Herbs for Anxiety

Herbs have been used for thousands of years to relieve anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress related disorders. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of herbs homemade medicine for anxiety that have been popular in traditional medicine, scientists have conducted several objective studies in clinical and laboratory settings.

At present, more scientific research is needed to establish facts about herbal remedies for anxiety. Nevertheless, the studies conducted so far appear to lend support to the role of the following herbs in relieving anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, depression, stress and related complaints: -

1.Passionflower or Passiflora incarnata: Named after the passion of Christ due to its shape, passionflower is one of the oldest known herbs for anxiety, sleeplessness, nervousness, restlessness, and mood disorders. It is non-addictive and has a soothing, calming, and mildly sedating effect. It relieves anxiety, sleeplessness, restlessness, palpitations, and mild depression (when combined with other herbs).

2.Lemon Balm or Melissa officinalis: A herb of the mint family, lemon balm is used as a flavoring agent in ice-creams and herbal teas. It also relieves anxiety and stress. It is mildly sedative and has a calming effect. Its use to treat anxiety dates back to the middle ages.

3.Lavender or Lavandula angustifolia: The ancient Greeks and Romans used this flowering herb in fragrances and baths. They believed that it refreshes the mind and the body. Ancient folklore recommends a pillow filled with aromatic flowers of lavender to calm down a restless person who has difficulty falling asleep. Contemporary studies indicate that lavender oil is mildly sedative. It has soothing and calming effects.

4.St. John's Wort or Hypericum perforatum: The ancient Greeks believed that this herb had "magical powers to ward-off evil" and they used it to treat a wide range of ailments. It is still used to get rid of a melancholic mood. According to the Cochrane Collaboration, the extracts of this herb are superior to placebo in treating patients with major depression. Though it is primarily used as a remedy for mild to moderate depression, it is also used to treat anxiety associated with depression, especially when it is combined with other herbs for anxiety.

5.Wu-wei-zi, Schisandra chinensis or Schizandra chinesis: Used in traditional Chinese botanical medicine, this woody vine grows in the jungles of northern China and eastern Russia. It is believed to increase the body's resistance to stress, anxiety, trauma, and fatigue. It is often combined with one or more herbs for anxiety and consumed to relieve mental distress.

6.Valerian or Valeriana officinalis: Valerian is one of the oldest known herbs for anxiety. Its properties were described by Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician. Galen, the ancient Roman physician, prescribed it for insomnia.

Some research indicates that it has a potential to be used as an alternative to benzodiazepines (synthetic anti-anxiety medications such as Alprazolam/Xanax, Clonazepam/Klonopin, Diazepam/Valium, Lorazepam/Ativan, etc) in treating sleep disorders, anxiety, stress and restlessness.

7.Kava Kava or Piper methysticum: In Pacific Islands and some parts of Australia, the roots of Kava Kava (a shrub) have been used for centuries to prepare a non-addictive, ceremonial drink that relaxes people and makes them more sociable without disrupting their mental clarity. A Cochrane Collaboration study reveals that it is more effective than placebo in relieving anxiety. Other randomized clinical trials have successfully replicated its anxiolytic effects. Unlike an alcoholic drink, Kava appears to overcome social anxiety without affecting other cognitive functions such as judgment.

 Although Kava appears to be more promising than other herbs for anxiety, so far there have been about 50 reports of liver damage in people taking dietary supplements containing Kava Kava extract. However it is not clear if Kava was the actual cause of the liver damage, or if fungal contaminants of kava, alcohol, or other pharmaceuticals consumed by the subjects were responsible for it.

8.SkullCap or Scutellaria lateriflora: It is a North American herb, and has been used for more than two centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. It acts as a mild sedative, relaxant, and sleep promoter.

9.Chamomile or Matricaria recutita: There are two types of Chamomile – "German chamomile" (Matricaria recutita) and "Roman chamomile" (Chamaemelum nobile). Both of these herbs for anxiety have been used for thousands of years. The ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians used them to treat a wide range of disorders including anxiety, stress and insomnia. While few scientific studies have been carried out on humans, studies conducted on animals indicate that German chamomile has mild sedative properties. In low doses it relieves anxiety, whereas in higher doses it promotes sleep.

10.Common Hops or Humulus lupulus: The flower cones of common hops are used to impart a pleasantly bitter flavor to beer. It is believed that King George III and Abraham Lincoln used pillows filled with hops to get rid of sleeplessness. We now know that common hops contain "Dimethylvinyl Carbinol" (or "2-Methyl-2-Butanol"), a natural compound that has relaxing, anti-anxiety, and sedative properties when inhaled or ingested.

 Most dietary supplements for anxiety contain extracts of one or more herbs for anxiety listed above. Apart from herbs used to treat anxiety, they may also contain certain minerals and vitamins e.g. calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, etc. These supplements are usually available online or over-the-counter (i.e. without any medical prescription) in most countries including United States.

 Other miscellaneous herbs for anxiety include common coriander (Coriandrum sativum), wild lettuce or opium lettuce (Lactuca virosa), water hyssop or brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), scarlet sage (Salvia splendens), pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), golden root (Rhodiola rosea), kratom (Mitragyna speciosa), kanna (Sceletium tortuosum), etc. These miscellaneous herbs are popular in folk and home remedies for anxiety, but the results of most studies aimed to determine the effectiveness of these herbs are inconclusive at present.