Anxiety is not an unusual feeling. When faced with stress, our bodies output extra adrenaline, metabolism increases and muscles become tense. Biologically, this response helped our ancestors survive in dangerous situations. Today our lives are mostly free of extreme “fight or flight” situations, but our bodies are still hard-wired to react in the same way–without the release of physical action. Symptoms of anxiety range from increased heart rate, dry mouth and sweaty palms to more troublesome issues such as high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, and head and back aches. Although it’s normal to feel worried when faced with a stressful situation, anxiety can become problematic when it persists, disrupting life and causing health problems.
Although anxiety is often caused by stress and traumatic situations, certain underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, drug and alcohol abuse and withdrawal, thyroid problems, low blood sugar and clinical depression have been linked to anxiety. Food and lifestyle factors such as consumption of caffeine, sugar, nicotine, medications and drugs can also contribute to feelings of anxiety.
If you suffer from bouts of anxiety, there’s no need to panic–or pop a prescription pill. Try these natural remedies for relieving anxiety.
Valerian, sometime’s called the poor man’s valium, has effects similar to the commonly prescribed anxiety medication. Valerian’s roots contain a powerful sedative compound that relaxes the nerves and is particularly useful for relieving anxiety-related insomnia. Take 300 mg two to three times daily, or steep a teaspoon of fresh valerian root in 1½ cups of water to make a tea.
Kava is a calming herb from the South Pacific with a strong tranquilizing effect. Research has shown kava to be successful at treating anxiety and nervous tension, and the British Journal of Phytotheraphy has named kava as one of the few herbs that can safely relax skeletal muscle. Unlike other anxiety medications, kava can actually enhance rather than impair cognitive function. Because of its strong effects, kava should not be taken with other substances that depress the central nervous system such as alcohol or antidepressants, nor should it be taken before driving. Prolonged use of kava has raised concerns over its effect on the liver as well as it’s addictiveness, so if you want to err on the side of safety, it’s probably best to use kava sparingly or as a short-term treatment for anxiety. Take 200 to 250 mg of kava two to three times daily.
Ashwagandha, long used in Ayurvedic remedies, is an adaptogen, or herb that increase the body’s resistance to stress. Ashwagandha can balance stress hormones in the body while enhancing mental function and increasing energy, endurance and longevity. Take 300 to 500 mg of ashwagandha daily.
Passionflower increases levels of GABA in the brain, helping to create a relaxed sense of being.
Passionflower acts as a sedative, making you feel relaxed or sleepy. Researchers believe that passionflower increases levels of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a chemical that reduces the activity of brain cells to create a state of relaxation. Like kava, passionflower should not be combined with other sedative substances. However, passionflower is gentle enough to use during the day. Take 250 mg two to three times daily.
B vitamins play important roles in maintaining brain health, from helping to metabolize carbohydrates, the brain’s fuel, to creating neurotransmitters (such as GABA), which regulate mood and transmit messages to the brain. B vitamin deficiency is tied to a number of problems, one of which is anxiety. Ensuring that your body has enough B vitamins will restore balance to brain chemistry, helping you to cope with stress and relieving anxiety. Take 50 mg one to two times daily.
Catnip, while engaging to cats, is relaxing for humans. Catnip is an effective herbal soother, helping to calm nerves and relieve pain from tension headaches as well as menstrual and intestinal cramps. Steep 1 teaspoon of dried catnip leaves for five to ten minutes to make a tea; drink two to three cups of catnip tea a day. Or take 30 to 40 drops of tincture two to three times a day. (Avoid catnip if pregnant.)
Chamomile is a well-known calmer of the nerves. Steep 1 teaspoon of dried flowers in a cup of hot water to make a tea; drink two to three cups a day if you’re feeling high-strung. Or take 30 drops of a tincture three times a day.