Our modern world is currently increasing our pace of living even as it promises more efficiency and free time through the various gadgets with which we adorn our lives.
Coupled with a current near-global economic crisis, people are finding themselves more anxious than ever before.
For good measure add in some environmental and food toxins, and life can seem to be a full-time running of the gauntlet.
To combat rising anxiety levels – as well as the depression that can accompany this condition – Big Pharma is ever-present to provide a saturation of advertising which attempts to show us that they alone have the answer (just try to ignore the rapid-fire list of potential side-effects that show up at the end). According to renowned health expert and celebrity, Dr. Oz, those side-effects vastly increase one’s chance of serious complications:
In most cases of anxiety today, modern medicine will look to prescription medications to help people cope. According to a report in the 2010 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people who use anti-anxiety medication have a 36% increased mortality risk. That means people using these drugs are almost 40% more likely to die than people who do not use them (1). While these drugs can be lifesaving in urgent situations, in most cases, there are natural alternatives. (Source)
The truth is that anxiety is part of the mind, not part of the body. This can be proven by the fact that people often can react differently to the very same “traumatic” event – some shrug it off, or even laugh, while others hyperventilate and are crippled to inaction. Chronic anxiety might have its root cause as a single event, but various triggered reminders of the event can cause the anxiety itself to eventually become an ongoing trauma that gives very little rest to those afflicted. Once anxiety takes hold – especially panic attacks – an undeniable physical effect is present.
This is why any healthy living tips for dealing with anxiety should be both mental and physical. Rather than pill-popping synthetic concoctions, which may be accompanied by increased anxiety and the chance for a debilitating dependence, we should be looking at all-natural healthy solutions whenever possible.
Here are 5 herbal medicines that have shown their worth, especially when coupled with mental approaches to overcome panic and anxiety. As always, you should consult your health practitioner to avoid any issues with abandoning current medications or with any conflicts that might arise from taking various combinations.
1. Chamomile – This has to come in at number one for its wide availability and low cost. According to several studies, it also packs the one-two combo of alleviating both stress and depression. As a consequence, it has been shown to improve sleep as well, which is one of the essential cornerstones of achieving overall health and wellness. While chamomile is most often consumed as a tea, capsules are available in nearly any reputable natural health store.
2. Valerian Root – This mild sedative offers anti-anxiety properties without the drowsiness and confusion often associated with over-the-counter medications or traditional prescriptions. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:
Valerian has been used to ease insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness since the second century A.D. It became popular in Europe in the 17th century. It has also been suggested to treat stomach cramps. Some research — though not all — does suggest that valerian may help some people with insomnia. Germany’s Commission E approved valerian as an effective mild sedative and the United States Food and Drug Administration listed valerian as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS).
Scientists aren’t sure how valerian works, but they believe it increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and has a calming effect on anxiety. Drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. Researchers think valerian may have a similar, but weaker effect. (Source)
Given the long list of dangers associated with drugs like Valium and Xanax, it is worth investigating a natural approach. While modern medicine believes it alone has the answers, very often the most powerful remedies are found among the ancients.
3. St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort is a perennial wild-growing plant and has been used for anti-anxiety relief for 2000 years. It is generally recognized that St. John’s Wort’s calming effects are one of the key components for why it works so well on depression – the two very often go hand in hand.
The petals and leaves of the plant contain a number of unique substances such as hypericin and hyperforin. The herb is a popular herbal medicine for the treatment of low mood, with at least 30 studies on more than 1,700 patients showing that St John”s Wort can be an effective remedy for mild- to-moderate depression without the side effects of more conventional anti-depressants.
While it is not clear exactly how St John”s Wort works, it is thought that is helps to prolong the action of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, which when deficient can result in low mood. It also often used for symptoms associated with sleep problems, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and PMS. (Source)
4. Rosemary – It was used in the Middle Ages to ward off evil spirits – which is probably the feeling of attack that many people have who are afflicted with anxiety. This common herbal addition to many favorite dishes is gaining much wider attention as of late for its positive effects on the human brain – one of them being a salve for anxiety. Science is now showing that, when consumed, rosemary increases blood flow to the brain which can put the mind in a heightened state of alertness and positivity, as well as alleviate many stress-inducing afflictions such as headaches, stomach pain, and can even dependence on narcotics. Rosemary in other forms has also shown to be effective, particularly as an essential oil. When used in aromatherapy, it can calm nerves and even can enhance memory, showing that it has a direct physical effect on brain activity. Application to the skin can ward off muscle and joint pain, which is yet another source of potential feelings of mental stress. Rosemary provides that essential link between health of body and health of mind.
5. Passionflower – Probably lesser known, but one that comes up time and again in anxiety research. This climbing vine has a range of benefits that all lead to stress reduction: muscle relaxer, relief from heart palpitations, seizure reduction, and general lessening of hyperactivity. Once again, it appears in ancient medicine, this time among the Aztecs. Modern science is catching up:
Scientists believe passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed. The effects of passionflower tend to be milder than valerian (Valeriana officinalis) or kava (Piper methysticum), 2 other herbs used to treat anxiety. Passionflower is often combined with valerian, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), or other calming herbs.
One study of 36 people with generalized anxiety disorder found that passionflower was as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms…
In another study of 91 people with anxiety symptoms, researchers found that an herbal European product containing passionflower and other herbal sedatives significantly reduced symptoms compared to placebo. A more recent study found that patients who were given passionflower before surgery had less anxiety, but recovered from anesthesia just as quickly, than those given placebo. (Source)
And back to Dr. Oz:
like so many of our plant medicines. Passionflower has the flavone chrysin, which has wonderful anti-anxiety benefits and, in part, can work similarly to the pharmaceutical Xanax (Alprazolam) (2,3).
Two studies totaling almost 200 people showed no difference between the efficacy of common anxiety medications and passionflower, but showed that the herb may cause less drowsiness (4).
Passionflower is most commonly available as an herbal tea, liquid extract, or tincture. Visit your local health food store to learn more about this powerful herbal remedy.
As you can see, some of these remedies can be grown right in your backyard. Nature holds many remedies that are available to nearly everyone. We live in an age where pill popping has become most commonly sought relief, but we would do well to understand that most of the synthetic offerings have originally come straight from nature. In their original form, these treatments are generally far safer and far less expensive.
Bonus: here is an herbal tea that you might want to incorporate into your regular health regimen. It has been highlighted for its preventative abilities:
- 1 Part Chamomile
- 3 Parts Lemon Balm
- 1 Part Schisandra Berry
- 2 Parts St. Johnswort
- 1/2 Part Eleuthero
- 1 Part Spearmint
- 1 Part Scullcap
- 1 Part Shatavari
It’s never too late to learn more about the secrets that might literally be hiding in plain sight just outside your door. Do you have a personal tip to share about how you handle anxiety? Have any of the above worked for you?