Natural remedies for treating anxiety

“According to the latest figures from the National Institute of Mental Health, some forty million Americans, or about 18% of the population, currently suffer from a clinical anxiety disorder… Nowadays, more Americans seek medical treatment for anxiety than for back pain or migraine headaches.” (Scott Stossel, My Age of Anxiety)

How to stop a panic attack? How to control and overcome anxiety? Thousands of people are looking daily for anxiety relief, for new ways to treat anxiety. Herbal remedies are an alternative means to reduce anxiety and calm down. Traditional anti-anxiety medication and treatment have unwanted side effects. Plus, some people don’t suffer from serious anxiety disorders. They are just looking for easiest ways to calm down, “stop worrying and start living”, in Dale Carnegie’s words.

Everybody has heard and tried at least once in a lifetime a calming tea. If you are suffering from mild anxiety, interrupted sleep, or have problems falling asleep, that could be your first choice for treatment. Catnip, chamomile, hawthorn, hops, kava kava, passionflower, skullcap, snapdragon, valerian – a cup of tea made with those, and other herbs, eases stress, relaxes, aids sleep, and act as a mild sedative.

Through centuries people discovered many natural herbal remedies to alleviate the anxiety level. Used alone or combined, they have fewer side effects than prescription medications and, in cases of mild to moderate anxiety, are as or more powerful than above mentioned drugs. Remember Tony Soprano? After a year on Prozac for his panic attacks, he says to Dr. Melfi: “Medication, medication, medication! What do I got to show for it?”

There is a whole group of herbs called “adaptogens”. They were first researched by Russian scientists about fifty years ago. In Asia their effects have been known and used for centuries. In North America there is a controversy over adaptogens since the US Food and Drug Administration has not officially recognized their healing properties.

How do adaptogens affect human bodies? They increase the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning. According to the researchers who studied these herbs in depth, adaptogens enhance the body's ability to cope with stress. How do they do it? We still don’t know. But not only adaptogens improve the resistance to the adverse effects of long-term stress yet the majority of them also act as an immune-stimulating tonic and increase general sense of well-being. Herbs with well-established adaptogenic activity are:

Asian mushrooms like shiitake and reishi also have adaptogenic properties and can be beneficial if added to your regular diet.

Getting active and eating healthy can improve your overall stamina and help manage stress. Diet affects anxiety. There is some new research that established that anxiety stems from the gut. Our stomach, as it turns out, is our “second brain”. A healthy diet may help dramatically reduce your anxiety level. There are foods containing nutrients that relieve stress and have calming effect. For instance, whole grains, oats, avocados, eggs, milk, meat, oranges, spinach and other leafy greens. In many cases, individual changes toward healthier foods and lifestyle can create healthy improvements in the body that may help you reduce or avoid the need for prescription medications.

Sometimes anxiety is a bi-product of various physiological conditions. Now and then, they go together, hand in hand (like emetophobia, or fear of vomiting). Here is the list of some of these conditions:

  1. Insomnia
  2. Digestion problems, diarrhea, heartburn, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  3. Tiredness, chronic fatigue
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Headaches
  6. Back pain
  7. Weight gain or loss
  8. Tense muscles
  9. Frequent or more serious colds

At times, you need to bring these conditions under control first, and then address the anxiety disorder.

Most herbs used to calm nerves are safe for consumption. However, there are some herbs that interact negatively with certain medications and can cause serious side effects. If you're considering taking any herbal supplement as a treatment for anxiety, talk to your doctor first, especially if you take other medications. Research the side effects of the herbs you select to use. Be extra careful if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid mixing herbs with alcohol. Never take herbal remedies longer than recommended. Check to make sure you have no allergy to an herb before using it.