Anxiety, defined as a general feeling of worry, happens to everyone sooner or later. Individuals with anxiety disorders, however, experience frequent and excessive feelings of worry, anxiousness, fear or even panic. For these people, anxiety can interfere with normal day-to-day activities, which makes life very difficult. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension, restlessness, fast heartbeat, troubled breathing, upset stomach, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability, sweating, headache and insomnia. Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes anxiety disorders, but it is thought that the neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin and norepinephrine) are involved. Genetics, environment and certain negative life experiences may also cause excessive anxiety.
If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to speak with your doctor as soon as possible to discuss possible treatment options. To be diagnosed with general anxiety disorder (GAD), a person must have experienced excessive worry for at least six months, have difficulty controlling the anxiety, have three or more of the symptoms listed above, and the problem must interfere with daily life. In addition to the treatment prescribed by your physician, there are also several natural remedies for anxiety that may help reduce symptoms. Be sure to ask your doctor before using natural remedies to make sure they’re safe for you and your condition, especially if you’re currently taking prescription medications. Never mix herbs with prescription drugs unless you’re under the supervision of a medical professional.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a common herbal treatment used to promote relaxation and sleep, may also provide some benefit to sufferers of mild to moderate anxiety. A study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2002 found that valerian may have a potential anti-anxiety effect on the psychic symptoms of anxiety. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that further studies are needed to prove valerian’s efficacy. Herbalists and advocates of natural medicine, however, have been using valerian as a natural remedy for anxiety for hundreds of years with much reported success. The University of Maryland Medical System recommends taking 150 mg of valerian two to three times daily to help treat and prevent anxiety.
If you can’t stomach the strong smell of valerian in liquid extract form, try taking the herb in capsule form instead. Consult the manufacturer’s directions for proper dosage, as this may vary depending on the strength of the product you purchase. Do not take valerian if you are pregnant or nursing, and always consult your doctor before trying new herbal remedies.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), a woody flowering vine found growing in warm and tropical regions of the Americas, is another of the most promising natural anxiety remedies. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in 2001 suggests that passionflower extract is effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Researchers also noted that the herb did not impair job performance like Oxazepam, a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drug. Again, more studies are needed before traditional medicine jumps on the passionflower bandwagon, but traditional herbalists have long used passionflower to treat anxiety disorders. In most cases, the herb is available as a liquid extract. A typical dosage of passionflower extract for treating and preventing anxiety is 30 to 45 drops dissolved in an 8 oz. glass of water one to three times daily. However, you should check with your doctor and herbalist for a safe dosage before you begin taking the herb.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum), a medicinal herb used extensively in Polynesia and other Pacific Ocean cultures, has also been suggested as a potential treatment for anxiety. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning regarding kava kava’s effect on the liver. With heavy use of the herb, liver damage may occur. According to a systematic review and meta analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2000, kava extract was found to be superior to placebo in treating the symptoms of anxiety. Researchers believe that kava extract is an herbal remedy worthy of consideration for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Because of its possible dangers, however, you should always consult your doctor before taking the herb. Kava is available as a liquid extract or in capsule form, although the extract is thought to be more powerful.
An old-fashioned remedy for anxiety, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) helps relax and tone the nervous system. It soothes the digestive system, relaxes the muscles and quiets the mind. Chamomile’s soothing qualities work best on individuals with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms, although the herb may help take the edge off even if you experience severe anxiety. Safe for children, adults and the elderly, you can most likely take chamomile without any adverse reactions. However, do not consume the herb if you have an allergy to ragweed. A typical dosage consists of a cup of tea once every two hours, as needed. You can purchase chamomile tea bags at health food stores and supermarkets, or you can make your own tea from the dried flowers. Simply steep 1 to 2 tsp. dried flowers in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes, strain, sweeten with honey and drink.
Vervain (Verbena officinalis), a perennial wildflower often used as a medicinal herb, is another of the most widely used herbal remedies for anxiety. The herb soothes a frayed nervous system, calms anxious thoughts and helps reduce depression. In addition, vervain nourishes the liver, if that organ has become stressed or damaged in any way. A typical dosage of vervain for treating anxiety consists of a cup of tea once every two hours, or 1 to 3 tsp. vervain tincture every two hours, as needed. You may be able to find vervain tea bags in your local health food store, or you can bulk order the dried herb and make your own tea as necessary. Steep 1 to 2 tsp. dried vervain in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes, strain, sweeten with honey and drink.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), a medicinal herb widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, is next on the list of anxiety natural remedies. Skullcap nourishes and relaxes the entire nervous system, which benefits suffers of all types of anxiety disorders. The herb is particularly useful for treating anxiety, stress and depression associated with hormonal mood swings, such as in menopause and premenstrual syndrome. The best way to take skullcap is in the form of an herbal tea, although you may also be able to find it in capsule form. Drink a cup of skullcap tea once every two hours, as needed to treat and prevent anxiety. Again, skullcap tea bags are usually available in health food stores. However, you can also make your own tea by steeping 1 to 2 tsp. of the dried herb in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes.
In addition to herbs, aromatherapy can be very helpful during times of anxiety. Because of the link between our sense of smell and the limbic system or emotional center of the brain, aromatherapy can calm the nerves and reduce debilitating feelings of anxiety. Many scientific studies have shown that inhaling the scent of essential oils such as peppermint, lavender and jasmine can influence your mood and decrease anxiousness, depression and stress. While it may not take you out of an acute panic attack, aromatherapy can help you manage stress and prevent severe episodes of anxiety. Following are some of the most beneficial essential oils for treating and preventing anxiety:
- Lavender essential oil – Best for individuals who feel oppressed by people or situations, and who experience anxiety with a sense of emotional confusion. The oil is also good for treating people who are anxious about their health or have a tendency toward hypochondria.
- Melissa essential oil – This essential oil works best for sufferers of anxiety that have a feeling of not knowing where to turn, or that feel confused and lost.
- Neroli essential oil – Works best for anxiety sufferers who have difficulty confronting painful emotions and despair of ever finding peace of mind. Calms and soothes the mind and restores a sense of hope to the spirit.
- Geranium essential oil – Calms the nervous anxiety of people who are not overly emotional by nature or who have little time for feelings. Good for panic attacks.
- Vetiver essential oil – Helps restore a feeling of stability to those who feel anxious, disconnected from themselves and “disembodied.” Good for panic attacks and fears.
- Rose essential oil – Best for treating deep anxiety and individuals who find it difficult to be alone. Reduces anxiety caused by fear and insecurity, especially the fear of “losing control.”
- Jasmine essential oil – Calming and uplifting, jasmine is especially useful for treating anxiety accompanied by feelings of depression and hoplessness.
- Ylang ylang essential oil – Helps sedate an extremely restless mind and quiets racing thoughts. The oil is also uplifting to individuals suffering from anxiety with depression.
- Spikenard essential oil – Used to treat “spiritual” anxiety, in which the individual experiences a loss of faith. It calms the mind and spirit, and renews trust in life.
The simplest way to use aromatherapy for treating anxiety is to just inhale the oil that best describes your situation whenever you begin to feel anxious. Even if you don’t feel anxious, simply inhaling the aroma may prevent future negative thoughts and feelings. In this way, aromatherapy is used as both a treatment and a preventative. Try placing 1 to 3 drops of your selected oil onto a cotton ball, placing it in a small plastic jar and carrying it with you throughout the day. Take out the cotton ball and inhale deeply any time you feel anxious. If you have the time and opportunity, adding 10 to 15 drops of an anti-anxiety essential oil to a tub full of warm water and soaking for 20 minutes can also relieve many symptoms of anxiety. You can also place a few drops in an oil burner in your bedroom to help you relax.
Use the method that works best for you. When used correctly with herbs (under the supervision of your doctor, of course) and perhaps therapy, essential oils can help you effectively manage your anxiety levels. Remember to always talk to your doctor before taking natural remedies for anxiety to prevent any interactions with prescription drugs or side effects.
- The Herbal Drugstore
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Remedies
- Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit
- Natural Hair Loss Remedies When it comes to natural hair loss remedies, the market...
- Brown Spots on Face Natural Remedies Brown spots on your face, also known as age spots...
- Heartburn Home Remedies Heartburn, a painful burning sensation that occurs in the esophagus...
- Gout Home Remedies Gout, a form of arthritis, occurs when uric acid forms...