- Try This: 25 Supplements for Anxiety
- How to treat anxiety naturally
- Herbal Remedies to Treat Anxiety Disorders
- 5. Polyherbal formulations
- 6 Natural Herbs for Anxiety to Calm You Down
- 5 Calming Herbs to Soothe Anxiety
- 19 of the Best Herbs and Supplements for Natural Anxiety Relief (Backed by Science)
- What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
- What are the Long-Term Effects of Anxiety?
- What Causes Anxiety?
- How to Get Rid of Anxiety
- What are the Best Herbs for Anxiety?
- Natural Supplements for Anxiety
- Protein-Rich Breakfast
- Regular Exercise
- Herbal Medicine
- CBD Oil, Gummies, and Treats
- Vitamin B-12, Omega-3, and More
- Lavender and Other Soothing Essential Oils
- Mind-Body Practices
- Meditation — Walking, Moving, or Guided
- More Sleep
- Studying Up
- 10 Ways to Naturally Reduce Anxiety
- 1. Stay active
- 2. Don’t drink alcohol
- 3. Stop smoking
- 4. Ditch caffeine
- 5. Get some sleep
- 6. Meditate
- 7. Eat a healthy diet
- 8. Practice deep breathing
- 9. Try aromatherapy
- 10. Drink chamomile tea
- Herbs For Anxiety: My Take As An Herbalist & Doctor
- 7 Herbs for Anxiety—Natural Alternatives To Anxiety Meds
- Guide to Herbal Medicine
- St John’s Wort
Try This: 25 Supplements for Anxiety
If you’re already eating a balanced diet, this type of supplementation may not be necessary. But if you know your diet is lacking key nutrients, dietary supplements may be the key to symptom relief.
Although dietary supplements aren’t a replacement for the food itself, they can help you get the nutrients you need while you get your diet back on track.
Your doctor can also help you identify or confirm any deficiencies, as well as offer information on dosage and overall dietary health.
1. Vitamin A
People with anxiety sometimes lack vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that’s been shown to help manage anxiety symptoms.
How to use: The average supplement dose is around 10,000 international units (IU), taken as a once-daily tablet.
B-complex supplements contain all the B vitamins that your body needs. Many are vital to a healthy nervous system. They may also help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
How to use: Label dosages for B-complexes containing all B vitamins may vary. On average, dosages range from 300 milligrams (mg) to close to 500 mg. Either dose may be taken as one tablet per day.
3. Vitamin C
Antioxidants like vitamin C can help prevent oxidative damage in your nervous system. Oxidative damage can increase anxiety.
How to use: The average supplement dose ranges from 500 to 1000 mg. This may be split across two tablets or taken as a once-daily tablet.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps the body absorb other vitamins. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to other vitamin deficiencies, which may compound anxiety and make it worse.
How to use: The average supplement dose may range from 1,000 to 2,000 IU. Either dose may be split across multiple tablets or taken as a once-daily tablet.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another antioxidant. Your body uses this nutrient up quickly in times of stress and anxiety. Supplemental vitamin E may help restore this balance and reduce your symptoms.
How to use: The average supplement dose is around 400 IU, taken as a once-daily tablet.
6. Fish oil
Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are antioxidants. Omega-3 supplements like EPA and DHA have been shown to help reduce anxiety.
How to use: The average supplement dose may contain up to 2,000 mg of combined EPA, ALA, and DHA. Each dose may be split across multiple tablets or taken as a once-daily tablet.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GAMMA) is an amino acid and neurotransmitter in the brain.
When there’s not enough GABA, anxiety can worsen. According to a 2015 review, supplements with GABA may help replace lost GABA, though more research is needed.
How to use: The average supplement dose can range from 500 to 750 mg. Either dose may be split across multiple tablets or taken as a once-daily tablet.
L-theanine is an amino acid. It’s a soothing property found in green tea.
A 2018 study showed it had antianxiety benefits in rats. A 2011 human study vouched for its calming benefits, too.
How to use: The average supplement dose is around 200 mg. This is usually taken as a once-daily tablet.
Magnesium is a necessary mineral for human health. Your body doesn’t need too much of it. But if you aren’t getting enough, magnesium deficiency may lead to anxiety symptoms.
How to use: The average supplement dose may range from 100 to 500 mg. Either dose may be taken as a once-daily tablet.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a neurotransmitter. It’s a precursor to serotonin. That’s the “happiness neurotransmitter” in the human brain.
A 2012 study found that 5-HTP supplements may help with anxiety. However, these are most effective only when used in certain therapies, and by recommendation from your doctor.
How to use: The average supplement dose may range from 50 to 200 mg. Either dose may be taken as a once-daily capsule.
How to treat anxiety naturally
Natural remedies are generally safe to use alongside more conventional medical therapies.
However, alterations to the diet and some natural supplements can change the way antianxiety medications work, so it is essential to consult a doctor before trying these solutions. The doctor may also be able to recommend other natural remedies.
Share on PinterestExercise may help to treat anxiety.
Exercise is a great way to burn off anxious energy, and research tends to support this use.
For example, a 2015 review of 12 randomized controlled trials found that exercise may be a treatment for anxiety. However, the review cautioned that only research of higher quality could determine how effective it is.
Exercise may also help with anxiety caused by stressful circumstances. Results of a 2016 study, for example, suggest that exercise can benefit people with anxiety related to quitting smoking.
Meditation can help to slow racing thoughts, making it easier to manage stress and anxiety. A wide range of meditation styles, including mindfulness and meditation during yoga, may help.
Mindfulness-based meditation is increasingly popular in therapy. A 2010 meta-analytic review suggests that it can be highly effective for people with disorders relating to mood and anxiety.
3. Relaxation exercises
Some people unconsciously tense the muscles and clench the jaw in response to anxiety. Progressive relaxation exercises can help.
Try lying in a comfortable position and slowly constricting and relaxing each muscle group, beginning with the toes and working up to the shoulders and jaw.
Finding a way to express anxiety can make it feel more manageable.
Some research suggests that journaling and other forms of writing can help people to cope better with anxiety.
A 2016 study, for example, found that creative writing may help children and teens to manage anxiety.
5. Time management strategies
Some people feel anxious if they have too many commitments at once. These may involve family, work, and health-related activities. Having a plan in place for the next necessary action can help to keep this anxiety at bay.
Effective time management strategies can help people to focus on one task at a time. Book-based planners and online calendars can help, as can resisting the urge to multitask.
Some people find that breaking major projects down into manageable steps can help them to accomplish those tasks with less stress.
Smelling soothing plant oils can help to ease stress and anxiety. Certain scents work better for some people than others, so consider experimenting with various options.
Lavender may be especially helpful. A 2012 study tested the effects of aromatherapy with lavender on insomnia in 67 women aged 45–55. Results suggest that the aromatherapy may reduce the heart rate in the short term and help to ease sleep issues in the long term.
7. Cannabidiol oil
Share on PinterestCBD oil comes from the marijuana plant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a derivative of the cannabis, or marijuana, plant.
Unlike other forms of marijuana, CBD oil does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the substance that creates a “high.”
CBD oil is readily available without a prescription in many alternative healthcare shops. Preliminary research suggests that it has significant potential to reduce anxiety and panic.
In areas where medical marijuana is legal, doctors may also be able to prescribe the oil.
8. Herbal teas
Many herbal teas promise to help with anxiety and ease sleep.
Some people find the process of making and drinking tea soothing, but some teas may have a more direct effect on the brain that results in reduced anxiety.
Results of a small 2018 trial suggest that chamomile can alter levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
9. Herbal supplements
Like herbal teas, many herbal supplements claim to reduce anxiety. However, little scientific evidence supports these claims.
It is vital to work with a doctor who is knowledgeable about herbal supplements and their potential interactions with other drugs.
10. Time with animals
Pets offer companionship, love, and support. Research published in 2018 confirmed that pets can be beneficial to people with a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety.
While many people prefer cats, dogs, and other small mammals, people with allergies will be pleased to learn that the pet does have to be furry to provide support.
A 2015 study found that caring for crickets could improve psychological health in older people.
Spending time with animals can also reduce anxiety and stress associated with trauma. Results of a 2015 systematic review suggest that grooming and spending time with horses can alleviate some of these effects.
Herbal Remedies to Treat Anxiety Disorders
5. Polyherbal formulations
In Ayurveda, compound formulations are generally used in the therapy as the combination of many drugs provides a synergistic therapeutic effect and also includes ingredients which help to minimize the adverse effects of few other major drugs. A recent study demonstrated adaptogenic potential of a compound natural health product which had Withania as the main herb in an open label human trial. An open-label and uncontrolled clinical trial evaluated the impact of OCTA© on known parameters of stress (OCTA©, an aqueous-based liquid herbal preparation consisting of eight herbs as follows: W. somnifera, Lagerstroemia speciosa, Bacopa monniera, Zizyphus jujuba, Morinda citrifolia, Punica granatum, Shisandrae chinensis and Lycium barbarum) (Seely and Singh, 2007). Another herbal formulation, Sumind is (Ayurvedic nomenclature and the quantity of each ingredient are given in parentheses), Nardostachys atamans (Jatamansi), Acorus calamus (Vacha), Celastrus paniculata (Jyotishmati), Convolvulus microphyllus (Shankapushpi), Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi), Withania somnifera (Ashwagadha), Valerian wallichii (Tagara), Eclipta alba (Bhringaraja). Sumind showed antidepressant activity as indicated by reduced immobility time in rats subjected to swim stress. It also restored biogenic amine levels to normal levels and reduced corticosterone levels in stressed rats (Nanjappa et al., 2007).
Mentat (BR-16A) is an herbal medication contains 20 different ingredients. The main herbs present in the mentat are Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Mandookparni (Centella asiatica). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Shankhapuspi (Evolvulus alsinoides), Tagar (Valeriana wallichi). Vach (Acorus calamus), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Malkangni (Celastrus paniculatus), Kuth (Saussurea lappa) Amla (Embelica officinalis), Terminalia chebula and Terminalia belerica. Some of these plants namely, B. monnieri, C. asiatica, W. somnifera, N. jatamansi, E. alsinoides, V. wallichi, A. calamus, T. cordifolia and C. paniculatus, have been classified in Ayurveda as Medharasayanas and claimed to improve memory and intellect (Sharma, 1978). Polyherbal formulations are generally used in Ayurveda, based on the concept that such combinations provide synergistic therapeutic effect. Mice show a natural aversion to open and high spaces and therefore, spend more time in enclosed arms. Mice receiving chronic treatment with BR-16A-Mentat (100 mg/kg) followed by ethanol failed to show any withdrawal-induced anxiety. There was a significant decrease in the time spent in closed arms. The duration and the number of entries in open arms increased significantly as compared with the ethanol withdrawn group (Kulkarni and Verma, 1993b). Also, the anti-stress effect of mentat was evident against social isolation-induced stress in mice (Kumar and Kulkarni, 2006).
Agrawal et al. (1990a,b) reported that BR-16A improves memory parameters and decreases anxiety parameters in normal volunteers. Also, mentat (BR-16) brought about marked improvement in memory in all age groups and caused decrease in anxiety level and neuroticism index (Agrawal et al., 1991). Mentat in the form of syrup was given to patients of anxiety neurosis and depression in a placebo controlled study. Both anxiety and depressive patients showed memory impairment and also increased fatiguability. 3 month treatment with Mentat improved memory and decreased fatiguability in these patients (Sharma et al., 1990). Psychological problems like stress, anxiety and depression play an important role in the prognosis, quality of life as well as the survival rate of cancer patients. Treatment with mentat in cancer patients reduced stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms (Durgesh Kumar, 2000).
Another polyherbal formulation Geriforte showed significant anxiolytic effect in clinical studies. Geriforte contains Chyavanprash concentrate and the extracts of Asparagus adscendens, Withania somnifera, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Centella asiatica, Mucuna pruriens, Shilajeet, Asparagus racemosus, Terminalia arjuna, Makardhwaj and Piper longum, besides some others. An earlier open study demonstrated the beneficial effects of Geriforte in anxiety patients as per DSM III R criteria. There was significant reduction in the total Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) score at the end of four weeks (Boral et al., 1989; Shah et al., 1990). Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study authors have observed improvement in HARS scores in patients of mixed anxiety-depression following 4 weeks of Geriforte treatment in comparison with placebo (Shah et al., 1993; Upadhyaya et al., 1990). Preclinical studies show that Geriforte stimulates antioxidant defense system in both mice and rats (Vandana et al., 1998). Various studies have demonstrated the efficacy of Geriforte as an anti-stress adaptogen. The prolongation of survival time and prevention of stress-induced changes in adrenals, prevention of stress-induced ulcers and milk-induced leucocytosis, indicate the anti-stress properties of Geriforte (Singh et al., 1978).
Another common polyherbal formulation Euphytose, which is a combination of six extracts: Crataegus, Ballota, Passiflora and Valeriana, which have mild sedative effects, and Cola and Paullinia, which mainly act as mild stimulants. Euphytose reduced HAMA scores in outpatients with adjustment disorder with anxious mood in multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (Bourin et al., 1997).
Recent preclinical studies have shown anxiolytic activity of several herbal drugs. Securidaca longepedunculata is a savannah shrub commonly used by traditional medicine practitioners in Nigeria. The aqueous root extract of Securidaca longepedunculata showed anxiolytic activity in the elevated plus maze (EPM) by significantly increasing time spent in the open arms as compared to control (Adeyemi et al., 2010). Another herbal medicine yokukansan improved age related anxiety in the open filed and EPM (Mizoguchi et al., 2010). Petiveria alliacea L has been traditionally used in South America and Brazil for anxiety and whole plant extract of Petiveria alliacea caused anxiolytic-like effects in mice subjected to the EPM (Blainski et al., 2010). Cirsium rivulare (Jacq.) All. (Asteraceae) is an herbaceous perennial plant traditionally used in Polish folk medicine to treat anxiety. In a recent study, methanolic extracts from flowers and leaves of Cirsium rivulare produced anxiolytic activity in the EPM. Extract from flowers in addition to its anxiolytic effects, improves memory of the appetitively and aversively motivated tasks (Walesiuk et al., 2010). In Brazil, Erythrina mulungu and Erythrina velutina (Fabaceae) are widely used as a tranquilizer and/or sedative, and their extract exerts an anxiolytic-like effect profile in animal models. In herbal medicine, a leaf or bark decoction or tincture from mulungu is considered to calm agitation and other disorders of the nervous system, including insomnia and depression. Chronic Erythrina mulungu exerted anxiolytic effect in the elevated T maze inhibitory avoidance and in the light/dark transition model (Onusic et al., 2003). Erythrina velutina administration increased the percentage of open arm entries in the elevated plus maze (Raupp et al., 2008). No clinical data is available to substantiate anxiolytic effect of these herbs.
Our own studies have demonstrated the role of different herbs and herbal formulations namely Euphorbia hirta, Celastrus paniculatus Willd and Sumind in amelioration of anxiety, depression, cognitive deficits and associated neurodegeneration in these disorders (Anuradha et al., 2008; 2010; Nanjappa et al., 2007). Recent studies have shown that treatments with the crude extract of Astragalus membranaceus reduced repeated stress induced anxiety and memory loss (Park et al., 2009). In similar lines, our previous work demonstrated that Euphorbia hirta (Eh) reverses chronic immobilization stress-induced anxiety behavior in elevated plus maze and open field test. Extracts of Eh Linn have been found to possess central analgesic, antipyretic, anti-inﬂammatory properties in addition to its central antidepressant, sedative and anxiolytic effects (Lanhers et al., 1990; Lanhers et al., 1991; Johnson et al., 1999). The anxiolytic activity of this drug has been established in mice subjected to two-compartment, staircase and light/dark choice situation tests (Lanhers et al., 1990). Euphorbia hirta produces its anxiolytic effect in an animal model of chronic stress through GABAA receptor-benzodiazepine receptor-Cl− channel complex. Eh also appears to mediate its anxiolytic action through this complex since all of the three antagonists, ﬂumazenil, bicuculline and picrotoxin inhibited Eh-induced increase in open arm exploration and also recovered the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity in discrete regions of the brain (Anuradha et al., 2008; 2010).
Celastrus paniculatus Willd has been known for centuries as “the elixir of life”. Ayurveda describes drug the Jyotishmati (Celastrus paniculata) as early as 1500BC in Charaka samhita (the most ancient and authoritative text book of ayurveda) for diseases of the brain and as buddhiprada (enhancing intellect), smritiprada (enhancing memory). Jyotishmati translates as Jyoti and mati (enlightens intellect). Celastrus paniculatus (CP), a plant belonging to Celastraceae was in use from time immemorial to treat brain related disorders and to enhance learning and memory. CP treated rats exhibited a significantly increased learning curve compared with vehicle treated animals in the avoidance paradigm (Karanth et al., 1980). In another study, rats treated daily with 850 mg/kg of CP oil for 15 days exhibited a significant improvement in their retention time in a two-way passive avoidance task. CP also produced a significant decrease in the content of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin and certain of their respective metabolites in the brain (Nalini et al., 1995). Previous findings indicate that the aqueous extract of CP seed has cognitive-enhancing properties and an antioxidant effect might be involved (Kumar and Gupta, 2002). CP enhanced learning and memory in naïve rats when tested in a partially baited radial arm maze task by altering acetyl cholinesterase activity in the hippocampus and frontal cortex (Lekha et al., 2010a). Acute and chronic immobilisation-induced oxidative stress was restored back to normal after CP oil treatment (Lekha et al., 2010b). Recently we have demonstrated that chronic stress-induced learning impairment in radial arm maze task was restored by chronic CP oil treatment. The behavioural recovery was associated with restoration of both hippocampal long-term potentiation and cholinergic activity. This opens up the possibility of developing novel agents from nature to enhance synaptic plasticity as a means of treating a variety of psychiatric diseases, including depression (Unpublished data). An in vitro study has demonstrated neuroprotective effect of CP water extract in forebrain primary neuronal cell cultures. Pre-treatment of neuronal cells with CP-water extract significantly attenuated glutamate-induced neuronal death. Also, CP significantly and reversibly inhibited whole-cell NMDA currents (Godkar et al., 2004).
6 Natural Herbs for Anxiety to Calm You Down
All of us have been anxious at some point in our lives. As a working mother of two children, there are numerous occasions on a day to day basis, when I feel stressed or worried or find myself in a panic mode. It could be a a daily chore, meeting a deadline in office or my daughter’s exam stress, the first warning signal that my body gives me is that annoying pain in my neck threatening to move to a full blown headache. I know then that I need to relax. Having been averse to popping pills all my life, there are a few natural remedies that have worked wonders for me. Whether it is an anxiety attack or just causal nervousness, herbs have been known to have a calming effect. Below is a list of six natural herbs that provide relief from stress and anxiety.
Ginger is an aromatic herb that has long been used in traditional healing systems as a natural remedy for anxiety. The presence of Gingerol, an antioxidant, helps to counteract the harmful chemicals that our body produces when we are stressed. Stress can sometimes lead to an upset stomach since the production of stomach acids crucial for digestion gets hampered. Ginger comes to the rescue by stimulating the stomach acid production too. How to use?
Enjoy a cup of hot ginger tea by boiling 1 teaspoon of chopped ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain and add 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for taste.
Chamomile has been used since ages by ancient Greeks and Romans as an herbal remedy for its calming effect. Recent studies have shown that chamomile is not only a relaxing herb but it also helps to reduce anxiety. Much of chamomile’s relaxing qualities are due to phenolics such as flavonoids, quinones, phenolic acids, and other antioxidant compounds present within the plant. It also helps to reduce stress related loss of appetite and headaches.
How to use?
Mix 2 teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers in 2 cups of hot water and let it infuse for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain and enjoy. You can even add honey to sweeten it.
( Also read : 13 Incredible Chamomile Tea Benefits For Skin, Hair and Overall Health:Drink It Up)
Ashwagandha is a rejuvenating herb that helps the body cope with physical and emotional stress. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, ashwagandha helps to lower the levels of cortisol or the stress hormone. Cortisol levels can shoot up when a person is under stress. This causes other hormones and neurotransmitters to become unbalanced, leading to symptoms like anxiety, depression, and poor sleep. Regular intake of ashwagandha can make one feel less stressed and mentally calm.
How to use?
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of ashwagandha powder in a glass of warm milk and consume about half an hour before going to bed at night.
( Also read : 4 Magical Herbs To Keep You Healthy This Monsoon )
Brahmi has potent anti-anxiety properties. It is known to increase the levels of serotonin – a brain chemical that helps to promote relaxation. It has a unique ability to improve cognitive function as well as helps the body cope with stress. It induces a sense of peace and soothes restlessness. It serves as a mild sedative, but instead of dulling the mind it enhances mental clarity and focus.
How to use?
Heat 1/2 cup of milk or water and 1/2 tsp of brahmi powder for about 3 minutes. Let the mixture infuse for 2-3 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey if required.
Lavender is a herb that has been used since centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety and nervousness. The most common use of lavender is in the form of lavender essential oil for aromatherapy. Studies have shown that a massage using lavender oil not only reduces anxiety levels but also instills positivity in the participants. Lavender is believed to act as a sedative in the centres associated with emotions in the brain, thereby reducing the feelings and stress and anxiety. It also reduces the levels of cortisol – the stress hormone.
How to use?
Add 2 to 4 drops of lavender oil in 2 to 3 cups of boiling water and inhale the vapours. You can also mix 1 to 4 drops of lavender essential oil with almond or olive oil and then use it for massaging or to apply it over the pulse points on your body.
Chronic stress may lead to inflammation and an increase in free radicals and oxidative stress. Tulsi enhances the level and activity of antioxidants which safely interact with these free radicals and fight their negative effects. Modern scientific studies suggest that Tulsi is effective in treating anxiety and stress. However, Ayurveda recommends using Tulsi on a regular basis as a preventive measure to help the body adapt to both psychological and physical stress and prevent the development of stress-related diseases.
How to use?
Combine 1/4 cup of tulsi leaves and 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Mix well and simmer on medium flame for 10 minutes. Strain and add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Serve warm. In case, you want to use Tulsi powder – boil 1 cup of water and pour it over 1/3 teaspoon of Tulsi powder. Let it steep for 20 minutes.Then, strain and add add honey if desired.
(Also read: 10 Best Hot Beverages)
About the Author:
With over 7 years of experience in the organic industry, Priya is a strong believer of using healthy and natural alternatives. She passionately advises her friends, family and customers by sharing with them practical and easy ways to include healthy alternatives in their daily life.
The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
5 Calming Herbs to Soothe Anxiety
Healing herbs have played a part in both traditional and non-traditional forms of medicine dating back at least 5000 years. They have been used by physicians and healers of various cultures and civilizations throughout time to soothe the nervous system and protect the body from stress and anxiety. Whether you have a full-blown anxiety disorder or just fleeting moments of unease, you might benefit from experimenting with calming herbs — taken either as a supplement, consumed in tea, or used in aromatherapy.
In the last few months, I have combined a few of the herbs below in my tea when my anxiety peaks throughout the day and also as a sleep aid before I go to bed at night. I am not advocating that you use herbs to replace anxiety medication. However, they can be a nice supplement to what you’re already taking. For mild symptoms, they may be all you need. As always, please consult with your doctor to make sure they don’t interfere with any medications and are safe for you to use.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs and is used to treat a variety of human ailments such as hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids. Widely regarded as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-inducer, its sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity as evidenced in a study with sleep-disturbed rats. In a study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to the patients taking placebos. Chamomile is used extensively in cosmetics and aromatherapy and is popular in the form of herbal tea — more than one million cups per day are consumed!
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia or Lavandula officinalis), which is known for its beautiful fragrance, has been used as a remedy for a range of ailments from insomnia and fatigue to depression and anxiety. The name lavender comes from the Latin root lavare, which means “to wash,” possibly named for its popular use in baths—an ingredient in soaps and shampoos–to help purify the body and spirit. In a 2010 double-blind randomized study, lavender was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (Ativan). In another study, the use of lavender essential oil helped reduce test-taking anxiety among graduate nursing students.
Native Americans are the first people known to use passionflower (Passiflora incarnate or “maypop”) for medicinal purposes. It was originally used primarily to treat the conditions of “restlessness” or “hysteria;” settlers across America spread its use as a sedative. Researchers believe passionflower works by increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which lowers the activity of some brain cells and makes you feel more relaxed. In one study published by in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, passionflower was as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms of anxiety in people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). While it didn’t work as quickly as oxazepam, it produced less impairment on job performance than the drug. Another study showed that patients who were given passionflower before surgery had less anxiety than those given a placebo, but they recovered from anesthesia just as quickly.
4. Lemon Balm
Lemon balms (Melissa officinalis) is a member of the mint family and has been used as far back as the Middle Ages to combat stress and anxiety, promote sleep, and improve digestion. Used with other calming herbs, studies show that it can be an effective sedative, soothing anxiety and aiding sleep. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 18 healthy volunteers received two separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or placebo for seven days. The 600 mg dose of lemon balm increased mood and significantly increased calmness and alertness. Another study documented the effectiveness of a lemon balm along with other herbal preparations to reduce anxiety. When the participants used the lozenges, they demonstrated marked increases in alpha wave activities that are associated with relaxation.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been used since the second century to treat insomnia and anxiety, although it became popular in Europe during the 17th century. Scientists believe that, like other calming herbs, valerian increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, similar to drugs like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) which relaxes the brain. The studies on Valerian as a sleep aid are inconclusive. In one study, Valerian was not shown to be appreciably better than placebo in promoting sleep or sleep-related factors for any individual patient or for all patients as a group. However, in another randomized, double-blind study, 75 participants with documented insomnia received either 600 mg. of valerian extract or 10 mg. of oxazepam for 28 days. Those who took Valerian had the same improvement in sleep with fewer side effects as the oxazepam group.
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19 of the Best Herbs and Supplements for Natural Anxiety Relief (Backed by Science)
Table of Contents
Most people experience anxiety at one time or another. Whether it’s a bad case of butterflies before your next dental cleaning or loss of sleep because you’re worrying about work.
Having anxious thoughts every now and again is normal, but if it’s stopping you from making the most out of your life, it’s time to do something about it.
What the experts say: “Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric illnesses in the United States, with approximately 30% of the population experiencing anxiety symptoms in their lifetime.” Aviva Rom MD
Anti-anxiety medications can be addictive and have unpleasant side effects and therapy can be costly if uninsured. So if you want to know how to reduce anxiety naturally to improve your overall sense of well-being, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are a number of effective options.
Modern medical research has revealed that there are a number of safe, effective herbs for anxiety relief — many of which have been used for centuries, dating back to our ancient ancestors.
In this article, we’ll combine ancient wisdom with modern medical research to share the very best herbs and supplements for natural anxiety relief. Once you’ve learned about these natural remedies, we’ll share some proven lifestyle habits that can help bring you the relief you’ve been looking for.
So, if you’re looking for natural anxiety relief, read on. We may have the answer for you.
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?
Before we get started, a short primer on anxiety.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts. This psychological condition can also result in physical changes such as increased blood pressure.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) define the most common anxiety symptoms as:
- Nervousness or irritability
- A sense of impending danger
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperventilation, sweating or trembling
- Feeling weak or tired
- Concentration difficulties
- Gastrointestinal problems
What are the Long-Term Effects of Anxiety?
We all feel anxious sometimes. In fact, it’s helpful to have a rush of adrenaline every now and again to get you through a difficult situation. But long-lasting chronic (routine and long-lasting) anxiety is not healthy.
Chronic anxiety can result in stress which means there’s too much cortisol (the stress hormone) racing around your system. This can affect you emotionally and physically, increase your risk of heart disease, digestive and bowel problems, immune system deficiencies, respiratory issues, insomnia, and depression.
What Causes Anxiety?
In order to treat your anxiety symptoms, it’s important to understand the root cause.
While your source of anxiety may be different than mine, the APA cites these factors as the most common causes of anxiety:
- Past or childhood experiences – such as abuse, neglect or the loss of a parent
- Lifestyle choices – such as long working hours, stress, and financial problems
- Physical and mental health problems – including living with an ongoing medical disorder, or mental health issue such as depression
- Drugs and medication – side effects from meds for physical or mental disorders, or from recreational drugs or alcohol
Indeed, there are many factors that can lead to anxiety, but whatever the root cause may be, rest assured there are plenty of proven options to help give you the relief you’ve been looking for.
How to Get Rid of Anxiety
Traditionally, anxiety has been treated with drugs such as the benzodiazepines Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
These drugs can be highly addictive and some people experience a wide-range of side-effects. There is also evidence to show they can impact your cognitive function in the short and long term.
Also – although these drugs may help reduce your symptoms in the short term, they don’t address the cause of your anxiety so they may not be a long-term fix.
If you’re considering trying an anti-anxiety medication, make sure to consult with your doctor. These medications may be the best option for some individuals, but if you’re looking for safe, natural alternatives to overcoming anxiety, then keep reading because we’re about to dive right into the very best options.
What are the Best Herbs for Anxiety?
All the anti-anxiety herbs in this list have been rigorously tested and proven to be effective treatments.
Herbal supplements that help with anxiety are often available as essential oils, but sometimes they are taken orally as a capsule or a herbal tincture. A tincture is a concentrated extract of the herb which can be taken directly, dropped into water or added to health drinks for convenience.
Lavender is known for its beautiful flowers and fragrance and is widely used in aromatherapy. But did you know that it’s proven to be one of the best herbal remedies for anxiety?
Studies have shown that the effects of lavender are comparable with benzodiazepines – but without the side effects. Scientists think that lavender may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by acting as a mild sedative on the central nervous system and promoting relaxation.
A 2005 study found that being exposed to the scent of lavender reduced anxiety in dental patients.
Lavender is available as a pill or essential oil to promote calm during the day and aid sleep at night.
It is commonly taken as tea, but if you prefer you can take a dose of lavender oil (80 mg a day), drop it into a diffuser, pop a few drops on your pillow or a relaxing bath or anoint your temples and wrists.
If you are pregnant, you should only use lavender externally, although it is safe to take it internally while breastfeeding.
There is some evidence that lavender can have estrogenic effects, so if you have a history of estrogen receptor positive cancer, consult with your doctor beforehand.
Other potential side-effects of taking lavender orally include headaches, constipation, low blood pressure, and an increase in the sedative effect of other supplements and medications.
The average dosage in supplement form is 400 mg, either taken once or split across two capsules a day.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is known to contain phytochemicals that have a powerful inflammatory effect and have been shown to reduce the symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
This bright yellow herb is often used in Indian dishes, but can also be added to soups and stews and taken as a tea or a supplement.
To get the best health benefits of curcumin, you really need to use a quality supplement as you’d need to eat a lot of curry to get a high enough dosage, and curcumin is not easily absorbed into the bloodstream unless it has been optimized for absorption.
While curcumin is safe for most people, it can inhibit some drugs such as anticoagulants, aspirin and Warfarin, and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or diclofenac. It’s also not recommended for people with some health conditions such as diabetes, iron deficiencies or bleeding conditions. It is not recommended for pregnant women.
If you have an existing health condition always consult with your doctor before starting any program of supplementation.
A regular dosage of curcumin is 500 mg daily, but studies have shown that taking 500 mg twice a day is effective for anxiety.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find that medicinal mushrooms are growing in popularity. Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi are adaptogens – a class of herbs with a long history in Chinese traditional medicine that help you adapt to stress by regulating the response of the adrenal glands.
Reishi is one of the best calming herbal medicines and is particularly useful if you take it at night to aid sleep.
One study found that the use of reishi reduced symptoms of anxiety in patients with breast cancer.
While you are unlikely to experience side-effects from taking reishi, it should be noted that there is very little safety data available. It is not advised to take reishi while pregnant, breastfeeding, if you have a bleeding disorder, low blood pressure or are about to have surgery.
The normal dosage is 3-9 g dried mushroom in capsules, or 2-4 ml tincture in water, 2-3 times a day.
The ancient Ayurvedic remedy, ashwagandha – translates as “smell of horse” – is another specific adaptogen, traditionally used to treat anxiety and aging, and to boost energy.
Studies have suggested ashwagandha could reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
This may be because it works with your adrenal gland to balance anxiety hormones, help you to relax, and promote sleep.
A 2012 study of 64 people in the U.S. compared supplementing with 300 mg of ashwagandha or placebo for 60 days. The results showed that the study group had significantly improved anxiety scores and reduced cortisol levels over the control group.
If you are prone to insomnia, ashwagandha can help you sleep if taken at bedtime.
Ashwagandha can be taken in capsules (500-1000 mg twice a day) or 2-4 ml tincture twice daily.
A well-known gentle and effective anxiety remedy, chamomile can help treat digestive problems, reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and promote healthy sleep.
A 2012 study reported that chamomile had a positive effect on subjects with mild symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
Chamomile is safe while breastfeeding and pregnant. If you take blood-thinning drugs, consult your doctor before taking chamomile as it might interact with them. Also be careful if you have an allergy to plants such as daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums, as chamomile can cause an allergic reaction.
Human studies suggest that the average daily dose is 350-500 mg, either taken once or split across two doses a day. The benefits can be enjoyed either in tablet form or in a calming mug of chamomile tea.
Known as “the gladdening herb” because of it’s mood-enhancing properties, lemon balm is a cousin of lavender. It has been used for centuries to calm anxiety and for its sedative properties.
Studies have shown that lemon balm can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, reduce stress and promote sleep.
Lemon balm can be taken on its own – an average daily supplement contains 500 mg – but is normally included in herbal tea preparations. It can make you sleepy, so it’s a good idea to take it at night.
Native to Peru, passionflower has long been used as a herbal remedy for anxiety. The results of clinical trials have confirmed that passion flower could be a very effective anxiety treatment.
One study carried out in 2017, found that passionflower was as effective as Midazolam, a prescription anxiety medication, in patients having third molars (wisdom teeth) extracted.
Passionflower is generally safe, but as it’s a sedative it’s best to use it at night, especially to help you sleep after a busy day. Passionflower shouldn’t be used in conjunction with any other sedative drugs, supplements or herbs.
The average daily dose is 500 mg, taken once daily or split across two tablets.
The native Alpine plant rhodiola – golden root or roseroot – is another adaptogen herb that has been used for centuries to calm the nerves, control stress, and treat anxiety.
Although more research is needed, one study, reported in Phytotherapy Research, found that supplementing with rhodiola once a day for 14 days reduced symptoms of anxiety, stress, anger, confusion, and depression and improved overall mood.
The usual dosage is 500 mg, either taken once a day or split across two tablets.
Better known as a sleep remedy, there is some evidence that Valerian root can benefit people with anxiety and stress by promoting relaxation.
A small study of 36 participants with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, found that valerian was an effective anti-anxiety treatment, but concluded that large-scale studies are needed to confirm this.
Although valerian has been used since Roman and Greek times, there have been no long term safety trials, so scientists don’t yet know the effects of taking it for long periods. Because of this. it’s usually recommended to take it for a few weeks only.
Valerian has been shown to cause headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness in some people.
Valerian root has a very distinctive (unpleasant) smell, so it is usually taken in supplement form. The average daily supplement is 500 mg, either taken once or split across two tablets.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava Kava, a plant native to the Pacific islands, is often sold as a rescue remedy for people experiencing panic attacks or raised levels of anxiety because of an event such as flying or an exam.
A study published in 2016 suggested that kavain, the major constituent of kava kava, targets the GABA receptors that manage anxiety, relaxing muscles, helping you focus, and promoting the body’s natural defenses against stress.
A 2011 study suggested that combining kava kava with HRT works better than HRT alone in the treatment of menopause-induced anxiety.
Another study, published in Phytomedicine, found that kava kava was as effective as the anti-anxiety meds Buspirone and Opipramol in treating patients with a generalized anxiety disorder.
Kava kava can affect people differently and take time to work, so start with 3-5 drops and wait half an hour before taking any more.
Some years ago, the FDA issued warnings about the use of kava kava because there was some evidence that it caused liver damage. The evidence has since been questioned and kava kava is now considered safe, but it’s a good idea to seek advice from your doctor if you have a history of liver disease.
Kava kava can be taken as a capsule or a herbal tincture. The average daily dosage in a supplement is 250 mg either once a day or split across two tablets. You should not drink alcohol while taking kava kava.
Another Ayurvedic remedy, bacopa is a herb that studies have shown can reduce levels of the stress-hormone cortisol and improve mood. Scientists say that bacopa can protect neurons and help keep your brain healthy.
The average daily dose of bacopa is 500 mg, either taken once a day or split between two tablets.
This herb is usually associated with depression, but according to one study it may also be useful for general anxiety as well as depression-related anxiety symptoms.
The average daily dosage of St John’s Wort is 300 mg, but it should not be taken alongside other anti-anxiety meds.
Natural Supplements for Anxiety
Herbs aren’t the only method of treating anxiety naturally. You might want to consider the following supplements, vitamins and minerals which have been proven to be effective, complementary anxiety remedies.
B-complex vitamins are vital for a healthy brain and nervous system. Increasing your intake may help reduce symptoms of anxiety by beating stress, balancing blood sugar, and stabilizing your mood.
Vitamin B12 is particularly effective for treating chronic stress, mood disorders, and depression. Studies show that supplementing with B12 can improve concentration, boost energy, and promote a healthy nervous system.
The usual daily dose of B-complex vitamins is 1,000 micrograms daily.
People who live in cooler climates are often deficient in the sunshine nutrient, vitamin D. This hard-working vitamin is essential for the absorption of other nutrients from your diet and a deficiency may cause anxiety.
Vitamin D tablets can contain 1000-2000 IU, which can be taken in one dose, or split up during the day.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are antioxidants and essential to the health of your brain cells. Increasing the amount of oily fish you eat or taking a quality fish oil supplement daily could help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
In one study, medical students who were given 2.5 mg omega-3 supplements per day had less anxiety in an exam that the control group.
It is possible to get enough fish oil by eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines 2-3 times a week but you must make sure the fish is wild-caught and additive-free. Alternatively, fish oil products contain up to 2000 mg of omega-3 oils.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an essential amino acid for the brain as it calms the nervous system and helps you to relax. Medicines such as Valium work by triggering the GABA in your brain. GABA is also used to promote sleep.
Studies suggest supplementing with GABA may help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
The average daily dose of GABA is 500-750 mg daily, either once a day or split into multiple tablets.
L-theanine is the amino acid found in green tea. It is known to slow down a your heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Unlike many anxiety treatments, L-theanine is not a sedative so it can be taken during the day without making you feel sleepy.
One study reported that subjects who were prone to anxiety had reduced symptoms when they took 200 mg L-theanine before a test.
A 2011 study found that L-theanine can calm patients with schizophrenia.
In order to get the average daily dose of 200 mg, you’d need to drink between 5 and 20 cups of green tea a day, which is why many people opt to take a supplement instead.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for a healthy brain and one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. Some studies suggest that up to 75% of people are deficient in magnesium.
Anxiety is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium has a whole host of benefits for your brain including:
- Helping your nervous system to relax, resulting in better sleep
- Reducing inflammation which can cause anxiety as well as a range of other health problems
- Stimulating GABA receptors
- Restricting the release of stress hormones and stopping them from entering the brain
- Promoting neuroplasticity – the ability for brain cells to heal, regenerate and form new neural connections throughout life – very important for the treatment of anxiety disorders
- Keeping blood sugar stable – fluctuations in blood sugar can cause anxiety
The average daily dose of magnesium is 200-400 mg.
Look for forms of magnesium such as citrate, diglycinate, or gluconate for best absorption (avoid magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride, as they often have unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects).
The neurotransmitter 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is one of the most reliable dietary, non-drug options for the production of the happiness hormone, serotonin and can help calm anxiety by reducing symptoms such as moodiness, headaches, and insomnia.
The average daily dose of 5-HTP can range between 50 and 200 mg. You should not take 5-HTP in conjunction with any other anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants.
Other Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally
As well as finding an effective homeopathic remedy for anxiety, you might benefit from these techniques to reduce your symptoms.
Feel energized, release endorphins and work through your stress by getting regular exercise.
Take a deep breath (or three) – Deep breathing can fill your body with oxygen, slow your heart beat, and reduce blood pressure. Try Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 technique – exhale completely, breathe in through your nose to the count of four, hold for 7 and breathe out through your mouth for 8. Repeat three times.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure.
The best thing about meditation is it can be practiced anywhere at any time and is a good way to calm anxiety quickly. If you need help getting started, download a mindfulness meditation app.
Eat a brain-healthy diet – An anxiety attack might be a sign your blood sugar is dropping. Eat healthy, energy-boosting snacks such as walnuts, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter or a boiled egg which is full of energy-busting choline. Make sure you eat a balanced diet full of brain-foods like omega-3 rich fatty fish, green leafy vegetables, and healthy whole foods.
Take a warm bath or jump in the sauna
Raising your body temperature can ease aching muscles and reduce anxiety by altering the neural circuits that control mood, including boosting the happiness-hormone serotonin.
Spend time in nature
Studies prove what the Japanese have always known, taking a forest-bath – Shinrin-yoku – or spending 20 minutes walking in the woods can boost your mood by reducing the amount of stress hormones coursing around your body.
Get a good night’s sleep
Insomnia can be both a cause and a symptom of anxiety. Busy workloads, demands of family and social lives, and constant interruptions from cell phones and devices, can all make a good night’s sleep seem like an impossible task.
Practice good sleep hygiene
With dozens of books on the topic, sleep is one of the main ways to take care of your mental health and relieve emotional pain or distress. Switch off devices an hour before bedtime and ban them from the bedroom, avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day and engage in calming activities before bed such as a warm bath or listening to music. Making sleep a priority can help you feel more balanced and content during the day.
Detach from Screens and Social Media
Technology and electronic screens are vying for our attention at every second of every day. Remaining “plugged in” and paying too much attention to the flashy social media posts of others can distort your sense of self-worth and leave you constantly comparing the real-life you live to the lives of those on the internet. Take some time every day to put down your phone, skip checking email for the umpteenth time, shut the laptop, and allow yourself to rest during moments of quiet solitude. Sitting with your own thoughts while sheltering yourself from digital inputs is a powerful way to declutter the mind of anxious thoughts.
Anxiety is different in every single person. There is a wide range of causes, symptoms, and treatments so it’s important to find out what works for you.
Science shows that natural herbs for anxiety work effectively, as do quality supplements and other lifestyle techniques.
Photo: Madeleine Steinbach/Getty Images/iStockphoto
As the modernization of medicine and technology has accelerated, young Americans — who have become increasingly anxious and depressed over the past 80 years — have cultivated a curious fascination with natural wellness remedies from times past: Ayurvedic herbs, aromatherapy, and tai chi. We love our therapists, of course, but we also love our passion flower tea.
And understandably so. Though scientific studies around holistic treatments may be conflicting (or non-existent), no shortage of people would argue that natural remedies have helped them, and many psychologists and psychiatrists acknowledge that things like chamomile tea and mind-body practices can help alleviate mild symptoms of anxiety. While someone with a panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder wouldn’t give up their psychotherapist and Klonopin prescription for yoga and herbs, incorporating holistic treatments into one’s lifestyle can help manage stress — or, at the very least, be calming and enjoyable. Even if it’s just the placebo effect, well, placebos work.
Below, 11 natural remedies for anxiety to incorporate into your day-to-day life.
One of the first things that Dr. Marlynn Wei, a Harvard and Yale-trained psychiatrist, does when she meets a new client is ask them about their lifestyle, and that includes their diet. Because dips in your glucose levels can feel a lot like anxiety, Wei stresses that you should never skip a meal, and that it’s best so start your day with a high-protein breakfast to keep your blood sugar levels steady. She also recommends snacking on nuts — almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts — and eating beans, fish, and leafy greens.
Exercise is a bit of a cure-all, as it can benefit your physical, emotional, and mental health. Per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular exercise can have a lasting impact on your wellbeing, and just one vigorous session can help alleviate anxiety symptoms for hours. According to a 2012 study from the University of Georgia, both aerobic and resistance training can potentially reduce symptoms among those with generalized anxiety disorder.
If Wei were to recommend one herb for anxiety, that’d be rhodiola rosea, an adaptogen — a substance that’s supposed to help your body adapt to stress — that some studies show can help reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, such as stress and fatigue. (While you can take it as a tincture, most opt for capsules or tablets.) However, Wei told the Cut that people should be just a little cautious with rhodiola rosea (also known as Arctic root and golden root), because it can have stimulantlike effects, which could possibly make someone even more anxious. Wei also often tells her patients — especially those with insomnia — to try passionflower, an herb that could help calm your mind and help you fall asleep.
Another popular herb for anxiety that you may already have in your pantry is chamomile. Though Dr. Chris D’Adamo, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the Cut that sipping a steaming cup of chamomile tea won’t completely ease your anxiety, it certainly has “meaningful benefits.” There’s also a small 2016 study in the journal Phytomedicine found that long-term chamomile use “significantly” reduces moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
(While Ashwagandha, the Ayurvedic herb heralded by Gwyneth Paltrow and Amanda Chantal Bacon, is especially trendy these days, Wei doesn’t personally prescribe it as much. One study, however, does suggest that taking the herb could improve your resistance toward stress.)
When it comes to herbs, though, you know your body best; not every herbal remedy will be right for everyone.
“Every one of us is unique, so I would not make a broad recommendation that could be considered universal,” Dr. Brent Bauer, the director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, says of herbal treatments. “Every individual should do their own homework and work with their primary care team to make sure any herb being considered is safe and appropriate for them as an individual.”
CBD Oil, Gummies, and Treats
As of now, there’s not enough scientific evidence to really tell us whether or not cannabidiol, a chemical found in marijuana that’s become especially popular in the past few years, is effective when it comes to treating anything from epilepsy to anxiety. However, some people swear by it.
While Dr. Margaret Haney, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center, told the Cut that although CBD “seems to act at a wide range of brain sites,” and could therefore “be acting at one of the serotonin receptors” in your anxious brain, many scientists say they still just don’t know enough about the chemical. If you’re interested in trying CBD, though, it comes in everything from edibles to eye serum to oil.
Vitamin B-12, Omega-3, and More
“Low levels of Vitamin D and B-12 can be related to anxiety,” says Wei, who recommends talking to your doctor about supplements, if that’s the case. A recent study published in JAMA also suggests that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid could help alleviate anxiety symptoms in those with clinical diagnoses.
Passionflower. Photo: Andrzej Oscilowicz at Ajocreati/Getty Images/iStockphoto
As always, though, you want to be careful with supplements, especially given that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements the same way it does drugs. If you’re looking to take supplements, speak to your doctor and/or research brands to make sure the brand of magnesium you’re buying actually contains the active ingredient. Wei recommends looking at ConsumerLabs.com for reviews, or eating foods rich in the above nutrients: salmon, for example, is a great source for Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, and omega-3 fatty acids. For magnesium, incorporate dark green vegetables, beans, oatmeal, and nuts into your diet.
Lavender and Other Soothing Essential Oils
“Especially for sleep and stress and relaxation, essential oils can be used externally for aromatherapy,” said Wei, who recommends lavender and lemon balm before bed for “destressing,” or peppermint if you’re looking for something more stimulating. Lavender oil, in particular, has been shown to react the same way biochemically that some anti-anxiety medications do with specific neuroreceptors.
If you find that your mind spends more time imagining your extremely dark, unnerving future, and less time in the present, try practicing mindfulness through a mind-body practice, like yoga or tai chi, for even just five to ten minutes a day. Because these practices are low-risk, they’re often what Bauer will direct people toward if they’re looking to take a holistic approach to dealing with anxiety.
“For patients with anxiety, I always explore the concept of incorporating a mind-body practice on a daily basis as a key starting strategy,” he told the Cut. “It’s very difficult to find much risk with mind-body therapies, like meditation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, and the evidence is generally strong.”
Wei echoed Bauer’s message, going into more detail about practicing yoga — a type of moving meditation — in particular.
“If you do mind-body practices, when you feel a new anxiety-provoking challenge arise in your life, you will have taught your system to respond in a calmer manner,” she said. “For yoga in particular, it has been shown that practicing three to four times a week for six to eight weeks can help alleviate generalized anxiety disorder.”
Just maybe don’t jump right into a bikram (hot yoga) class right away, says Wei, because some of her patients have found that super hot yoga “can sometimes trigger their anxiety.” Start off with something a little less vigorous and a little more relaxing, like hatha yoga.
Meditation — Walking, Moving, or Guided
Another way to bring yourself into the current moment is through meditation. If you’re looking to meditate in the traditional sense, Ongaro recommends “starting with one minute of stillness and breathing to get the habit started,” during which you try to focus on your breathing. If sitting in complete silence seems impossible to you, try using an app for guided meditation, such as Headspace or Calm.
For people who are always on the run, Wei recommends incorporating walking meditation into their daily routine.
“Especially for New Yorkers, whether you’re walking to the subway or around the city, I like to suggest walking meditation, where you pair your breath with your steps,” she says. “Start out breathing in for five steps and then out for eight to 10 steps. As you increase your exhalation, your anxiety will actually go down, and you can always increase the ratio. That’s a very simple way to practice meditation, just using your breath.”
No one seems to know what to think about probiotics. One day, they’ll give you the clearest skin and healthiest digestive system; the next day, they could give you an infection and make you physically ill. But can they do anything for anxiety?
While research into this is in its early stages, a 2018 study published in PLoS One concluded that probiotics — especially the strain Lactobacillus (L.) rhamnosus — “significantly” decreased anxiety in animals. While these findings have “not yet translated to clinical research in humans, perhaps due to the dearth of extant research with clinically anxious populations,” the study reads, it says that more research is “warranted.”
Though the relationship between sleep loss and anxiety is relatively well-known, new research from the University of California shows that a lack of sleep could trigger the same brain mechanisms that make us sensitive to anxiety. According to lead researcher Eti Ben-Simon, “ regions that help us regulate emotions are the ones that help keep us less anxious and keep us calm, and those regions are very sensitive to sleep loss,” he told Popular Science.
If you have trouble sleeping, some of the herbs and supplements recommended above — chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, and magnesium glyconate in particular — can be helpful. (A quick aside: I tried The Beauty Chef’s “Sleep Inner Beauty Powder” last night for the first time, which contains passionflower and lemon balm, to help with anxiety and insomnia. My glowing review is that it completely knocked me out, and I only woke up once when my cat stepped directly on my face.)
For those interested in learning more about anxiety and how to best prevent or manage it, there are a number of books specifically about the disorder, whether you’re looking to read a fictional account about a teen girl with obsessive compulsive tendencies or a what feels more like a psychology workbook. As “self-care” has become trendy (and almost meaningless) in 2018, it’s time to look more closely at self-knowledge, which is just — if not more — powerful.
10 Ways to Naturally Reduce Anxiety
Some anxiety is a normal part of life. It’s a byproduct of living in an often-chaotic world. Anxiety isn’t all bad, though. It makes you aware of danger, motivates you to stay organized and prepared, and helps you calculate risks. Still, when anxiety becomes a daily struggle, it’s time to act before it snowballs. Unchecked anxiety may greatly impact your quality of life. Take control by trying out the ideas below.
1. Stay active
Regular exercise is good for your physical and emotional health. Regular exercise works as well as medication to ease anxiety for some people. And it’s not just a short-term fix; you may experience anxiety relief for hours after working out.
2. Don’t drink alcohol
Alcohol is a natural sedative. Drinking a glass of wine or a finger of whiskey when your nerves are shot may calm you at first. Once the buzz is over, however, anxiety may return with a vengeance. If you rely on alcohol to relieve anxiety instead of treating the root of the problem, you may develop alcohol dependence.
3. Stop smoking
Smokers often reach for a cigarette during stressful times. Yet, like drinking alcohol, taking a drag on a cigarette when you’re stressed is a quick fix that may worsen anxiety over time. Research has shown that the earlier you start smoking in life, the higher your risk of developing an anxiety disorder later. Research also suggests nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety.
4. Ditch caffeine
If you have chronic anxiety, caffeine is not your friend. Caffeine may cause nervousness and jitters, neither of which is good if you’re anxious. Research has shown caffeine may cause or worsen anxiety disorders. It may also cause panic attacks in people with panic disorder. In some people, eliminating caffeine may significantly improve anxiety symptoms.
5. Get some sleep
Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety. Make sleep a priority by:
- only sleeping at night when you’re tired
- not reading or watching television in bed
- not using your phone, tablet, or computer in bed
- not tossing and turning in your bed if you can’t sleep; get up and go to another room until you feel sleepy
- avoiding caffeine, large meals, and nicotine before bedtime
- keeping your room dark and cool
- writing down your worries before going to bed
- going to sleep at the same time each night
A main goal of meditation is to remove chaotic thoughts from your mind and replace them with a sense of calm and mindfulness of the present moment. Meditation is known for relieving stress and anxiety. Research from John Hopkins suggests 30 minutes of daily meditation may alleviate some anxiety symptoms and act as an antidepressant.
7. Eat a healthy diet
Low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods such as artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, and preservatives may cause mood changes in some people. A high-sugar diet may also impact temperament. If your anxiety worsens after eating, check your eating habits. Stay hydrated, eliminate processed foods, and eat a healthy diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
8. Practice deep breathing
Shallow, fast breathing is common with anxiety. It may lead to a fast heart rate, dizziness or lightheadedness, or even a panic attack. Deep breathing exercises — the deliberate process of taking slow, even, deep breaths — can help restore normal breathing patterns and reduce anxiety.
9. Try aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses fragrant essential oils to promote health and well-being. The oils may be inhaled directly or added to a warm bath or diffuser. Studies have shown that aromatherapy:
- helps you relax
- helps you sleep
- boosts mood
- reduces heart rate and blood pressure
Some essential oils used to relieve anxiety are:
- clary sage
- ylang ylang
Shop online for bergamot, lavender, clary sage, grapefruit, and ylang ylang essential oils.
10. Drink chamomile tea
A cup of chamomile tea is a common home remedy to calm frayed nerves and promote sleep. A 2009 study showed chamomile may also be a powerful ally against generalized anxiety disorder. The study found people who took German chamomile capsules (220 milligrams up to five times daily) had a greater reduction in scores for tests that measure anxiety symptoms than those who were given a placebo.
Here’s a selection of chamomile tea to try.
If you’re feeling anxious, trying the above ideas may help calm you down. Remember, home remedies may help ease anxiety, but they don’t replace professional help. Increased anxiety may require therapy or prescription medication. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.
From occasional circumstantial anxiety — like the stomach butterflies you get before an important event, performance triggered nerves, or going-to-the-dentist jitters — to full-blown generalized anxiety disorders (GAD) with panic attacks and debilitating phobias, there are many different types of anxiety. And, thankfully, there are many different types of herbs and plant medicine that can help with anxiety.
But before we get to the solutions, it’s important to recognize that anxiety is real. With a multitude of guises, it can present itself in your life as insomnia, depressions, fatigue, addiction self-medication, job or relationship paralysis, and more. In many cases, it can be fleeting; natural even, to feel anxious before, say, your wedding, or the birth of your child, or in the midst of a major life change. However, chronic anxiety is not meant to be a daily part of the human experience and can lead to stress which leads to cortisol dysregulation that can eventually impact not just your emotional well-being but your physical health as well.
If you have anxiety, you know it’s no joke to feel that something is constantly holding you back – or that the sky is going to fall in on you at any second. You know how much it can impact enjoying your life.
These points become particularly daunting when we consider the fact that anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric illnesses in the United States, with approximately 30% of the population experiencing anxiety symptoms in their lifetime. Even more daunting for the ladies, in particular, is that anxiety disorders are twice as common in women as in men.
The most prevailing “antidote?” Pharmaceuticals.
But here’s the thing: anti-anxiety medications, which include the all-too-commonly prescribed and highly addictive benzodiazepines (drugs like Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium) and other medications, come with a multitude of side effects — including short and long-term potentially permanent impacts on cognitive function. While muting out anxious symptoms may help in the moment, it doesn’t stop them from coming back, and doesn’t address the root causes of why you feel the way you do.
Herbs For Anxiety: My Take As An Herbalist & Doctor
Okay, so what are my alternatives then? When treating anxiety in my clinical practice, I always work with my patients to find their unique set of root causes. To learn to find your root causes and address anxiety in a nourishing way, you can read my article about this right here .
While you’re getting a handle on those root causes, or if you just want to take something that’s going to help ASAP — supportive remedies can you get by and feel more inner peace, day-to-day.
My go-to for over 35 years of practicing as an herbalist, and even still now as a medical doctor who can prescribe medications, is herbal medicine. In addition to providing us with important ‘phytochemicals’ that work on resetting pathways within our nervous system, many botanical alternatives work as well as pharmaceuticals and rarely cause side effects — unlike their pharmaceutical counterparts. And for you earth-conscious ladies out there like myself, I love that botanicals provide a medicine that doesn’t put the undue stress on the planet (we all know what stress can lead to in our own bodies, imagine how it scales to Mother Earth) that pharmaceuticals are causing in natural environments.
So, now you’re probably thinking… “Okay, Dr. Aviva, this all sounds great, but where do I start?”
I’m so glad you asked…
7 Herbs for Anxiety—Natural Alternatives To Anxiety Meds
As an herbalist who also loves science, it always delights me when what so recently was fringe – using plants as medicines – gets recognized for its value. It also thrills me when science validates what women have known for millennia – that plants heal. And for the herbs below, there’s not only strong history of traditional use – but also solid science.
The beautiful, fragrant lavender is also one of our most effective herbs for anxiety — both chronic anxiety and acute situations. Taken on a regular basis about an hour before sleep, the European lavender extract product Lavela has demonstrated efficacy favorable to that of benzodiazapines in reducing anxiety, with none of the side effects or addictive potential.
It has become a mainstay in my medical practice. I have recommended it to family members, and friends, and even used it myself in preparation for my medical boards — which stress me out to the nth! The dose of lavender oil, as you find in the above product, is 80 mg/day.
Lavender is also gently relaxing taken in tea. I usually combine ½ tsp of each of the following: lavender blossoms, chamomile blossoms, and lemon balm leaf, and steep in a tea-pot or herbal tea infuser for 20 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water. The dose is 1 cup. Tincture dose is 1-2 mL in ¼ cup of water, up to 4 times/day.
Lavender oil can also be used as aromatherapy in a diffuser, on your pillow before sleep, in a bath, or a few drops applied topically to reduce acute anxiety symptoms. You might want to carry a small bottle of the oil with you in your bag. This is safe to use externally only in pregnancy, though it may be used internally while breastfeeding. Concerns about the estrogenic effects of lavender oil have been exaggerated as I wrote about here in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, since it does have mildly estrogenic actions, if you do have a history of estrogen receptor positive cancer, stick with gentle teas now and then, or skip this herb and choose from the other options below.
Turmeric / Curcumin
One of my favorite herbs for digestion and inflammation – turmeric – has now been found in several studies to be beneficial in treating both depression and anxiety.
Turmeric is a root, technically (properly called a rhizome), that when fresh doesn’t look too dissimilar to its cousin, ginger root. That is, until you cut it open and you see the bright yellow inside! Like ginger, turmeric contains ‘phytochemicals’ that reverse inflammation.
Curcumin, which is one of the principal active ingredients derived from the spice turmeric, has particularly powerful anti-inflammatory effects and these have been found to be helpful in reducing anxiety specifically associated with a chronically activated stress response.
The powdered herb is a healthful addition to smoothies and other foods, and is healing for the digestive system. For the anti-anxiety effects, you’ll want to take curcumin extract. The dose will vary according to the product, but is typically 80 to 500 mg day. I recommend taking it in the form of Meriva or Theracumin, which have been properly enhanced for best absorption, and following the dosing recommendation on the product you choose. Turmeric can be safely used as a seasoning spice while pregnant; both turmeric and curcumin can be used safely in breastfeeding, but not during pregnancy. Avoid if you have iron deficiency anemia.
Reishi is in a class of herbs called adaptogens, that help us to adapt to the stresses and demands of modern life without getting stuck in chronic “survival mode.” They gently and effectively regulate the body’s stress response via their tonic actions on the adrenal glands. This medicinal mushroom is particularly calming and relaxing and is one of the best herbs for anxiety (and specifically one of the best adaptogens for anxiety), as well as anxiety that prevents you from sleeping, for which it can be taken just before bed. This is safe to use while breastfeeding. The dose is 3 to 9 g dried mushroom in capsules or tablets daily or 2 to 4 mL tincture in water 2 to 3x/day. Or you can make my reishi hot cocoa for some special anxiety reducing comfort.
Ashwagandha, also an adaptogen, can significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, and has been shown to improve cortisol levels by resetting adrenal-associated stress, overall reducing your predisposition to anxiety. You can add a teaspoon or two of the powder to smoothies or other foods, it can be taken in capsules, 500-1000 mg twice daily, or in tincture form, 2-4 mL, twice daily. It can be taken before bed to help with sleep, including when worry is keeping you awake.
Chamomile is an herb for anxiety that’s traditionally associated with anti-stress properties — Peter Rabbit’s mom even gave him some chamomile tea before bed after a hard day on Farmer McGregor’s farm, when he almost became rabbit stew. Phew — talk about anxiety! Seriously, though, chamomile is approved in European countries in which herbal medicine use is the norm, and it was shown in a 2012 study to be very effective at relieving anxiety and daily stress and improving mood. Chamomile tea is safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
You may also choose my favorite route: making a delicious cup of chamomile and lemon balm herbal tea, and adding the extracts of St. John’s wort and motherwort for an evening or anytime soother. Lemon balm is used classically to promote relaxation and improve outlook; motherwort, a bitter tasting herb, is my personal favorite go-to for anxious moments or when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. Motherwort is safe while breastfeeding only.
Traditionally called “the gladdening herb,” lemon balm has been used in western Europe in herbalism for hundreds of years — to brighten the spirit. It increases a sense of calm and decreases anxiety. While this scientific evidence isn’t as remarkable as with some of the other botanicals in this article, it’s still a really nice herb to include with chamomile and lavender tea.
One caveat is that some studies show lemon balm may reduce processing speed and alertness due to very mild sedation, so, for that reason it might be something you want to use in the evenings or on days off rather than say, before an exam or major presentation! The full dose is 300 milligrams up to four times a day. Maybe leave that for weekends. The tea above – under lavender – is a lovely evening wind-down beverage to soothe the nerves.
Vital (a.k.a. Chasteberry)
If your special brand of anxiety happens to be the kind that rears its head just before your period, as part of PMS or as a stand alone symptom, Vitex (also called Chasteberry or Chaste tree) might be just the ticket to help you breeze through your cycles anxiety-free. Vitex has been shown in studies to attenuate symptoms of depression and anxiety that occur during PMS and to reduce PMS symptoms in general. Another herb for anxiety I love to combine with Vitex, which also helps with PMS, is motherwort. The dose of Vitex in capsules is 180 mg twice daily, or in tincture, 3-5 mL daily.
Kava kava and BONUS: Herbal Recipe For Anxiety
Kava kava (Piper methysticum) is an excellent “emergency remedy” for a panic attack, and is great for use when there is stage fright, test anxiety, or fear of flying. Three to five drops is often a sufficient dose of kava, though you can go up to even 30 drops at a time (the stuff practically knocks me off my feet so I recommend trying a low dose the first time and adjusting up until you find the dose for you — and give it 30 minutes before you take more at any given time because it doesn’t always ‘hit’ right away). While it is overwhelmingly safe for occasional use (a few times a month, for example) and even daily use at very low doses, for higher doses, taken regularly, I recommend working with a licensed practitioner, because there is a remote risk of it affecting the liver (do not use if you have liver disease!).
Kava kava can be taken alone in capsules or herbal tincture. Herbal tinctures, liquid extracts of the herb, are a super easy way to take herbs. These potent liquid extracts allow you to take a tiny concentrated dose dissolved in water (or your favorite green juice). However, most herbal tinctures are made by alcohol extraction — so not an option for everyone.
I love the following blend I call ‘Herbal Stress Rescue.’ To prepare it, purchase one of each of the following extracts from a reputable company. You can mix these herbs for anxiety together in a larger glass bottle with a dropper and take 20-60 drops of the blend (the kava kava is diluted in the blend, that’s why you can take a higher dose)
- Lemon balm
- Kava kava
If you’re not comfortable including the kava kava because it’s too strong for you — that’s okay — swap it out for Motherwort tincture.
These extracts, and other herbs mentioned in this article, can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs, Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs, Herbs Etc, and many other wonderful herbalist-owned companies, including those you can find in the Replenish Online Formulary.
If you don’t want to purchase all of the above, pick two of your favorites + kava kava. Or look for a product at any of the above companies that contains similar ingredients. You can also find many of these herbs in capsule and pill form in a variety of combinations.
This ‘Herbal Stress Rescue’ can be taken before an exam, a flight, a speaking engagement, or before family holiday dinner! Basically, whenever some stress rescue is needed! It can be taken up to 3 times/day during turbulent times for up to a week at a time.
Have you tried integrating any of the above herbs for anxiety into your life? I’d love to hear about your experience! Comment below and let me know…
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Guide to Herbal Medicine
The following information about commonly used herbs in the treatment of anxiety related disorders has been developed in association with Schwabe whom have kindly sponsored this page.
- St John’s Wort
- Passion Flower
St John’s Wort
St John”s Wort (Hypericum perforatum L) has been used as a remedy for nerve disorders for more than 2000 years. This bushy perennial plant, which has bright yellow flowers, grows wild in many parts of the world including Europe, Asia and the USA. The petals and leaves of the plant contain a number of unique substances such as hypericin and hyperforin. The herb is a popular herbal medicine for the treatment of low mood, with at least 30 studies on more than 1,700 patients showing that St John”s Wort can be an effective remedy for mild- to-moderate depression without the side effects of more conventional anti-depressants.
While it is not clear exactly how St John”s Wort works, it is thought that is helps to prolong the action of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, which when deficient can result in low mood. It also often used for symptoms associated with sleep problems, SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and PMS.
300mg (900mcg hypericin) to 900mg of St. John’s Wort can be taken daily. One-a-day formulations are available.
When taking St. John’s Wort it is important to be aware of any interactions with medication you are currently taking.
When considering taking St. John’s Wort you should be aware of the following:
- If you are taking prescribed medicines, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking St John’s wort. It can interfere with how some prescribed medicines work.
- Do not take with other anti-depressant drugs.
- Do not take with the following: warfarin, cyclosporine, oral contraceptives, anti-convulsants, digoxin, theophylline, HIV protease inhibitors, triptans and SSRI anti-depressants.
- Do not take during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
- Avoid over-exposure to the sun especially if fair-skinned while taking St John”s wort.
To find out more about St. Johns Wort visit www.herbfacts.co.uk/pages/herb-file/st-johns-wort.php
St John’s Wort can be found in Karma – a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety based on traditional use only.
Valerian is found growing in North America and Europe and is recognisable from its pinkish flowers that grow from a tuberous rhizome and its distinctive rather unpleasant smell. Throughout history, Valerian has been used medically to treat nervous anxiety, reduce muscle tension and relieve mild insomnia.
Valerian is now widely cultivated for medical use as it contains several unique substances, such as valerenic acid and valeranon that have a relaxant action that is particularly effective in treating stress and anxiety.
Valerian is also widely used for sleep problems, particularly sleep disturbances due to anxiety. Valerian helps to calm the brain and body rather than inducing sleep directly, allowing sleep to occur naturally. It is often combined with other herbs such as lemon balm and hops, both of which are well known for their calming properties.
Before taking Valerian, you need to be aware of the following:
- Valerian enhances the action of sleep-enhancing drugs so should not be taken at the same time as sleeping pills or tranquillisers, although it can be combined with other herbs such as camomile, melissa or passionflower.
- Do not take if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- Valerian should not be taken before driving or any other situation where you need to be alert.
- Valerian is not suitable for children
Passionflower is a climbing shrub with large flowers with white petals surrounded by a crown of pink or violet filaments and large stamens that is native to South America, but is widely cultivated throughout Europe. Passionflower has long been valued by herbal practitioners for its calming and sedative actions and it has been used over the years for anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. It contains alkaloids, glycosides and steroids and it is thought that the alkaloid (once known as passiflorine) is the main active ingredient. Today, Passionflower is widely used for anxiety and nervous tension, and is often combined with valerian and/or hops.
For further information about Passionflower visit www.herbfacts.co.uk/pages/herb-file/passionflower.php
Before taking Passionflower you need to be aware of the following:
- Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by contributors to this page are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor does Anxiety UK guarantee the accuracy of the information reported on this page. You must not rely on the information contained on this page as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this page. Any medical information is not advice and should not be treated as such.