Natural Supplements For Anxiety
Many of us opt for a natural approach for anxiety help..
Anxiety disorders are the most common emotional health issues. Anxiety types include panic disorders, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety disorders develop due to an interplay between environmental and genetic factors. Cognitive Behavior Therapy -CBT- and Acceptance & Commitment Therapy -ACT- (my favorite) are useful for this disorder, as well as prescription anxiolytic drugs. However, there may be a natural approach that works for you!
Many patients however, prefer a natural approach or are uncomfortable with the side effects of prescription drugs. Thankfully, there are many non-prescription supplements available to help anxiety. Before starting natural supplements for an anxiety issue, be sure to mention your concerns and schedule a general exam with your doctor. Symptoms resembling anxiety and anxiety attacks can be caused by physical illnesses such as hormone imbalance, hyperthyroidism or cardiac arrhythmias. Better to be aware and well informed prior to moving forward with natural treatment.
Alternatively, if you are sure your symptoms signal an anxiety disorder, the following supplements may be of help. Natural supplements/herbs often have fewer side effects than prescription pharmaceutical medications.
Chamomile tea is one of the best-known natural remedies for anxiety. Its affects the digestive tract and the nervous system. Thus it is helpful for people who suffer from gastro-intestinal symptoms such as cramps along with anxiety. It is recommended that patients drink fresh tea made with Chamomile leaves flowers. Suggested dosage: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup of water. Drink this fine tea several times a day, hot or cold whatever your preference. It is also available in tinctures which can be added to water. Chamomile capsules are convenient to take along when away from your kitchen. The usual dose is 250 to 500 mg 3 to 4 times daily. I have read in the past that the positive effects of Chamomile are cumulative. Over time, its benefits can increase in effectiveness. Many people have seen good results with Chamomile.
Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a nerve tonic which also has a restorative (adaptogenic) property. It has a calming effect in cases of mild depression and anxiety. It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac. Damiana contains flavonoids that act on benzodiazepine and GABA receptors (as do anti anxiety medications). It exhibits anxiolytic activity, muscle relaxation and sedation. Use 2-4 g of dried leaves infused in a cup of boiling water. Suggested ‘dosage’: 2-3 cups taken daily. Alternatively, 2-4 ml of a liquid extract or 3-4 grams of powdered leaf damiana in tablets or capsules taken twice daily can be substituted if desired or more convenient.
Damiana has demonstrated mild hypoglycemic effects in animal studies. Patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia should use this plant with caution. Diabetes patients need to monitor blood sugar levels closely. Damiana has a traditional use as an abortive and is contraindicated during pregnancy. IE: Do not ingest while pregnant!
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) has a very quick calming effect on the nervous system and causes an uplifting, euphoric feeling. It is also a muscle relaxant and mild sedative. It is helps anxiety, tension, stress, irritability and insomnia. Kava stops the mind from racing, often a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.
The usual dose is 750 mg twice daily. Do not exceed 4 capsules per day.
Kava Kava is a traditional Polynesian remedy, and has been used safely by Polynesians for centuries. Now that it has become popular worldwide, it has been linked to some cases of liver failure in people of other ethnic groups who have difficulty metabolizing it. Ask a health care professional before using Kava Kava if you have a history of liver problems. Also, avoid Kava Kave if you frequently use alcoholic beverages or are taking any prescription medication. Stop and see a doctor if you develop symptoms that may signal liver problems (e.g., unexplained fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, yellow eyes or skin).
Use of Kava Kava is not recommended for those under 18 years of age, or if pregnant/breastfeeding. Do not combine with alcoholic beverages, or prescription anxiolytics or antidepressants . Excessive use or use with products that cause drowsiness. Kava Kava may impair your ability to operate a vehicle or heavy equipment. Do not take Kava Kava on a daily basis for more than four weeks without consulting a health care provider. Take frequent breaks from use. I have personally experimented with Kava Kava in the past. My results were mixed. Our body chemistries are all different. You may have good results. Please heed the warnings above.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is most often used for insomnia. However, it can also be taken in the daytime to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. This herb is often included in European formulas for heart palpitations, which often have anxiety as a component. It is taken in capsule form suggested at 500 mg daily. Alternatively, take 20-30 drops of tincture, or as a fresh tea. Passionflower helps bring on natural sleep. For those who are particularly sensitive, Passionflowe does not have the sedative effects of many prescription sleeping pills.
Pulsatilla is a homeopathic remedy said to be most suitable for shy, hypersensitive people who tend to feel warm rather than cold. Homeopathic practitioners recommend a 30C potency 2-4 times daily for relief of acute symptoms, and 30C or 6C 1-2 times daily for chronic use. Homeopathic remedies use miniscule concentrations of compounds to “nudge” the body into healing itself. They either help or they do not; there are no toxic side effects.
Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a relaxing and gentle sedative for the central nervous system. It is very good for nervous tension and for nervous exhaustion plus neurological and neuro-motor problems. The dose is 10-20 drops of fresh plant tincture or 1-2 dropperfuls of dried plant tincture. Skullcap can also be sleep inducing. It is rarely habituating.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is commonly used for depression but can help calm anxiety as well. Use a 300 mg extract 3 times daily. Quality varies widely between brands! It is best to buy a product standardized to contain 3-5% hyperforin and 0.3% hypericin. It works by increasing the level of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system such as serotonin and dopamine. Do not use this product if also taking prescription antidepressants.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been used since Greek and Roman times to promote sleep and relaxation. It can treat insomnia, anxiety, and stress related gastrointestinal upset. According to one theory, Valerian affects the brain in a way similar to Valium. Another theory holds that Valerian contains GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter which has a calming affect on the brain. Also postulated is that Valerian influences the brain’s natural production of GABA. Also, some researchers believe that Valerian affects serotonin levels in a manner similar to anitdepressant drugs such as Prozac.
If using Valerian to treat insomnia, take the herb 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. It can be taken 2-4 times daily to help stress and anxiety. The recommended dose of tincture is 30-60 drops. A capsule or tablet of 300-500 mg may be substituted as is your preference.
Some people feel groggy after taking Valerian. Should this occur, lower the dose. Avoid engaging in potentially hazardous activities while using Valerian (ie: driving). Furthermore, do not combine it with other sedatives, antidepressants or alcohol. Do not take Valerian for more than 3 weeks at a stretch as it can be habituating.
Verbena (Verbena officinalis) is a relaxing nervous system tonic indicated for a wide range of nervous disorders including nervous exhaustion and stress. As a tincture, use 2-4 mils up to 4 times daily. Avoid using Verbena during pregnancy as this herb is a uterine stimulant.
Withania (Withania somnifera) is an ayurvedic herb sold under the name Ashwaghanda. It is a very good tonic herb that is especially helpful for debility and nervous exhaustion due to stress. It has steroidal, adaptogenic, sedative and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also useful for panic attacks and phobic disorders such as agoraphobia. Use 1 tsp powder 3 times daily.
As always, be kind and gentle with yourself and others around you. Remember that feelings and sensations rise and fall like ocean waves and ultimately withdraw into the underlying calm of the ocean. At the core, there is peace.