Most people dealing with anxiety have tried just about everything to combat its effects, including the use of prescription drugs. But what if you don’t have insurance and can’t afford such medication? Perhaps you’ve tried coping with anxiety by taking drugs but have become wary of their side effects. The good news is that there are several natural alternatives that may benefit people with stress and anxiety. Below I’ll take a look at several natural herbal remedies and supplements aimed at controlling anxiety, which may also help curb stress, low moods, and insomnia associated with the disorder:
Natural herbal remedies have long been used to help treat both mental and physical disorders associated with stress and anxiety. There are many herbs that have been known to help relax symptoms, however many of them are simply folk remedies with little scientific backing of controlling anxiety. Here we will only deal with the ones most proven to be effective. When coping with anxiety, consider the following herbs:
The roots of Kava Kava come primarily from tropical Polynesian countries, though they are also now farmed in other places where warm climate permits (such as Hawaii).
Pros: Produces a “high” remarkably similar to alcohol (without the dizziness), and is an excellent choice for hours of real stress and anxiety relief. Unlikely to create alcohol-like hangover symptoms. Can be purchased in pre-mixed, prepared pouches.
Cons: Expensive. Unavailable in most land stores (but available online). Illegal in many countries, but is legal in the USA. Using ground-up roots, preparation is messy and requires a lot of kitchen time. Has a terrible taste best described as tasting like ‘mud juice.’
Taken during times of stress and anxiety, this herbal remedy may help calm the nervous system. Allow 30-45 minutes for Valerian’s effects to be noticed. NOTE: Combining Valerian with Passion Flower or Scullcap is said to be more effective at controlling anxiety.
Pros: Inexpensive. Available most places where vitamins are sold. Wears off in several hours, unlikely to leave you feeling groggy the next morning — therefore can be consumed if you awaken during the night and cannot fall back asleep.
Cons: Mild effect, perhaps too mild to be noticed especially if your anxiety is accompanied by excessive racing thoughts. A small percentage may experience an upset stomach or diarrhea some time after taking Valerian.
St. John’s Wort
This herb is so well researched, documented and proven effective that several European countries only offer St. John’s Wort through a doctor’s prescription. It has been used for centuries throughout the world to treat depression and low moods. NOTE: When buying the most potent St. John’s Wort, look for.3% hypericum standardized extract. If the label does not claim standardization or show a percentage, or if it states.1% hypericum — avoid purchasing the product!
Pros: Rather inexpensive and readily available where vitamins are sold. Though not directly used for controlling anxiety symptoms, it has a strong documented reputation for being effective for people with anxiety who are also suffering with depression. Side effects appear to be minimal, even at high dosages.
Cons: Will not work for severe depression (only mild to moderate). A fairly high dosage is required (2,000+ mg./daily) to see the best results. It may take up four to eight weeks before positive effects are noticed, deterring many sufferers who want answers now.
5-HTP is a relatively new supplement during the past decade. Actually it’s a derivative of L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that was banned by the FDA in the 1990’s after a bad batch overseas killed some unassuming victims. With its safety now well documented, 5-HTP has quickly gained a reputation as an effective mood enhancer by boosting the brain chemical Serotonin. This chemical, which is normally produced naturally by the brain, is often missing from people coping with anxiety who also experience low moods or depression.
Pros: Works quickly (often in just minutes) to boost low moods. Good stress and anxiety combatant when you begin dealing with symptom flare-ups. Can help induce sleep for anxiety patients suffering from bedtime insomnia.
Cons: Can be mildly addictive if taken regularly for more than a few weeks. May induce an unpleasant ‘rushing high’ sensation if taken at very high dosages (only take the recommended dosage printed on bottle).
Like Serotonin, there are two other notable brain chemicals that may regulate mood. These are norepinephrine and dopamine. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid that has been scientifically proven to boost both. This chemical is usually adequately present in most people, but it may be lacking in some individuals with stress-induced anxiety.
Pros: May boost mood if you’re dealing with stress and anxiety while also suffering from depression. Helps ward off stress. Few side effects, even at high dosages.
Cons: Produces no noticeable effect for many people. High dosage often required (3,000+mg./daily) to see positive results, therefore it may become a bit pricey. May take weeks to notice any effects.
If you’re coping with anxiety and experience bouts of sleeplessness, Melatonin is used by many as a safe alternative to prescription sleeping pills. Take 30-45 minutes before bedtime.
Pros: Proven effective in many case studies. Inexpensive and readily available where vitamins are sold. Unlike drugs, Melatonin has minimal side effects (little or no morning grogginess).
Cons: Works great for some people, doesn’t work at all for others. Known to produce ‘vivid’ dreams, making it dangerous for those who have frequent nightmares or other similar sleeping disorders.
Magnesium is often found lacking in patients dealing with stress and anxiety, and taking a healthy daily dose is said to help promote body relaxation. Magnesium may also help people with mild insomnia when taken before bedtime. Two other minerals, Potassium and Calcium may also prove beneficial if added to your vitamin regimen.
B-Complex (or any B-Vitamin) is an excellent choice to take daily to help calm your nervous system.
Though I don’t have panic attacks anymore, nor have I tried it, it is said that the supplement Inositol (up to 400 grams 3X a day) may show some benefit when you feel the onset of panic approaching.
While there is no magic herb or supplement specifically used for controlling anxiety, there are many that appear to help people dealing with anxiety-related depression (St. John’s Wort, the best example). The theory is if you improve the mood, you are also indirectly controlling anxiety symptoms. In addition, quite a few of the above-mentioned supplements do have tremendous sleep-inducing qualities (Melatonin & Valerian the best examples). If you’re coping with anxiety, combining most of these herbs and supplements for added effect is generally considered safe, but it’s still good practice to experiment with caution.