Anxiety is the most common mental health challenge in the US. Over 40 million adults suffer from it and less than half of those individuals receive treatment. Many pharmaceuticals manufactured to treat anxiety come with a list of unwanted side effects, leading some to ask if there is a safer alternative available. Thankfully, many herbs can support a calm mind and body.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is thought to be a normal physiological response to stress. It involves an anticipation of the future and avoidant behavior with its roots in fear. This can be helpful in some situations, such as alerting a person to danger. However, someone diagnosed with an anxiety disorder experiences this fear response out of proportion with the current situation at hand.
Anxiety is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ sort of disorder. In fact, anxiety can present as:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder (PD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Stress (general)
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)
- Specific Phobias
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
General symptoms can include nervousness or irritability, elevated heart rate, feelings of impending danger, hyperventilation, feelings tired, digestive issues, difficulty focusing, restlessness, and physical weakness.
What are the common treatments for anxiety?
Today, diagnosed anxiety disorders are treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both. Common medications used are sedatives, antidepressants, and beta-blockers (a type of drug usually used for heart conditions.). Most people who are diagnosed stay on their anti-anxiety medication long-term without any other hopes of being permanently relieved of the disorder.
Unfortunately, these medications carry a host of negative side-effects such as confusion, vision issues, depression, seizures, nausea, drowsiness, muscle weakness, trouble sleeping, shortness of breath, and many others. Reading the long list of side-effects is enough to make anyone hesitant for a prescription. Couple that with the capacity for some of these drugs to be addicting, and you have an unhealthy recipe on the road to recovery.
How can herbs help?
We’re always amazed at how nature has a treatment for everything. Anxiety is no exception. There are many herbs that have been used for centuries to ease the body, calm the mind, and improve one’s mood without a host of risks to navigate.
With consistent use and a devotion to permanent lifestyle changes, herbs can be a supportive force for a balanced mind. Overtime, it is possible to reduce your reliance on anti-anxiety medication. Because herbs can easily and safely be incorporated into your wellness regimen, they are a smart alternative to pharmaceuticals.
In fact, many therapists acknowledge the use of herbs in the treatment and management of anxiety symptoms.
What herbs can be used for anxiety?
There are a plethora of phenomenal herbs that can reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. Here are a few that we have seen irrefutable improvements with:
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps your body manage stress. It can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that is often out of balance with constant daily stress. If you lead the common 9-5 life, ashwagandha is a great herb to add into your daily supplement regimen.
More commonly known for its sleep-inducing properties, chamomile has been shown to have antidepressant effects for individuals with anxious depression. Many varieties of this herb have been used for centuries and by many nations to improve mental calmness. Today, it’s a popular tea used before sleep to ease the mind. In other forms, such as tinctures, chamomile can more potently affect anxious imbalances.
Like chamomile, passionflower is often used as a sleep-aid. However it’s a great herb native to Central and South America and the Southeast of the US. Some doctors approve of using passionflower to ease anxiety before surgery. Others use it to calm restlessness associated with paranoia and anxious thoughts. Earlier studies show that it may increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. It’s a potent plant! You can find passionflower in combination with many other calming herbs, as a tincture, or tea.
If you visit California, you’re bound to find a ‘kava bar’, non-alcoholic lounges that serve kava kava drinks for calming down after a busy day. Kava kava is known to induce an almost euphoric calm in those who consume it. The active compound ‘kavain’ can suppress anxiety by regulating mood receptors. This herb is so relaxing, it’s recommended that you avoid driving after taking it since it can induce sleep. We like this herb as a ‘just-before-bed’ tea.
This is one of our favorite herbs. It’s sweet lemony scent is uplifting and its effects can bring mental focus, alertness and calm to anxious individuals. Being easily distracted is a symptom of anxiety that lemon balm has successfully improved in some. This herb is part of the mint family and can be used alone as a tea or infused in food to provide flavor and mental alertness. It works by relieving stress, one of the top influences on cognitive ability.
Last, but not least, holy basil is a beautiful and fragrant herb frequently utilized in Ayurvedic Medicine. This herb has both antianxiety and antidepressant properties, making it a balanced herb for mental distress. It’s great for those with social anxiety, since less mental energy is being spent on managing anxious feelings. Holy basil is typically taken as a tea, although it can be found in capsules and other forms.
All of these herbs have natural properties for improving one’s mental state. Pharmaceutical drugs are not the only option. We’d argue that herbs are irreplaceable in the treatment of anxiety. Firsthand, we have seen just how wonderfully these herbs can balance one’s mood and reduce unnecessary fear and mental discomfort. If you’d like support in choosing the right combination of herbs for you, schedule a health consultation with us today!