Natural Health and Fitness

Proven Herbs to Reduce Anxiety

Mortar and pestle with herbs and spices In the United States, anxiety disorders affect approximately 18.1 percent of adults.[1] Anxiety can cause excessive, intense and persistent fear and worry regarding everyday situations. This can have a significant impact on your quality of life. No matter which type of anxiety you might be experiencing, there are treatment options you can explore.

In addition to conventional medications and therapies, there are herbs that might be beneficial to those with anxiety. It is important to focus on the herbs that are backed by research. Learning more about the herbs that might help you is the best place to start if you are considering natural, plant-based medicine.

Bacopa Monnieri

Also known as Brahmi or simply bacopa, bacopa monnieri is an herb that is popular in Ayurvedic medicine. This herb contains bacopasides, bacosides and other saponin compounds that provide the health-promoting benefits. This herb typically comes in the form of an encapsulated powder or standardized liquid extract.

This herb may help the body overcome stress due to it being an adaptogen. Bacopa appears to help prevent people from experiencing a rise in their anxiety.

Bacopa might help to reduce cortisol, which is a hormone that plays a major role in stress. By reducing the levels of this hormone, it may be easier to control stress-related anxiety.[2]

Besides helping reduce anxiety, bacopa is also linked to memory boosting properties.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an Ayurvedic herb that is classified as a tonic. It is considered an adaptogen and an anxiolytic. This herb typically comes in standardized capsules or liquid extracts.

This herb may help to stabilize the response to stress in the body. Multiple studies have shown that ashwagandha may be beneficial for reducing anxiety symptoms.[3] It might also lessen mental fatigue to improve focus.

Kava Root

The Piper methysticum plant’s roots are used to derive this herb. The plant is native to many Pacific Ocean islands. Kava root comes in many forms, including liquid extracts, concentrates, pills and capsules, loose powder and tea.

The kavalactones in this herb appears to affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, but researchers are not sure why. It may help to reduce nerve activity by acting on GABA.[4] A review of 11 studies regarding kava for anxiety concluded that this herb in extract form might be beneficial for reducing anxiety.[5]

Chamomile

Chamomile, or camomile, is a common herbal choice for anxiety. The flowers on the chamomile plant are used for herbal preparations. It is typically used as a tea, but there are extracts and pills too.

This herb may offer anxiety reduction for those with mild to moderate symptoms. One study of 57 people gave some participants German chamomile and some a placebo. Those who received the herb reported a noticeable difference in their anxiety compared to the placebo group.[6]

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is native to Southern Europe and it is part of the mint family. This herb comes in many forms, including tea, capsules, dried herb, liquid extract and topical oil. Its ability to reduce anxiety may be due to it containing rosmarinic acid.

Lemon balm has been studied for its ability to alleviate anxiety, decrease excitability and nervousness and boost cognitive function. One study involved adding this herb to yogurt or a beverage. Those who received the herb reported that they experienced reduced levels of anxiety and a better overall mood.[7]

Lavender

Lavender (Lavandula) is native to the Mediterranean, Russia and the Arabian Peninsula. You can also find this plant in the United States, Europe and Australia. It has a long history of use to improve anxiety and boost the mood. It is often used in the form of a tea brewed from the fresh herb, but there are also oils, extracts and pills.

One study compared lavender and alprazolam, a medication commonly prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder. The study concluded that lavender may be a viable alternative for those who are unable to take benzodiazepine medications. Just do not stop taking these medications without talking to a doctor.[8]

Rhodiola

Rhodiola Rosea, or simply rhodiola, is a plant that is native to Siberia. It is also known as rose root, roseroot, or golden root. For centuries, people have used this herb to alleviate anxiety and stress. This adaptogenic herb comes in several forms, such as capsules, teas and liquid extracts.

Research shows that this herb may help to stimulate norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine activity. When these are in the proper balance, this could help to improve anxiety symptoms. This herb focuses more on the depression-related symptoms of anxiety disorders.

One study looked at how this herb may impact depression. There were 89 participants, all of which reported mild to moderate depression. Some people received a placebo while others got the actual herb. The study concluded that those who received the herb had improved insomnia, depression and emotional stability.[9]

Passionflower

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is native to the southeastern United States. It is a type of perennial climbing vine that also grows in Europe. The stems, leaves and flowers are all used for herbal preparations. You will find this herb in capsule, liquid extract and tea forms.

This herb seems to impact GABA levels in the brain to alleviate anxiety and depression. It might further promote relaxation by reducing brain activity.

A study was published that looked at patients preparing for surgery and their anxiety related to this. Compared to the placebo group, the people who received passionflower reported that they had less anxiety.[10]

St. John’s Wort

This strangely-named herb’s use for health and well-being goes back to the ancient Greeks. St. John’s wort is usually taken in the form of a pill or capsule. There are liquid extracts available too.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is most known for its potential anti-depressant abilities. It may aid with the depression-related symptoms that may occur with different anxiety disorders.[11]

A review of the research concluded that among those with mild to moderate depression, this herb was more effective compared to a placebo. It may also help those with anxiety who have depressive symptoms that are mild to moderate. However, it does not appear ideal for those with major depression, for which we recommend professional help anyway.

Valerian

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a type of grassland plant. While this herb does grow in North America, its origins tract back to Asia and Europe. It is often taken in the form of a capsule, but there are liquid extracts and teas also.

This herb is frequently used for insomnia and anxiety. Its benefits are believed to be associated with it containing valerenic acids and other volatile oils, valepotriates and sesquiterpenes. It is believed that valerian may calm anxiety and help to promote sleep due to its effects on GABA.

Most of the research on this herb is focused on insomnia. However, a small study that had 36 participants was done. Three times a day for 28 days, patients were given 50 milligrams of valerian root extract. Some of the participants received a placebo. Compared to the placebo group, those who got the actual extract reported a noticeable reduction in their anxiety.[12]

Getting and Using Herbs to Reduce Anxiety

Before using any herbs for anxiety, make sure to talk to your doctor. This ensures that the herbs you use can be safely taken with any conventional medications or other treatments you might be prescribed. We always recommend consulting a knowledgeable physician. By knowledgeable we mean one who knows about herbs and supplements, as not all doctors are savvy with this.

Some herbs work well alongside medications. Though some do work as well as, sometimes even better than, prescription medications. But you should not make this determination on your own unless you are a medical professional. Your doctor may also be able to help you determine the proper dose and administration schedule for any herbs you might choose.

Getting the right herbal supplements begins with the right manufacturer. Always go with reputable companies. And look for natural ingredients in the right amounts. If you’re reading this, and have read this far, congratulations. You are a savvy consumer.

Next, check out the supplements we recommend on this site. We have done the hard work for you and you and found the most reputable supplements makers, herbal and non-herbal.


References:

[1] NAMI: Mental Health By The Numbers

[2] Wiley Online Library: An Acute, Double?Blind, Placebo?Controlled Cross?over Study of 320?mg and 640?mg Doses of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on Multitasking Stress Reactivity and Mood

[3] PMC: An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety

[4] PubMed: GABA-modulating phytomedicines for anxiety

[5] PubMed: Kava extract for treating anxiety

[6] NCCIH: Study Shows Chamomile Capsules Ease Anxiety Symptoms

[7] MDPI: Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods

[8] PubMed: A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation

[9] PubMed: Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression

[10] PubMed: Preoperative oral Passiflora incarnata reduces anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients

[11] PMC: A systematic review of St. John’s wort for major depressive disorder

[12] Wiley Online Library: Effect of Valepotriates (Valerian Extract) in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

* None of the statements on this page have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a healthcare professional before starting a new supplement especially if you are pregnant, nursing, have known health condition or on medications.

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