Other Proposed Natural Treatments
- 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)
- Arginine Plus Lysine
- Bach Flower Remedies
- Chinese Skullcap
- Fish Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Galphimia glauca
- Gamma Oryzanol
- Gotu Kola
- Inositol (for Panic Disorder)
- Lemon Balm
- Magnesium , Hawthorn , and Eschscholtzia californica (California poppy) Combination
- Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements
- Relaxation Therapies (Meditation and Guided Imagery)
- European Skullcap
As W.H. Auden pointed out, we live in the age of anxiety. Most of us suffer from a certain level of chronic anxiety because modern life is jagged, fast-paced, and divorced from the natural rhythms that tend to create a harmonious inner life. For some, this existential unease goes further and becomes a psychological disorder.
Typical symptoms of anxiety disorder include feelings of tension, irritability, worry, frustration, turmoil, and hopelessness, along with insomnia, restless sleep, grinding of teeth, jaw pain, an inability to sit still, and an incapacity to cope. Physical sensations frequently arise as well, including a characteristic feeling of being unable to take a full, satisfying breath; dry mouth; rapid heartbeat; heart palpitations; a lump in the throat; tightness in the chest; and cramping in the bowels. Anxiety can also give rise to panic attacks. These may be so severe that they are mistaken for heart attacks. The heart pounds and palpitates, the chest feels tight and painful, and the whole body tenses with unreasonable fear. Such attacks can be triggered by anxiety-provoking situations, but they may also come out of nowhere, perhaps even awakening you from sleep. When a person tends to suffer more from panic attacks than generalized anxiety, physicians call the illness panic disorder.
The medical treatment of anxiety involves anti-anxiety drugs in the benzodiazepine family, the unique drug BuSpar (buspirone), and antidepressants. Panic attacks are generally more difficult to treat than other forms of anxiety.
Proposed Natural Treatments
There are no natural treatments for anxiety that have been shown to be safe and effective. However, some treatments have shown promise for generalized anxiety disorder and related conditions. No natural treatment is likely to be effective for panic disorder.
Valerian: May Provide Calming Effects
The herb valerian is best known as a remedy for insomnia. However, because many drugs useful for insomnia also reduce anxiety, valerian has been proposed as an anxiety treatment as well.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Valerian article.
Up until 2002, the herb kava was widely used in Europe as a medical treatment for anxiety, based on the evidence of a substantial body of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. However, because of recent concerns involving its potential effects on the liver, it has been withdrawn from the market in many countries, and we do not recommend its use. For more information, see the full Kava article.
Other Herbs and Supplements
lemon balmMelissa officinalis
Other herbs or supplements that are frequently recommended for anxiety attacks include Chinese skullcap , flaxseed oil , chamomile , gamma oryzanol , hops , selenium , and suma , as well as inositol for panic disorder. However, there is no reliable supporting evidence to indicate that they work.
Various alternative therapies have shown some promise for the treatment of anxiety, including:
- Acupuncture (for generalized anxiety as well as for situational anxiety) 10,29,240
- Yoga 71-76
- Aromatherapy (either alone or combined with massage) 11,43
- Biofeedback 36,68
- Music therapy 63,70
However, more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of these treatments.
Various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat anxiety. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the Drug Interactions section of this database.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -