Anxiety is the uneasiness of the mind over any future illness or fear that is marked by increase in pulse rate, sweating, feel of tension etc.
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This situation is caused by frequent stress, some diseases, trauma that happened recently or an aftermath of what happened in childhood etc. Anxiety is categorized in many types but all of them show the same behavioral pattern like restlessness, irritability, sweating, panic etc. Treating anxiety is a bit difficult. There is no single formula to win this condition. Drugs, exercises, lifestyle, diet etc all play their part in fighting anxiety.
There are various drugs to cope with anxiety but they all dull the brain more than necessary. What the body wants is some supplies that help it adapt to the situation and not to overly react to the attack. Such supplies are generally termed adaptogen. Herbal remedies used for helping in anxiety are mostly adaptogen and they make some changes in the body to cope with the tensed condition or make necessary changes to boost the body’s natural defense mechanism so that anxiety cannot dominate.
In the coming sections we will see, in what ways we can use the herbs to ease the anxiety, what are the popular anti-anxiety herbs, what are the precaution we need to take before taking them.
Table of Contents
- How herbal remedies are used
- Popular Anti-anxiety Herbs
- Things to Know
How Herbal remedies are used to cure anxiety?
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Herbs are the closest things to nature. They are good sources of all kinds of natural healing compounds for any kind of diseases. They are useful in relieving anxiety also. But these plants are not used as a whole bunch. The anti-anxiety properties lie in different parts of the plants. In some plants the aerial part is useful, then in others it is just the leaves, flowers are useful in many while root is the most useful part of other plants. So it is important to know which part is the useful component.
Next question arises is in the ways in which we should use the herbs. Herbal remedies are used in many forms. Each herb has its specified form of usage. They are made into tea, tincture, included in the bathing water or some are crushed and used for aromatherapy.
- Herbal Tea: The herbal tea is made the same way as normal tea. Add a specified amount of the fresh or dried plant parts in boiling water and strain it after a while. This decoction is consumed for specified number of times a day. The herbal tea can replace the normal tea or coffee especially for anxiety patients. Both tea and coffee contain stimulants that can worsen the panic caused by anxiety. The anti-anxiety herbal tea helps calm the nerves to control the agitation. Herbal tea might not be pleasant to taste and honey can be added in small quantities to ease it on the taste buds.
- Tinctures or extracts: Another method to include the herbal remedies in the diet is by taking the tinctures or extracts from the plant parts. This requires a fair amount of the plant material. The extraction is done using alcohol, glycerin, or mainly water. The extracts are all concentrated and is added in drops into tea, or food. This is the method adopted in the herbal supplement manufacturing and is mostly done in large scale than at homes.
- Herbal Baths: The herb extracts are added into the bathing water. Soak the body in it to relax the nerves and muscles. For this purpose the plant parts are boiled in the water and added or few drops of the extracts or the plant oil is used in the water. The herbs used for herbal baths may or may not be aromatic. They are able to penetrate the skin to enter the body and do the calming job. The water used is mostly warm to aid relaxation efforts.
- Aromatherapy: The aromatherapy is used for scented or aromatic herbs. The aroma of the herbal extracts is calming to the mind and relaxes the nerves. The aromatic oil is added to the bathing water or simply inhaled for the aroma and its effects. The aroma stabilizes the senses and emotions.
Popular Anti-Anxiety Herbs
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Ashwagandha: This is one of the popular anti-anxiety herbs used in Indian medicine. The herb provides better relief from anxiety symptoms and depression. The herb is abundant in adaptogen that helps release mood stabilizing hormones and also decreases brain degenerating disorders. It is also helpful with sleep. This herb is made into a tea by adding one teaspoon of dried powder of the root in water for 15 minutes. The drink is taken 3 cups a day. Do not take this herb if you are allergic to potato, tomato, or peppers.
Catnip: Catnip plant is mainly used as tea to have calming effects on the mind to overcome anxiety. The chemical nepetalactone is a natural relaxant. It is also helpful in curing insomnia caused by anxiety. It relieves stomach pain and headaches that is often a problem with people suffering anxiety disorders. Catnip tea is made with 3 teaspoons of the fresh or 1-2 spoonfuls of dried flowers and leaves in a cup of hot water. Let it set for 10-15 minutes and strain it. Lemon juice or honey may be added for flavor. This tea is taken 1-2 times a day. Catnip tea can induce uterus contractions.
Chamomile: Chamomile compounds bind to the brain receptors and block the nerve transmissions and relieve anxiety. Flowers are the most useful part of this herb. The flower extracts calm the central nervous system. It is used as tea, and in aromatherapy. Chamomile tea at bedtime helps have a good night’s sleep. The Chamomile works in the same way as many anti-anxiety drugs, with the advantage of not causing any side effects. Add 2-3 teaspoons of dried Chamomile in boiling water and let it steep for a while. Strain and have it between meals twice a day.
Hops: Hops have sedative effects and is mostly used for insomnia. The herbal extract has a bitter taste and so is not used for herbal tea preparation. The active compound is volatile and so is mostly used for aromatherapy. They are used to promote sleep at night by placing the aromatic compounds near the sleep area. If at all this herb is consumed, that is in combination with Chamomile and mint. It contains estrogen and is suited to treat anxiety symptoms during monthly periods of women. This is not suitable to use if the person is on any tranquilizing drugs. Alcohol also should be avoided while using Hops.
Kava-Kava: Kava is considered as a natural antidote for anxiety. Kava is effective for general anxiety and within 6 weeks of usage has found reduction in the condition. The effect is mild but yet better than harsh chemical drugs. The recommended safe use is from 1-24 weeks. But the main drawback that is a black mark for Kava is that, over dosage can lead to liver failure. This herb is not suitable for those who suffer liver problems and are alcoholic.
Lavender: Lavender has a sweet intoxicating aroma and it is this aroma that fights against anxiety. This is considered as an emotional anti-inflammatory agent. Anxiety is easily relieved by inhaling Lavender oil scent. It is mostly used as part of aromatherapy to relax the nerves. Research has found that the effects of lavender are seen more in women than in men. Restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, depression, inflammations, migraines, and agitation associated with anxiety are all effectively dealt by Lavender. Mixing 6 drops of lavender oil in the bathing water relaxes the mind. Alternatively, crush a few fresh lavender flowers and add them in the water. It has some drowsy effects so it is better to use it for evening bath.
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Lemon Balm: Lemon balm is considered a general tonic and nerve relaxant. Its infusion is effective against anxiety. This infusion also helps lower the body temperature. A few fresh cuttings of this herb, about 3 handfuls, are added in half gallon of boiling water. Close the lid and allow it to steep for a few hours. Strain and chill this liquid and consume later. The aroma of this plant is calming to promote sleep and uplifts the mood as well. But the effect is there only when used in minor quantities. Too much of Lemon balm can cause anxiety. It is also combined with other anti-anxiety herbs.
Green Tea: Green tea is a successful anti-anxiety herb because of the presence of L-Theanine. The effects of this compound lasts for a few hours and a Japanese monk could continue his meditation for a few hours in alert and relaxed mode. L-theanine is an amino acid that lowers the blood pressure and heart rate. The study on its anti-anxiety effects is showing that it can calm the mind and make it more focused. The effects are because of the accessibility of this amino acid to the central nervous system. It promotes positive waves in the brain, increased dopamine levels, and other positivity promoting chemicals.
Motherwort: Motherwort is a traditional anti anxiety herb for pregnant women. This is used for the last trimester and has positive effects on palpitations and heart rate. It brings down blood pressure and relaxes the nervous system. In a way, Motherwort is the nature’s own Chill-pill to make the heart happy and create elevated mood. The actions of it make the body feel energetic and eliminates the fatigue.
Passionflower: The active compounds in this flower increase the compound GABA in the brain. It reduces the excitability and reactivity of the neurons in the brain. This effect will calm the mind and act as a mild sedative to cure insomnia also. Passionflower tea is made with a small amount of the dried herb in a cup of water. If the liquid extract is used then add 10-30 drops into the hot water. The tea is consumed thrice daily. This is not suitable for use in pregnant women. Care must be taken that over dosage does not happen as it can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and increase in heartbeat. Do not mix it with other sedative drugs or herbs.
St. John’s Wort: This is a specified anti-anxiety drug. It is highly effective to fight depression especially that which is associated with anxiety. It positively affects the mood and elevates the happy feeling. Supply the body with this herb extract in small doses throughout the day for better effects. The most popular mode of consumption is by capsules or tablets. Since the dosage for this herb should be accurate capsules are the best option. Over dosage can create many problems like rashes and skin problems. It works well in combination with other herbs as well.
Valerian is more popular as a cure for sleep disturbance due to mild anxiety. The herbal extract has influence on the neurotransmitter GABA to curb the anxiety and also acts as a sedative. It is effective against social anxiety and promotes positive feel, calmness and reduced nervousness. Just 2-3 gms of dried herb is added to a cup of boiling water and let to seep. This herbal tea promotes sleep. It takes half an hour to one hour to show the results and about a month or two to start showing major improvement in the conditions so continue to use it for that long before deciding to quit. Reduce the dosage if suffering from headache, drowsiness during daytime or upset stomach.
Things to Know While Having Herbal Remedies
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- First thing to know is that all natural products are not 100% safe. They also can cause side effects unless used in the recommended dose. If the dose is less, then there is no effect and if it is higher than needed, it is sure to have some kind of reaction.
- Herbal medications take time as we are introducing them in smaller amount and mostly it works on the root cause than suppressing the symptoms. So be patient and give it time.
- The actions of herbal extract will be minor when compared to chemical drugs but they both are equally effective.
- Always take the opinion of your doctor before starting the herbal remedies. Some herbs might have adverse reactions to drugs and do so especially if you are on any prescribed medicines. Do not cut down your medicines unless the doctor asks you to do so.
- Change in lifestyle is a requirement if you are expect success with herbal preparations.
Just because some herbs are effective against anxiety does not mean that you go directly to buy it and try it on your own. For safety, you better find a good herbalist and have a talk with him to know whether it is good for you or not. Apart from drug interaction, certain medical conditions may also interfere with the herbal extracts reducing its effectiveness as well as worsening the existing physical condition.