Best Herbal Stress Remedies
Many people have chronic stress and anxiety. They face symptoms such as nervousness, agitation, tension, a racing heart, and chest pain. In fact, anxiety is among the most common mental health issues. In the United States, more than 18 percent of adults are affected by anxiety disorders each year.
In some cases, another health condition, such as an overactive thyroid, can lead to an anxiety disorder. Getting an accurate diagnosis can ensure that a person receives the best treatment. People with anxiety sometime consider herbal remedies as an alternative to prescription drugs. This may be because some medications, for example, beta-blockers or benzodiazepines, can have unwanted side effects.
Best Herbal Remedies For Stress
People with anxiety sometime consider herbal remedies as an alternative to prescription drugs. This may be because some medications, for example, beta-blockers or benzodiazepines, can have unwanted side effects.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is among a group of herbs called ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens affect systems and hormones in the body that regulate a person’s stress response. Ashwagandha has a long history of use in traditional Indian, or Ayurvedic, medicine. A small 2019 clinical trial Trusted Source investigated the efficacy of ashwagandha for stress and anxiety.
The 8-week study involved 58 participants with perceived stress. Each participant randomly received one of three treatments: Ashwagandha extract at doses of either 250 milligrams (mg) per day or 600 mg per day, or a placebo. The participants who took ashwagandha showed less of the stress hormone cortisol than those in the placebo group. They also experienced improved sleep quality.
Participants who took 600 mg of ashwagandha reported significantly reduced stress levels. However, participants who took the lower dose of ashwagandha did not report a reduction in stress. In another 2019 study Trusted Source, 60 participants with mild anxiety received 250 mg of ashwagandha or placebo for 60 days. Those taking the herb showed a significant reduction in some measures of anxiety but not others.
People can take ashwagandha as a tablet or in liquid tincture form.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile is a flowering herb similar in appearance to a daisy. There are two types of chamomiles that people can use medicinally: Roman chamomile and German chamomile.
Some people use chamomile in the following forms to help relieve stress and anxiety:
- Skin cream
A 2016 clinical trial Trusted Source investigated the efficacy and safety of chamomile as a long-term treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). All 93 participants received 1,500 mg of chamomile daily for 12 weeks. Some then continued taking chamomile for the next 26 weeks, while the remainder switched to a placebo.
Researchers observed that those participants who continued taking chamomile were no less likely to experience a relapse of GAD symptoms than those switching to placebo. However, when relapse did occur, the symptoms were less severe.
Some people may experience allergic reactions Trusted Source to chamomile, particularly if they experience reactions to the following plants:
Chamomile may interact Trusted Source with certain drugs, including the blood thinner warfarin, and the antirejection drug cyclosporine. Anyone taking any type of medication should check with their doctor before consuming chamomile teas or supplements.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian or Valeriana officinalis is a plant native to Europe and Asia. For many centuries, people have used the root to help treat sleep problems, anxiety, and depression.
Valerian root is available in the following forms:
To date, there have only been a few high quality studies on the effects of valerian. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)Trusted Source state that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether valerian can alleviate anxiety or depression. Studies suggest that valerian is generally safe.
However, the NCCIH note that there is no information on the long-term use or safety of valerian in the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- Nursing mothers
- Children under 3 years of age
People should also be aware that valerian may have a sleep inducing effect. Taking the herb with alcohol or sedatives will add to this effect and could be dangerous.
Lavender is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. Many people use lavender to help calm the nerves and alleviate anxiety.
People may use lavender in the following ways:
- Making tea from the leaves
- Using the oil in aromatherapy
- Mixing the essential oil into a base oil for massage
- Adding the oil or flowers to baths
Lavender essential oil (LEO) contains chemicals called terpenes. A 2017 review articleTrusted Source suggests that two of these terpenes called linalool and linalyl acetate may have a calming effect on chemical receptors in the brain. The review suggests LEO may be an effective short-term treatment for anxiety disorders. However, studies of the long-term effects of LEO are lacking.
Galphimia glauca is a plant species native to Mexico. People traditionally used it as a tranquilizer to reduce anxiety. A 2012 clinical trial investigated the efficacy of G. glauca as a treatment for GAD. Participants received either G. glauca or the prescription antianxiety medication lorazepam for 12 weeks.
Researchers continued to monitor the participants for a further 3 weeks to test for withdrawal symptoms. Results showed that participants who received a daily dose of 0.175 mg of G. glauca showed a greater reduction in GAD symptoms compared with those who took lorazepam.
Both treatments were safe. According to a 2018 review Trusted Source, the evidence for G. glauca as a treatment for anxiety is promising. However, medical companies have not exploited its potential due to a lack of available plant material.
Passionflower or Passiflora is a family of plants with around 550 different species. Some studies show that a particular species, P. incarnata, may be effective in treating restlessness, nervousness, and anxiety. According to an older 2010 review Trusted Source of complementary treatments, some evidence suggests that the antianxiety effects of P. incarnata are comparable to those of benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that doctors may prescribe to treat anxiety.
People can take P. incarnata in tablet form or as a liquid tincture.
Kava kava, or simply kava, is a shrub that is native to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Its scientific name is Piper methysticum. In the Pacific Islands, people use kava in a ceremonial beverage intended to relieve stress and alter mood. A 2013 placebo-controlled trial investigated the efficacy of kava as a treatment for GAD. The 6-week study involved 75 participants.
Each person received one of three treatments: Kava extract at doses of either 120 mg or 240 mg per day, or a placebo. Participants taking kava showed a significant reduction in anxiety compared with those who received the placebo, suggesting kava may be a moderately effective short-term treatment for GAD.
The study also found kava to be safe. In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source advised that taking supplements containing kava could result in severe liver injury. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) have since indicated that the link between kava and liver toxicity is unclear, saying that scientists need to re-evaluate the data. People can buy kava as a supplement online or in health food stores.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active ingredients of the cannabis plant.
Research from 2019 suggests that CBD may have a calming effect on the central nervous system.
Although the FDA do not currently approve the use of CBD, this natural chemical is widely available in the following forms:
- Liquid extract
- Vape liquid
- Topical cream
The study above investigated whether CBD could help to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Researchers retrospectively analyzed data from 103 adults taking CBD as an additional therapy for anxiety and sleep disorders. Of the 72 adults they included in the final sample, 57 experienced a decrease in their anxiety scores within the first month of taking CBD. These scores remained low for the 3-month study period. The researchers concluded that CBD may be beneficial for people with anxiety-related disorders. However, clinical trials are necessary to confirm these results.
Other Supplements That Might Help
Other supplements that may help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety include:
- A combination of the amino acids L-lysine and L-arginine Trusted Source: These amino acids may influence brain neurotransmitters that are involved in stress and anxiety.
- Magnesium Trusted Source: Taking magnesium in combination with herbs such as kava and St John’s Wort may help to alleviate anxiety.
- Essential fatty acids Trusted Source: These may reduce stress in females who are premenstrual, pregnant, or menopausal.
- High dose sustained-release vitamin C Trusted Source: Females who take this supplement may experience reduced anxiety and a less drastic increase in blood pressure in response to stress.
What Are The Benefits Of Herbal Remedies?
Many herbal preparations may have benefits. Others may have no obvious or proven benefit, and some, in fact, can be harmful. For most of the over-the-counter herbs you can buy, there is probably little risk of having a bad reaction if you follow the directions. For example, you might drink a cup of peppermint tea to settle your stomach.
At worst, it can help your upset stomach; at best, it can taste nice, warm you up, and not have any negative side effects! As another example, certain echinacea extracts are accepted in some countries for the treatment of colds and cold symptoms. While the vast majority of herbs do not have any significant side effects, however, caution should be used if you are considering adding herbal supplements in your life.
Causes Of Stress And Anxiety
Most people experience stress and anxiety from time to time. Stress is any demand placed on your brain or physical body. People can report feeling stressed when multiple competing demands are placed on them. The feeling of being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease. It can be a reaction to stress, or it can occur in people who are unable to identify significant stressors in their life.
Stress and anxiety are not always bad. In the short term, they can help you overcome a challenge or dangerous situation. Examples of everyday stress and anxiety include worrying about finding a job, feeling nervous before a big test, or being embarrassed in certain social situations.
However, if stress and anxiety begin interfering with your daily life, it may indicate a more serious issue. If you are avoiding situations due to irrational fears, constantly worrying, or experiencing severe anxiety about a traumatic event weeks after it happened, it may be time to seek help.
Stress and anxiety can produce both physical and psychological symptoms. People experience stress and anxiety differently. Common physical symptoms include:
- Muscle tension
- Rapid breathing
- Fast heartbeat
- Frequent urination
- Change in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
Stress and anxiety can cause mental or emotional symptoms in addition to physical ones. These can include:
- Feelings of impending doom
- Panic or nervousness, especially in social settings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irrational anger
People who have stress and anxiety over long periods of time may experience negative related health outcomes. They are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and may even develop depression and panic disorder.
The Definition Of An Anxiety Disorder
An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating.
It’s normal to have some anxiety. You may feel anxious or nervous if you have to tackle a problem at work, go to an interview, take a test or make an important decision. And anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so we stay safe.
But an anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:
- Anxiety interferes with your ability to function.
- You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
- You can’t control your responses to situations.
- Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get through the day. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for anxiety disorders.
Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders?
A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a person’s risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:
- Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition — feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
- Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
- Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias (unusual heart rhythms).
Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from women’s hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too — men have more, and it may ease anxiety. It’s also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.
What Are The Types Of Anxiety Disorders?
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
- Panic disorder.
- Separation anxiety.
- Other mental health conditions share features with anxiety disorders. These include post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The Danger Of Herbal Remedies
Anything that can improve health or do the body good also has the potential to do harm. Just because something is ‘natural' doesn't mean it's better for you. It doesn’t mean that it's always safe. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates and insures the safety of prescription medicines, does not test herbs.
It does not study their safety, benefits, or the effects of their short- and long-term use. In addition, there are no regulations or standards for preparing or packaging of herbal medicines, so their dosages and strengths may not be consistent. Just because one brand of St. John's Wort seems to have an effect for you does not mean the next bottle will have the same effect.
There can be problems and unwanted reactions when herbal medications and high dose vitamins are combined with prescription medicines – something that 20% of the US population does! The majority of these people rarely bother to tell their health care providers that they use supplements. Always let your doctor and other health care providers know what herbs you are taking, especially if they are going to be prescribing a new drug for you.
You are especially likely to have a bad reaction or a dangerous complication if you combine herbal supplements with these prescription medications, so be careful:
- Heart medications (especially Digitalis)
- Asthma medications (especially Theophylline)
- Blood thinners and anticoagulants (especially Coumadin)
- Seizure medications
- Antidepressants (especially MAOI)
- Blood pressure medications
It's hard to know what all these drugs are, and because of all the various names, it's difficult to always know if you're taking one. Be sure to talk about this with your health care providers.
Certain herbs can also complicate existing conditions or problems, such as inflammation, allergies, pregnancy, or nursing. Some herbs – St. John's Wort for example – can make you more sensitive to the sun. In other words, with herbal preparations as well as for prescription medications, you need to be aware of possible adverse reactions.
More importantly, some herbs on the market are found to be not recommended for human consumption. And as always, be safe and tell your prescribing physicians and other health care providers about all the herbal and vitamin supplements you are taking.
Because the herbal industry is growing rapidly, there may be many irresponsible manufacturers looking to make a quick buck. Check with a qualified herbal practitioner to find out quality ratings for a manufacturer before you buy a product.
What To Look For On The Bottle?
Because herbal supplements are not monitored or regulated by the FDA, it's up to you to figure out what is in the bottle. Amounts of active ingredients can vary from one manufacturer to the next, and even from one batch to the next. In one recent study of Chinese herbal supplements, 25% contained other contaminating substances such as pesticides.
Sometimes substances are added, but not mentioned on the label. In that same study, researchers found that cortisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory steroid, had been added to increase the effect of the herb. To lessen your risk of getting a poor quality herbal supplement, only buy from responsible companies that use high safety and quality control measures.
Look for the following information on the bottle:
- Expiration date
- FDA registration of manufacturing facility
- Lot/Batch number – companies that are concerned about quality and consistency will code each batch of a product with a specific number that indicates when the product was manufactured
- Recommended daily dosage – this can vary bottle to bottle and between manufacturers. Without a recommended daily dose, you run the risk of over – or under dosing
- Milligrams of each ingredient per dose – you need to know how much of each active ingredient is in each dose
- Independent laboratory verification of dosage
- Return policy – responsible companies will refund unsatisfied customers
- Side effects/precautions – this can be as important as daily dosage. Look for warnings, potential interactions and side effects, the same as you would with prescription and over the counter drugs
- Research on the product
Herbal medicine involves the use of natural and biologically based practices, interventions, and products to treat a variety of physical or emotional conditions.
People have been using herbs for thousands of years to treat many health conditions. Scientific studies indicate that certain herbs may help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
As with prescription medications, some herbal products can cause side effects. Herbal products may also take longer to begin working. People must consider these factors when weighing up the pros and cons of a particular treatment.
There can be serious interactions between certain herbs and medications. A person who is taking any kind of medication should consult their doctor before they begin taking herbal products.
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