwort
  • Pheasant's Eye
  • Self Heal
  • Sweet Basil
  • Vervain

What Else Can Help?

Even if you'd rather not take any medications or even herbs, there are still things you can do to manage your anxiety. Getting some exercise can knock down your anxiety quickly. Some experts suggest that 21 minutes on a treadmill can help tremendously. Eating a healthy diet can help as well. It's important to not only eat the right foods, but to space out the food so that you never get too hungry.

Deep breathing can help with anxiety, too, especially in the instant in which it's at its peak. You can learn how to do controlled deep breathing from a yoga instructor or a therapist. You can also learn new ways to think about your stress, your situation, and your life by talking to a mental health counselor.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy is often the first-line psychological treatment for anxiety. In CBT, you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and identify thoughts that are causing you problems. When you realize that you can choose the thoughts you want to pay attention to, you can learn to choose the thoughts that help your anxiety diminish.

You can talk to a licensed counselor about this and other mental health issues at BetterHelp.com. After a simple matching survey, you'll be paired with a therapist that is best suited to helping you as an individual with your own needs and preferences. If you choose to, you can go forward with private online therapy at that point.

Anxiety is a difficult problem to overcome. It can keep you from concentrating on your work, your relationships, your social life, and your personal development. Whether you use herbs for anxiety or choose another treatment, you can find ways to get beyond the anxiety and live well.


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