Experiencing More Anxiety? Here Are 8 Natural Approaches to Relief
By Melissa Anzelone, ND
In this article:
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger— whether real or imagined — the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the fight-or-flight reaction or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, the stress response helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life, giving you extra strength to defend yourself.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But, beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life. Overwhelming amounts of stress can lead to feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the most common mood disorders, with up to 200 million adults experiencing symptoms per year. Anxiety is characterized by fear, worry, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. It can also manifest as persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. These worries may be focused on finances, family, health, or the future.
Anxiety may also be associated with physical symptoms like chest tightness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat. Anxiety doesn't always have to accompany a serious issue like a death in the family or a loss of a job; relatively small things like leaving the house or meeting friends can bring on feelings of anxiety.
The need for effective natural supplements to ease anxiety symptoms is greater than ever. As well as helping with anxiety, many remedies have other positive benefits.
8 Natural Approaches to Anxiety Relief
Researchers have studied numerous herbs, supplements, and vitamins to determine if they can benefit people with anxiety.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a member of the Valerianaceae family, is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. Valerian has been used for centuries and dates back to Greek and Roman times as a natural anxiety remedy.
Valerian is commonly used to support healthy sleep. Trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night can often be caused by anxiety. Mostly taken as a supplement in pill form, valerian root encourages relaxation.
A possible mechanism by which a valerian extract may cause sedation is by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter) available in the synaptic cleft. This may promote relief from anxiety.
Roots of the kava (Piper methysticum) plant are used in almost all Pacific Ocean cultures to prepare a tea with sedative properties. Today, it’s most frequently consumed as a supplement in pill form. One of the main active ingredients of the extract is kavalactone. This bioactive component of kava has an inhibitory effect on the human glycine receptor, which prevents overfiring of brain neurons, and essentially supports calming the brain and may reduce anxiety symptoms. Some additional benefits of kava kava may include supporting muscle relaxation and may help with improving cognitive ability.
Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha, is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. This adaptogenic herb has long been used in Ayurvedic traditions. Adaptogens are a class of plants that support healthy levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Dysregulated levels of cortisol (high or low) may contribute to anxiety symptoms.
Extract from the roots and rhizomes of Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen that supports an increase in the body’s resistance to stress, which may help exhaustion and combat fatigue. This bright yellow-green plant is also known as golden root or roseroot. Like ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen herb. Rhodiola rosea can support calmness and relaxation as it helps to normalize the release of stress hormone and can support energy production in the body by activating ATP synthesis in the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
The genus Lavandula is native to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and southern Europe, through northern and eastern Africa and Middle Eastern countries to southwest Asia and southeast India. Most commonly, lavender is recommended for oral administration as a supplement in pill form. However, it is also employed in aromatherapy, as a tea, or as an essential oil. The main bioactives in lavender may affect glutamatergic NMDA as well as GABAA receptors, which may contribute to its calming effect on the body and ability to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Passiflora incarnata (purple passionflower) is an indigenous American vine with white and blue or purple flowers and edible fruit. Originally native to Peru, passionflower has spread throughout the world. It has been used traditionally to support symptoms of anxiety. Passionflower can have calming effects on individuals feeling restless and anxious. Researchers theorize that the antioxidant flavonoids have a GABA-inducing effect in the brain, which may help to calm brain activity.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) is a well-known plant species from the Asteraceae family. More than 120 chemical constituents have been identified in chamomile flowers, and some have been theorized to support feelings of anxiety. Chamomile is often taken as a tea but comes as a supplement in pill form as well.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has been used both historically and contemporarily to support mood and cognitive function. Research suggests lemon balm may support anxiety symptoms. Lemon balm can be administered as a supplement in a capsule or coated tablet, topically as a cream or oil, as an extract, or in a tea. These natural remedies have been used since at least the Middle Ages to encourage relaxation. Lemon balm may also be supporting in treating digestive issues and headaches.
While anxiety episodes are common all over the world, we luckily can support those struggling in a healthy, natural way.
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