Herbs for Anxiety (and why I love them)

Anxiety

Herbs for anxiety – there are so many different herbs that are effective when used correctly by someone suffering with this condition, but before I talk about the herbs have a read about anxiety itself.

Did you know anxiety and depression are the most common mental health disorders in the UK?

And it’s on the rise.

Anxiety can differ in it’s severity ranging from the nervousness and anxiety you may feel before an exam or interview to full blown panic attacks that can come out of nowhere, plaguing you everywhere you go including when you are safely tucked up in bed.


Feeling Alone
Feeling Alone

Anxiety disorders come in all kinds of disguises; generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Panic disorder, Social anxiety, health anxiety and many more.

Some of the undesirable symptoms inflicted upon those of us who suffer with anxiety can include breathlessness, heart palpatations, dry mouth, panic attacks, dizziness, poor digestion and acid reflux, headaches and I’m sure you can think of several more.

The good news is there are many herbs which can help with these symptoms and if you are having problems with how antidepressants are making you feel (they are fantastic for some people but not everyone gets on with them) you may want to turn to herbal medicine. I will talk about herbs for anxiety in more detail below, but first I want to mention other actions you can take to deal with the symptoms of anxiety.

Step 1: Why? Try to work out what could be causing the anxiety and try to rectify these – this is not always possible due to life commitments but if possible see what you can do to address causes. Common causes can be vitamin deficiency, family illness, money worries, unemployment, chronic stress and childhood adversity. Sometimes we don’t know what is causing the anxiety in which case move to step 2.

Step 2: Diet.. Putting it simply, eating junk can make you feel like junk. So, if you find yourself eating convenience foods on a regular basis and there’s not a whole lot of fruit and veg going on then adjusting your diet can make a big difference – I promise you!

3 Top Tips

  • Replace white refined carbohydrates with their wholegrain equivalent
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake e.g. if you don’t eat fruit on a regular basis strive to eat one piece of fruit a day. Another manageable change in your diet would be to include one green vegetable a day such as cabbage, broccoli, rocket
  • Reduce caffeine intake to 1 or 2 tea or coffee per day

Step 3: Exercise.. It reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and triggers the release of endorphins which make us feel good. Running, walking, swimming, cycling, yoga….anything you like.

The herbs

Herbs for anxiety

There are many herbs to help with anxiety and choosing the right ones depend on the person, their symptoms and coexisting complaints and any other medications they may be taking. I have found a particular herb may help one person with anxiety but not the next so it’s worth trying different single herbs and different combinations of herbs. Below I have listed three herbs and a brief bit about them.

Valerian

Valerian

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) : The root of this plant has been used for thousands of years for the management/relief of anxiety and its relaxant properties have long been supported by scientific research . As recently as January 2019 its neurophysiological effects were highlighted in a clinical trial conducted with volunteers suffering psychological stress. Valerian is thought to increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and serotonin in the brain allowing the mind to calm and improving mood.

If anxiety is keeping you awake at night, Valerian will help quieten your racing mind (and heart) and sleep you will, without waking up with the dreaded groggy head.


Lemon Balm


Lemon Balm

Melissa officinalis : Calming and uplifting, eases palpitations and gastrointestinal complaints related to anxiety.

Easy to grow and picked fresh, the leaves make a lovely cup of tea.

 
"It causeth the Mind and Heart to becom merry, and reviveth the Heart fainting to 
foundlings, especially of such who are overtaken in their sleep, and driveth away al
troublesome cares  and thought…"

―  Serapio

Chamomile

Chamomile

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) : Particularly good for tension in children. Relaxes smooth muscle, and binds to benzodiazepine receptors in vitro.   Relieves gut spasms, tension headaches and promotes relaxation.

As strange as it sounds, a soak in a chamomile tea bath will help to relieve stress but be sure to carry out a 24 hour patch test on the skin first in case of allergies.


The relaxing/sedating herbs can be depleting when used long term so they are always best combined with more tonifying/nutritive herbs.

It’s always best to consult a herbalist before using herbal medicines.