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Looking for a natural herbal remedy for anxiety and panic attacks? These could be worth a try…
Is there an effective herbal treatment for anxiety? For some people who suffer from moderate to severe anxiety, the idea of seeking a herbal remedy that works for them can be more appealing than taking prescribed medication. Although medication is the right path for some, the possibility of side effects can be off putting. It is essential that, when considering any remedy for anxiety – herbal or otherwise – you consult your GP first.
Are you looking for herbal remedies for anxiety? To help you know where to start, we have researched some of the best all-natural alternatives that could help alleviate anxiety.
Do herbal remedies for anxiety help?
Advised by Anxiety UK, we consulted the current British Association for Psychopharmacology (BAP) guidelines in the Journal of Psychopharmacology 28(5) and headed to the section on The role of self-help and complementary approaches in anxiety disorders.
The overall conclusion is that more research needs to be done:
Many patients with anxiety disorders wonder whether taking herbal preparations or nutritional supplements might prove beneficial, either instead of or in conjunction with standard pharmacological or psychological treatments […] Remember that the evidence base for their use is relatively slight, when compared to the substantial evidence supporting the use of pharmacological and psychological interventions.
The guidelines go on to suggest other self-help methods, many of which were of no surprise to us:
Other complementary approaches include regular exercise and interventions drawing on meditation techniques. A systematic review indicates that exercise training reduces anxiety symptoms in sedentary patients with long-term medical conditions [I (M)] (Herring et al., 2010); and regular walking may enhance the efficacy of group CBT, across a range of anxiety disorders [II] (Merom et al., 2008).
The best herbal remedies for anxiety
1. St John’s Wort
Used for nerve disorders for over 2,000 years, St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum L) is a perennial, with bright yellow flowers, which grows wild in Europe, Asia and America.
A number of studies have shown St John’s Wort to have a beneficial effect on those who suffer from mild anxiety and depression, although it is not exactly clear how. It is thought that the substance has the ability to prolong the affects of serotonin – a chemical in the body that, when in short supply, can lead to a mood imbalance.
What you need to know before taking St John’s Wort:
• It can be bought over the counter without a prescription.
• It can interfere with other medications, including contraception and anti-depressants, so you should always consult your GP before you take it.
• It should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
• It can increase your sensitivity to the sun.
Valerian, native to Europe and North America, has long been used to treat anxiety, stress, muscle tension and insomnia. It contains valerenic acid and valeranon that help the body relax into a calm state so that sleep can come naturally.
What you need to know before taking valerian:
• It should not be taken with any other sleep-enhancing drugs.
• It should not be taken during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
• It can cause drowsiness so should not be taken before driving or during any activity which requires you to be alert.
• It is not suitable for children.
• It can be combined with other herbs such as lemon balm, hops and passionflower.
Similarly to valerian, passionflower is recognised for its calming and sedative actions which are effective in helping to combat anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues. It contains alkaloids, glycosides and steroids, with alkaloids being the main active ingredient.
What you need to know before taking passionflower:
• It should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
• It can be combined with valerian and/or hops.
There have been a number of studies which suggest that lavender is affective at easing stress and anxiety, calming nervousness and helping to induce sleep. Not only does lavender smell divine, its scent alone can reduce tension.
What you need to know before taking lavender:
• The use of lavender can be harmful for young boys and girls as it could affect their hormones. Consult a GP before using lavender on pre-pubescent children.
• You should consult your GP before using lavender if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
• You should consult your GP before using lavender if you have recently had surgery as it can slow the nervous system and be unhelpful towards recovery.
Chamomile has long been used as a remedy for illness, including stomach trouble, colds and fevers. Now it’s most frequently consumed in tea form and is well known for its relaxing properties and calming effect.
This zesty scented herb is actually part of the mint family and is said to promote a feeling of calm. Like lavender and chamomile, lemon balm is also said to encourage restful sleep and is a powerful antioxidant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in cannabis plants. The use and popularity of CBD to help ease anxiety and promote relaxation has increased in recent years and some studies suggest it can help. This is, however, a relatively new area of science so be sure to ask your GP before you use.
Ashwagandha, an ancient medicinal herb, is an evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa. Commonly used for stress, it’s an analgesic that soothes the nervous system from pain response. Praised for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, you can find it in many herbal teas, as well as supplements at Holland & Barratt.
There are a number of different ways to take herbal remedies for anxiety. Choose from the below the one which is right for you:
• Tea – Browse the range at Holland & Barrett here.
• Supplements – Always consult the advise on the bottle before taking. Browse the range at Holland & Barrett here.
• Flower – If you have access to the original flower, you can brew your own tea or place them around the house.
• Essential oils – These oils can be inhaled straight from the bottle or rubbed onto the skin (check before if you have skin conditions).
Oils can also be added to the bath.
A great way to spread essential oils throughout the room is by using an electric diffuser – many also come with soothing noises and lighting. We like the Ellia Gather Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser, (£109.99, Amazon).
Disclaimer: This information should not be used as an alternative to professional medical advice. You must always consult your GP if you are experiencing mental health concerns and need advice on treatment. You should also consult your GP if you are thinking of using herbal remedies and are already taking anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication.