Anxiety Natural Remedies
Anxiety — Herbal Medicines & Other Natural Remedies
Natural remedies, such as herbal medicines and nutritional supplements, are beginning to gain widespread use as both primary and complementary treatments for anxiety. The raw materials for the synthesis of brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are nutrients, such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies in these essential nutrient building blocks cause problems with neurotransmitters and hormones.
Some natural remedies can be taken in conjunction with pharmaceutical anxiolytics, or can, in some cases, even replace them, especially for those with mild to moderate depression. While herbal medicines tend to have extremely low risk of side effects, they should be thought of as medicine, which means there is always some risk of an adverse reaction with your particular body chemistry. Before taking natural medicines, it’s a good idea to consult with a naturopath or mental health professional, especially if you’re currently on other medication.
Herbal medicines and dietary supplements commonly used to treat anxiety disorders include: St. John’s Wort; Passiflora + St. John’s, Kava-Kava, Valerian Root, Gotu Kola, American Ginseng.
Kava, perhaps the most widely used herbal supplement for treating anxiety, is a natural relaxant and sleep aid; also sometimes used to relieve menopausal symptoms. Kava acts on areas of the nervous system that have GABA receptors. Several well-controlled studies found Kava to be effective for mild to moderate anxiety disorders, with effects noticeable after only 1 to 2 doses (Pittler, M, 2003). A few clinical studies have found that, for some, Kava Kava may be as effective as Buspirone in relieving Generalized Anxiety Disorder and some phobia disorders. The improvement effects were roughly equivalent to the effects of benzodiazepines on generalized anxiety, social phobias, and specific phobias.
Kava is not for use in treating day-to-day stress. Possible side effects (especially for higher, long-term doses or overuse) can include drowsiness, weight loss, shortness of breath, pulmonary hypertension and dermatological changes.
Gotu Kola has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improve learning, concentration and attention span in people with learning disorders. The most popular use of Gotu Kola is treating varicose veins. Gotu Kola has no known side effects other than rare allergic reactions.
Ginseng. American ginseng has a calming and rejuvenating effect and may provide mild relief for some people with anxiety. Ginseng is known to reduce anxious behaviors and impulsiveness. There is some evidence to suggest that Asian ginseng may overstimulate young children.
Butea Frondosa has been show to relieve mild stress effects, but has not been shown to significantly reduce anxiety.
St. John’s Wort. Some research has suggested that St. John’s wort may hold promise for treating mild cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but it’s primary use for people with anxiety disorders lies in treating comorbid depression
Picamilon (also known as nicotinoyl-GABA) is a derivative of the calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) formed by combining B-vitamin niacin and the chemical GABA. Picamilon, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, improves blood flow to the brain and has mild anxiolytic or anti-anxiety effects (Shephard, R., 1987). Picamilon supplementation has also been found to improve alertness and attention and reduce aggressive behavior.
Skullcap may provide general anxiety relief. It has been found to soothe nervous tension, improve focus, improve sleep quality, and help people control their thoughts. Skullcap is widely considered to be a safe natural supplement, with few if any side effects.
Valerian Root, long used to treat nervous disorders, is an antispasmodic and can function as both a mild stimulant or sedative. It may hold promise as a natural sleep aid. Some studies suggest that it may be effective in promoting natural sleep after several weeks of regular use, without the risk of dependence or residual daytime sleepiness that may accompany sleep medications. So far, most clinical studies have suggested that the anti-anxiety effects are not significant.
The B-complex of vitamins is essential for proper mental functioning and overall health. For some people, B-vitamin supplementation helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, including: fatigue, sleep difficulty, stress, nervousness.
For a better understanding of Natural, Complementary and Alternative Treatments, as well tips and strategies for finding product sources, see Understanding Natural, Complementary and Alternative Treatments.
Pittler, MH, Ernst, E.. Kava extract for treating anxiety. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(1):CD003383.
Shephard, R.A.. “Behavioral effects of GABA agonists in relation to anxiety and benzodiazepine action”. June 1987. Life Sci. 40 (25): 2429–36.