Reduce stress and live better, naturally! The Home Reference to Holistic Health & Healing (Fair Winds Press, 2015) by Brigitte Mars and Chrystle Fieldler offers time-tested natural remedies to boost your health and well-being. The following excerpt from Chapter 3 will give you tips for how to naturally and holistically ease anxiety.
Making room for more joy and happiness in your life means learning how to manage uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety more effectively. Natural remedies and practices can help you to deal with and soothe your anxiety and clear the way for a more peaceful, well-balanced you.
Necessary Nutrients: Antianxiety Diet
Feeding the brain and the central nervous system with the right foods can help to soothe anxiety. The best antianxiety diet is one that keeps your blood sugar at a steady level morning, noon, and night, because symptoms may worsen when your blood sugar dips. This means choosing lean proteins, whole grains, veggies, and fruit and nixing refined sugars and starches. You may do best “grazing” all day long, eating four to six small meals and snacks, so carry cheese and gluten-free crackers or nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds in your bag each day. The most important thing is to never get too hungry.
Other foods to focus on include oatmeal and yogurt (unless you’re allergic to gluten and dairy), both high in calming calcium. Lettuce also helps calm anxiety. Eating nutrient-dense, grounding foods such as buckwheat, millet, black quinoa, black rice, black sesame seeds, sweet potatoes, and winter squash is also helpful.
The Benefits of Fish Oil on Anxiety
In the first study of its kind, researchers at Ohio State University recently found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil calm anxiety. The OSU study included sixty-eight medical students, half of whom received 2.5 grams of an omega-3 supplement daily, the equivalent of about four or five servings of salmon. A study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (November 2011) showed that those who took the supplements had a 20 percent reduction in anxiety and a significant reduction of inflammation.
Use a quality fish oil supplement to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for 1,000 mg of EPA/ DHA. Purchase a high-quality, pure fish oil supplement to avoid mercury and other toxins.
Healing Herbs for Anxiety
You’ve probably heard of kava kava, a plant native to the South Pacific, whose extract has been used for thousands of years in rituals and ceremonies and as a social drink. Kava was given its name by Captain Cook, and it means “intoxicating pepper.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of evidence shows that certain kava extracts (extracts standardized to 70 percent kavalactones) can lower anxiety and may be as effective as prescription antianxiety medications called low-dose benzodiazepines.
Kava kava was recently approved in Germany for its antianxiety effects. You’ll need to be patient, though, as it takes up to eight weeks of treatment to see improvement. You’ll also need to be under the supervision of a doctor, because this herb can cause liver toxicity.
Cure Caution: Herbs such as kava kava can help to ease anxiety, but if you are already taking prescription medications for your condition, check with your doctor before adding supplements.
Other helpful herbs include hawthorn, which nourishes the physical and emotional heart; eleuthero, which helps the body adapt to stress; and California poppy, which is cooling, calming, nonnarcotic, and soothes the emotional body.
Wild lettuce extract helps to calm anxiety, while wild oat helps calm acute anxiety. Follow dosage directions on each supplement.
Adaptogens such as ginseng, ginkgo, ashwagandha, and reishi mushroom can also help the body acclimate to stress.
Passionflower targets GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which affects the way neurons connect in the brain. A small study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in 2001 showed that passionflower was as effective as oxazepam (a medication used to ease anxiety disorders, brand name Serax) for generalized anxiety disorder, without any of the side effects.
Herbal Teas That Ease Anxiety
Choose soothing herbal teas such as catnip, chamomile, hawthorn, hops, lemon balm, oatstraw, passionflower, or reishi mushroom. Hops and valerian calm anxiety but don’t taste pleasant, so try a tincture or capsules instead. When you’re feeling anxious, brew a cup of herbal tea and add one dropperful of tincture or take a herbal capsule three times daily between meals.
A daily calcium (1,000 mg)/magnesium (500 mg) as well as B complex (50 mg) supplement can help calm anxiety. The calming B vitamin inositol (1,500-mg capsule four times daily) that works as a cell messenger is found in our spinal cord, brain, and nerves. Its effect is similar to the drug Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and can help calm panic. Lecithin, eggs, beans, nuts, and avocados are good sources of inositol.
DMAE (50 mg three times daily) is structurally similar to choline, a water-soluble essential nutrient in the B vitamin family. Found in fish and sardines, it protects cellular membranes and transports readily across the blood-brain barrier to calm anxiety.
Amino acids are important when it comes to calming the nervous system and easing anxiety. The amino acid glycine quiets cells in the spinal cord, brain stem, and central nervous system. Taurine suppresses the release of overexciting neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine. The amino acid histidine calms beta waves and promotes more relaxing alpha waves. Amino acids are usually taken as 500-mg capsules three times daily between meals. You can also find combinations of amino acids sold in one pill.
Though you can find GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in passionflower, which helps neurons “talk” to each other and protect the brain from overstimulation, you can take a GABA supplement, too. Many anxious people have low levels of GABA (500 mg taken three times daily, preferably sublingually). Also, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytrytophan) is a precursor to serotonin and is effective against anxiety (150 mg dosage three times daily, preferably between meals).
For Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Studies indicate that OCD is often related to a serotonin deficiency. People with OCD often have genetic abnormalities or high levels of histamine. Methionine can help reduce high levels of histamine and is a precursor to adrenaline and noradrenaline.
OCD can be improved with supplementation of inositol, which improves the body’s use of the brain chemical serotonin. Talk to your holistic health practitioner about whether this might work for you.
Holistic Therapies: Natural Ways to Calm Anxiety
Homeopathic remedies are a safe and gentle way to ease anxiety. Read through the description for each cure and see which one sounds most like you, then try it. Carry the homeopathic remedy with you and take three to four pellets of 30 c potency dissolved under the tongue three times daily.
• Aconitum napellus: You may fear death, darkness, evil, and maybe even crossing the street. Anguish, anxiety, despair, restlessness, and franticness are also characteristic of someone who needs aconite. You may panic in crowded places and fear you cannot get out. Aconite may help with anxiety that occurs when reminded of a disturbing incident from the past.
• Argentum nitricum: You may be impulsive and fear impending events, crowds, or heights. Anxiety may precede an interview or exam. You may have panic attacks and diarrhea when anticipating circumstances or get so wound up before an event, your ability to remember what you need to do is impaired.
• Arsenicum album: You may be restless, fearful, always in motion, fatigued, fussy, high strung, worried, and fault finding. You may fear death, darkness, and incurable diseases. You may be suspicious and demanding or dislike being in a situation over which you have no control.
• Calcarea carbonica: You are anxious about your health and catching infection.
• Coffea cruda: For paralyzing anxiety preceding an event such as flying or public speaking.
• Gelsemium: For anxiety based on fear, including stage fright or trembling. You are anxious and sluggish and may freeze up physically and mentally before public speaking or an exam.
• Ignatia: Sadness leads to anxiety, depression, hysteria, and anger. Use for anxiety, fear, and restlessness; sleeplessness; and loud sighs that indicate anguish.
• Kali phosphoricum: You are anxious and exhausted from worrying about relatives.
• Lachesis: For nighttime anxiety. You may believe you are being conspired against. You need open air or have a wild imagination. Lachesis is for outbursts and irrational jealousy. You may be domineering, vicious, suspicious, and talkative.
• Lycopodium: You lack self-confidence about new endeavors. You’re indecisive and irritable, but when put on the spot, you excel. You worry what others think of you, fear rejection, and think others are being critical of you.
• Natrum muriaticum: You’re anxious about everything, have fearful dreams, or dislike heat, noise, and excitement, which worsen anxiety. You dislike going to social events where there will be lots of people. The condition grows worse with noise or excitement.
• Passiflora incarnata: For general anxiety or obsessive thoughts.
• Silica: For shy yet strong-willed people who get anxious about exams, public speaking, and interviews, thinking that their performance will be lacking.
How Flower Essences Calm Anxiety
Flower essences work in a way similar to homeopathic remedies. They are made from a “sun tea” (a sun boiling method) of specific wildflowers or trees known for their healing properties, and then diluted. These remedies help to balance negative emotions, freeing the body’s energy to heal itself.
In 2007, a study in the medical journal Complementary Health Practice Review showed that Bach Rescue Remedy was effective in reducing anxiety. Use the chart below to determine which essence is right for your particular type of anxiety.
Keep flower essences on hand in several convenient places, such as a briefcase, your desk, your purse, and the glove compartment of your car, and use it when anxiety starts to come on. Two drops under the tongue is all it takes. You can also add a few drops of the remedy to a glass of water and sip it slowly. If you are sensitive to the alcohol in flower essences, apply the remedies externally to your wrists and/or temples.
Make Sense of Anxiety with Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is one of the quickest and most effective ways to soothe anxiety. That’s because of the link between our sense of smell and the limbic, or emotional, center of the brain. Inhale the anxiety-relieving essential oils of basil, bergamot, cedarwood, chamomile, cypress, geranium, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, marjoram, melissa, myrrh, neroli, orange, petitgrain, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, thyme, and ylang-ylang.
If you aren’t sure which scent you like best, try several different types and see how you react. Then, when you are feeling anxious, put three to four drops on a tissue and inhale deeply. You can also put essential oils in a diffuser to fill any room with an anxiety-reducing aroma.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Home Reference to Holistic Health & Healing by Brigitte Mars and Chrystle Fieldler and published by Fair Winds Press, 2015.