Anxiety herbs and supplements – the pros and cons

Most people dealing with anxiety have tried just about anything to combat its effects, including using prescription drugs. But what if you don’t have insurance and can’t afford such drugs? Perhaps you have tried to cope with anxiety by taking drugs, but have become wary of its side effects. The good news is that there are several natural alternatives that people with stress and anxiety can benefit from. Below, I’ll take a look at several natural herbal remedies and supplements aimed at managing anxiety, which may also help curb stress, low moods, and insomnia associated with the disorder:

USEFUL HERBS:

Natural herbal remedies have long been used to treat both mental and physical disorders related to stress and anxiety. There are many herbs known to help relieve symptoms, but many of them are simply folk remedies with little scientific backing for anxiety management. Here we only cover those that have proven to be the most effective. When dealing with anxiety, consider the following herbs:

Coffee Coffee

The roots of Kava Kava come mainly from tropical Polynesian countries, although they are now grown in other places where the warm climate allows (such as Hawaii).

Pros: Produces a “high” remarkably similar to alcohol (without dizziness), and is a great choice for hours of real stress and anxiety relief. It is unlikely to cause alcohol-like hangover symptoms. Can be purchased in pre-mixed, prepared sachets.

Cons: expensive. Not available in most country stores (but available online). Illegal in many countries, but legal in the US. With ground carrots, the preparation is messy and takes a lot of cooking time. Has an awful taste best described as tastes like ‘mud juice’.

Valerian Root

This herbal remedy, taken during times of stress and anxiety, can help calm the nervous system. Wait 30-45 minutes for the effects of Valerian to take effect. NOTE: Combining valerian with passion flower or scullcap is said to be more effective in managing anxiety.

Pros: Cheap. Available in most places where vitamins are sold. Dissipates within hours making it unlikely to leave you feeling drowsy the next morning – can therefore be consumed if you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep.

Cons: Mild effect, perhaps too mild to be noticed, especially if your anxiety is accompanied by excessive racing thoughts. A small percentage may experience stomach upset or diarrhea for 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 with a doctor’s prescription. It has been used around the world for centuries to treat depression and depression. NOTE: When purchasing the most potent St. John’s wort, look for a standardized extract of 3% hypericum. If the label does not claim standardization or display a percentage, or if it states 1% hypericum, do not buy the product!

Pros: Pretty cheap and readily available wherever vitamins are sold. Although it is not directly used for the management of anxiety symptoms, it has a well-documented reputation for being effective for people with anxiety who also suffer from depression. Side effects seem minimal, even at high doses.

Cons: Doesn’t work for major depression (mild to moderate only). A fairly high dosage is required (2,000+ mg/day) to see the best results. It can take four to eight weeks for positive effects to be noticed, which deters many patients who want answers now.

USEFUL SUPPLEMENTS:

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5-HTP

5-HTP is a relatively new supplement over the past decade. It’s actually a derivative of L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that was banned by the FDA in the 1990s after a bad batch killed some modest victims overseas. Now that its safety is 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 lacking in people dealing with anxiety who also suffer from low mood or depression.

Pros: Acts quickly (often in just minutes) to boost a bad mood. Good stress and anxiety fighter when you start experiencing flare-ups of symptoms. May help induce sleep in anxiety patients suffering from bedtime insomnia.

Cons: Can be mildly addictive if taken regularly for more than a few weeks. Can cause an unpleasant ‘highing high’ feeling if taken in very high doses (only take the recommended dose on the bottle).

L-tyrosine

Like serotonin, there are two other notable brain chemicals that can regulate mood. These are noradrenaline and dopamine. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid scientifically proven to stimulate both. This chemical is usually abundant in most people, but it may be lacking in some individuals with stress-induced anxiety.

Pros: May improve mood when dealing with stress and anxiety, while also suffering from depression. Helps ward off stress. Few side effects, even at high doses.

Cons: Does not produce a noticeable effect for many people. High dosage often required (3,000+mg/day) to see positive results, so it can get a bit pricey. It may take weeks before you notice any effect.

Melatonin

If you are dealing with anxiety and experiencing insomnia, melatonin is used by many as a safe alternative to prescription sleeping pills. Take 30-45 minutes before going to sleep.

Pros: Proven effective in many case studies. Inexpensive and readily available wherever vitamins are sold. Unlike drugs, melatonin has minimal side effects (little or no dizziness in the morning).

Cons: Works great for some people, doesn’t work at all for others. Known for producing ‘vivid’ dreams, making it dangerous for people who have regular nightmares or other similar sleep disturbances.

Other supplements

Magnesium is often lacking in patients dealing with stress and anxiety, and taking a healthy daily dose is said to help promote relaxation in the body. Magnesium can also help people with mild insomnia when taken before bed. Two other minerals, potassium and calcium, can also be beneficial when added to your vitamin regimen.

B-Complex (or any other B-Vitamin) is an excellent choice to take daily to help calm your nervous system.

Although I no longer have panic attacks, and have not tried it, it is said that the supplement Inositol (up to 400 grams 3X a day) may have some benefit if you feel the onset of panic approaching.

CONCLUSION:

While there is no magic herb or supplement specifically used for anxiety management, there are many that seem to help people dealing with anxiety-related depression (St. John’s wort, the best example). The theory is that if you improve mood, you also indirectly control anxiety symptoms. In addition, quite a few of the above supplements have tremendous sleep-inducing properties (Melatonin & Valerian being the best examples). When dealing 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.