Do you suffer from unexplained, crippling feelings of dread and fear? While anxiety is a normal emotion, disproportionate levels of fear that come and go without reason might be caused by an undiagnosed mental problem.
Anxiety is characterized by a deep feeling of unease, nervousness, and apprehension about an imminent event. Usually, anxiety causes panic attacks and/or compulsive behavior. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you are not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the world. About 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorder worldwide. In the US, 18.1% of the population or 40 million adults suffer from anxiety. The good news is, anxiety is perfectly treatable.
Traditional Treatments for Anxiety Disorders
Some types of antidepressant medications are used to treat anxiety, even when the patients have no symptoms of depression. Research shows that people who suffer from anxiety often have unbalanced levels of brain chemicals – serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
Antidepressant medications, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), beta-blockers and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) help to rebalance the chemicals in the brain, which reduces anxiety symptoms. Tricyclics, which are a class of drugs that treat obsessive-compulsive disorders as well as benzodiazepines, are also used as GAD drugs.
Psychological Counseling and Therapy
Psychological counseling and therapy are also an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. This treatment could include psychotherapy, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of any of these treatments. Counseling helps the patients identify their triggers, develop coping strategies during an attack, and determine the root cause of the problem.
While antidepressants are an effective treatment for anxiety, these drugs causes adverse side effects. These side effects range from severe nausea and weight gain to hallucinations and agitation, especially if you stopped taking the medications too abruptly. In addition, antidepressants are highly addictive. Psychological counseling and therapy make the best treatment for anxiety but not a lot of people could afford the program. Also, some patients are unable to show up for counseling due to time constraints, busy schedules, etc.
If taking antidepressants or talking to a psychologist does not appeal to you, you could try treating anxiety the natural way. The good news is, there are many natural remedies for anxiety, most of which do not cause serious side effects:
Arctic Root (Rhodiola rosea)
Arctic root is a type of perennial plant that is native to Arctic regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. This plant is commonly used to treat a variety of mental disorders, particularly anxiety, stress, and depression. The arctic root contains a powerful adaptogen that alleviates stress and anxiety accompanied by fatigue. The chemical works by encouraging the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which uplifts the mood and eases anxiety.
One study found that individuals who were treated with arctic root showed reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. The researchers also concluded that using arctic root as a treatment for depression could lead to a reduction in the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) scores.
Another study concluded that arctic root helps boosts mental performance and alleviates certain mental disorders.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a type of poison gooseberry or winter cherry that’s used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including anxiety and stress. Ashwagandha relieves stress and anxiety by reducing the production of stress hormone cortisol by up to 25%.
A study found that using a high concentration of ashwagandha root extract could reduce stress and anxiety among adults. The same study also concluded that taking ashwagandha extracts could improve the general well-being of adults who are under stress.
A separate study, which reviewed 5 clinical trials related to the efficacy of ashwagandha in treating anxiety, found that there is a reduction in anxiety levels among the participants compared to participants who were given a placebo.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
The Maidenhair tree, better known as Ginkgo biloba, is an ancient plant that is widely cultivated for its medicinal qualities. For centuries, the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat a variety of health problems. Ginkgo is also an effective remedy for anxiety and stress-related health problems.
The plant extracts contain a chemical that increases serotonin and dopamine production, which uplifts the mood and eases stress. Clinical tests have shown the positive effects of gingko in reducing anxiety under pathological conditions. A randomized clinical trial found that Ginkgo biloba extracts help alleviate symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxious mood.
Passionflower has long been used as a folk remedy for anxiety and sleep disorders. The passionflower extract contains a potent sedative that’s used as a natural sleeping aid. Passionflower could be prepared in many ways but it’s usually taken as an herbal tea to induce sleep, calm frayed nerves, and soothe anxiety symptoms.
A double-blind randomized test shows that passionflower made an effective remedy for generalized anxiety disorder compared to oxazepam. A clinical trial concluded that passionflower makes an ideal add-on treatment for generalized anxiety disorder due to its effectiveness and low side effects.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile has long been used as a calming tea and a sleep aid. The herb contains a mild sedative that soothes frazzled nerves and induces sleep. Several clinical trials demonstrated the soothing effects of chamomile in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD.
One clinical test showed that chamomile has “modest anxiolytic activity in patients with mild to moderate GAD.” A separate review noted that chamomile can be used as an alternative therapy for anxiety thanks to its calming effects.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is a kitchen staple that’s used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a host of health problems. This spice is teeming with curcumin, a chemical that promotes better brain health. Several studies also found that curcumin minimizes the symptoms of anxiety disorders as well as anxiety-like behavior associated with PTSD.
One study found that curcumin boosts DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in the brain, which may prevent anxiety disorders. Scientists believe that poor diet that’s low in DHA increases the risk of anxiety disorders. Another study concluded that curcumin “may be an alternative treatment for preventing anxiety-like behavior associated with PTSD.”
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
The soothing scent of lavender helps ease anxiety symptoms. In fact, clinical tests show that lavender could be just as effective in treating anxiety as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, or Prozac. Lavender contains a fragrant compound called linalool, which may ease restlessness, nervousness, and insomnia. The scent of lavender also calms the nerves, soothes agitation, and reduces depression symptoms.
Clinical tests show that taking lavender extracts orally or using lavender oil as massage oil helps alleviate anxiety symptoms. This clinical trial also demonstrated the effectiveness of lavender oil in the recovery of patients who underwent coronary artery bypass graft surgery by decreasing the level of anxiety.
Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Green tea promotes mental clarity and relaxation but did you know that this healthy tea provides effective relief from anxiety symptoms too? Green tea is teeming with L-theanine, an amino acid that alleviates stress in humans and animals.
Although green tea contains caffeine, the dose is too low to cancel out its anti-stress benefits. In addition, green tea has the ability to influence “psychopathological symptoms,” which minimizes anxiety while enhancing cognition and brain function. Moreover, green tea has the ability to reduce the level of stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstream.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is often used as a herb in cooking because it imparts a delightful earthy aroma in meat dishes and poultry. And if you love cooking with rosemary, we’re happy to report that this kitchen staple could also promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
Rosemary is prized for its medicinal qualities. It boosts memory performance, anxiety, depression and even improves sleep quality. The anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects of rosemary are mediated by the herb’s anti-inflammatory effect. Rosemary re-balances the gut flora, which could also explain its antidepressant benefits.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Just like rosemary, there are pieces of scientific evidence that point to the effectiveness of thyme in terms of alleviating stress and anxiety. The polyphenols, flavonoids, and essential oil in thyme reinforce the herb’s anxiolytic and anxiogenic effects in lab mice. In this review, thyme extract was also presented as an effective remedy against generalized anxiety disorder based on clinical trials.
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis)
Known as “nature’s Valium,” Valerian root has been used to promote tranquility since ancient times. This herb, which is native to Asia and Europe, contains a cocktail of compounds that regulate the nerve impulses in the nervous system and brain.
Valerian root contains valerenic acid, which alleviates chronic stress and improves sleep quality. This compound enhances feelings of tranquility and calmness too. The chemicals found in Valerian root inhibit the excessive activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear and stress.
Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava is a beverage made from a type of medicinal plant known as Piper methysticum. The drink is traditionally used to promote mental clarity as well as induce a state of relaxation. This drink has been used to treat everything from restlessness to insomnia, anxiety to psychosis.
Multiple studies demonstrated kava’s anxiolytic effect in “both subthreshold generalized anxiety and GAD.” One study recommended kava as an acute treatment for outpatients suffering from GAD. According to researchers, kava reduces anxiety symptoms by increasing the level of bra GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is associated with a number of mental and physical disorders including GAD, panic attacks, and irritable bowel movement or IBS.
Although anxiety disorders are often treated with medications,
drugs aren’t always the answer. Using all-natural remedies may ease anxiety
symptoms without any adverse side effects. Apart from going the all-natural
route, making better lifestyle changes could alleviate anxiety. Regular
meditation, exercising, getting enough sleep, being close to nature, and enjoying
a relaxing massage help cut stress, calm the mind, and alleviate anxiety symptoms.