While traditional treatment options for an anxiety disorder are always optimal for easing symptoms, they can come with consequences. Most notably, the prescription medication for anxiety treatment (i.e. Xanax, Valium) can be highly addictive and cause more problems than solutions.
For this reason, herbal alternatives have gained a massive amount of popularity in recent years.
Herbal alternatives are simply natural medications that have been used for thousands of years by other civilizations. While the effectiveness of these natural medicines varies, many claim to feel less side effects.
Throughout this article, we’re going to review a number of all-natural herbal alternatives for an anxiety disorder. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Warning About Herbal Alternatives
Before we begin, it’s important to understand that most herbal alternatives mentioned on our list do not have significant studies to back up claims that they can treat anxiety. The majority of studies mentioned throughout this article remain in the preliminary stages – in other words, more research is necessary to confirm these herbs effectiveness.
With that said, the herbal alternatives mentioned throughout this list should not be a final solution to your anxiety treatment. In fact, as traditional treatment recommends, anxiety is best tackled with medication alongside therapies. Therefore, we highly suggest you seek out a mental health professional while taking any of these alternatives.
Herbal Alternatives for Anxiety
For thousands of years, people have been using many of the herbs mentioned on this list to ease stress and calm the nerves. As Western society has become more suspicious of pharmaceutical medications, it’s also been adopting some of these century-old medicines.
We invite you to follow as we list off 6 all-natural herbal alternatives that have some evidence suggesting they can provide anxiety relief.
It’s important to note that if you are currently on prescription medication, whether for anxiety or not, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about taking herbal alternatives. While our list doesn’t detail this, some of these alternatives can negatively interact with certain medication.
Naturally found in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, kava kava (sometimes referred to as just kava) has been used as a ceremonial beverage in order to alter moods and alleviate stress.
In 2013, a placebo-controlled trial found that kava can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. Throughout a 6-week period, 75 participants were given one of three treatments; 120mg of kava, 240mg of kava, or a placebo. ¹
The study found that symptoms were reduced in both participants groups which took the kava in comparison to the placebo. The study also concluded that Kava was completely safe to take.
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that long-term kava usage could produce severe lung injury. ²
Unfortunately, this link between kava and liver injury remains unclear among scientists, as noted by the World Health Organization (WHO). With that said, more research is necessary before any connections can be made.
Still, due to the uncertainty, it’s in your best interest not to take kava in the long-term until more studies are produced.
The family of plants known as passionflower has nearly 550 different species. Certain species, such as P. incarnata, have been found to help treat symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness.
In a 2010 review, it was found that P. incarnata acted as an antianxiety medication comparable to benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax and Valium). ³ Currently, there are a number of P. incarnata products available in both a tablet or liquid form.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research outside of the one mentioned above. With that said, we do suggest looking into other, more concrete, alternative herbs before settling on passionflower.
Native to Europe and Asia, the valerian root has been used for centuries to help people with anxiety, depression, and sleep problems (i.e. insomnia).
Valerian root products are currently available in the following consumption methods:
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes that there remains inadequate evidence to conclude that valerian can help treat mental health conditions. ⁴ However, other studies have found that valerian root is safe to take and, therefore, worth the try.
It’s suggest that pregnant or lactating women along with children under the age of 3 should NOT take valerian root. Not to mention, due to its sleep-inducing outcome, people should not take valerian together with alcohol or other sedatives.
As a flowering herb that looks very much like a daisy, chamomile has been found to produce stress relief which can lead to anxiety. Upon a quick search, you’ll find chamomile comes in two variations, Roman chamomile and German chamomile. Either or will produce similar effects.
There are a variety of chamomile products currently on the market that can be consumed in a variety of different manners, including:
- Skin cream
In terms of the research, a 2016 clinical trial found that chamomile was an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The researchers gave a total of 93 participants a daily dose of 1,500mg of chamomile for 12 weeks. This was then followed by either the same dose for another 26 weeks or a placebo. ⁵
It was found that those who continued to take chamomile were much less likely to have a relapse of symptoms. And even when symptoms did appear, they were much less severe than before the chamomile treatment.
It’s important to note that some people may have an allergic reaction to chamomile. Especially, if you have a reaction to the following plants: ⁶
As a member of the mint family, many people have self-reported using lavender as a means of easing nerves and calming anxiety symptoms. Some of the most popular ways to take lavender include:
- Developing tea from lavender leaves
- Mixing lavender oil with a base oil for massage
- Placing the oil or flowers into a bath
- Using the oil in aromatherapy
While there aren’t many studies for the long-term effects of lavender on anxiety, many studies have suggested that it can be used for short-term treatment.
This is thanks to the fact that lavender essential oil (LEO) contains terpenes. A 2017 review article found that two of the terpenes found in LEO, linalool and linalyl, are prominent in relaxing the brain’s chemical receptors. ⁷
While cannabis remains a debated subject in terms of treating anxiety, many studies are producing evidence that it can help people. Most notably, the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD is one of over a hundred cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant and, when consumed, has a natural effect on our endocannabinoid system (ECS). One aspect people enjoy about CBD is the fact that it doesn’t produce psychoactivity – or a “high.”
Some studies concerning CBD as an anxiety treatment include:
- In 2011, Neuropsychopharmacology published a study that tested the effects of CBD on individuals with a social anxiety disorder. One group of participants were given CBD while another was given a placebo. They were then asked to participate in a simulated public speech. Those who were given the CBD showed significant decrease in both anxiety discomforts and overall discomfort. ⁸
- In 2015, Nature Reviews Neuroscience published a review of 48 separate studies that looking into CBD’s therapeutic effects on people with various anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It concluded that there was strong evidence that CBD can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. ⁹
CBD can be taken in a number of different ways – from edibles to tinctures to topicals. Being as the CBD market is currently blowing up, we highly suggest you do some more research to see how these products can benefit you.
Thinking Beyond Herbal Alternatives
While it can be beneficial to take herbal alternatives for anxiety, it helps to promote other healthy activities alongside these supplements. Such activities may include:
- Getting the right amount of sleep
- Proper diet
Remember, treating anxiety isn’t merely taking the right medicine. It’s promoting healthier habits for the sake of breaking the condition’s negative feedback loop.
By incorporating healthier habits with all-natural medicines, you have your best chance at overcoming symptoms in the long-term.
We understand that anxiety is a difficult condition to overcome. And trying to find the right solutions to this disease can feel like desperation.
It’s important to know that anxiety isn’t something that will be treated overnight. It’s something that takes time and effort.
We hope the herbal alternatives mentioned on this list will provide you with a healthier, all-natural medication. With our list, we also suggest you start developing healthy habits for the sake of promoting the benefits of these supplements.
Still have questions about herbal alternatives for anxiety?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further knowledge on this topic – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: Kava in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
² National Institutes of Health (NIH): FDA Issues Consumer Advisory for Dietary Supplements Containing Kava
³ Nutrition Journal (BMC): Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review
⁴ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): Valerian
⁵ National Library of Medicine: Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chomomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial
⁶ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): Chamomile
⁷ The Mental Health Clinician: Essential oil of lavender in anxiety disorders: Ready for prime time?
⁸ National Library of Medicine: Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by stimulated public speaking in treatment – naïve social phobia patients
⁹ Neurotherapeutics: Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders