More than 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. Even those of us who don’t have clinical anxiety struggle with days when worry, anxiety, and general concerns wear us down. For more information on clinical anxiety disorders, see this link to the National Institute for Mental Health.
Keep in mind that anxiety is a perfectly normal reaction to stress. The treatments we suggest are not a substitution for eliminating the stress that causes anxiety; they’re ways of calming the anxiety while you work on solutions for the problems that are triggering the stress itself.
Herbal Treatment of Anxiety
Whether you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder or from more generalized anxiety tied to specific life events, the world of plants offers many options for easing your worry. Different plants have different properties that can help the body adapt to anxiety in different ways. Many people who suffer from anxiety are unaware that mild stomach distress is upsetting their system, which is why so many herbs for anxiety calm the stomach. An herb described as a nervine calms the nervous system and can be taken all day. A sedative serves as a tranquilizer and reduce nervous tension, pain, neuromuscular spasms. Both nervines and sedatives help symptoms of insomnia.
Homeopathic medicines and flower essences are all safe to use if you’re taking other pharmaceuticals or not. Essential oils can be equally safe so long as you read the cautions relating to the oil you choose. Herbal remedies can also be effective in easing anxiety; if you’re taking prescription medications or have other medical conditions, it’s wise to work with your medical care provider when choosing herbs to ease anxiety or any other condition.
Homeopathic Medicines for Anxiety:
- Kali p. – for those feeling overwhelmed
- Kali ar. – unable to sleep due fear about health concerns
- Hypericum – anxiety from a past injury
- Chamomila – oversensitivity in children
- Calcarea – fear of change
Flower Essences for Anxiety:
- Yarrow, Pink Yarrow, Golden Yarrow – For those who are overly influenced by their surroundings, protects those who withdraw or seek social isolation to protect themselves from vulnerability to others, helps clear the emotions and energies of others or one’s environment while protecting the self and reinforcing the boundary between self and other. Golden is recommended for outgoing people, Pink for those whose focus on compassion or compassionate care for others exhausts them or opens the door to becoming enmeshed in those for whom they care.
- Aspen – eases fear of the unknown, hidden fears, anxiety, nightmares. Particularly helpful to those who are psychically or generally oversensitive to their environment, including those who have struggled with anxiety related to drug addiction as well as to highly sensitive children and adults. Helps balance psychic perception with daily life to allow for a more harmonized existance.
- Mustard – eases generalized depression and anxiety, particularly recommended for those in adolescence but also for other periods in life when darkness seems to overwhelm for no clear reason. Helps one recognize the darkness as part of the transformative process rather than a frightening place that’s separate from the light.
- Pink Monkey Flower – eases feelings of shame, guilt, or unworthiness; protects those who fear being exposed, vulnerable, and rejected by others. Helps sensitive people reach out to others without needing to hide their true natures.
- Oregon Grape – eases fear of hostility from others, helps reduce paranoia, encourages the ability to trust and expect the best from others.
Essential Oils for Anxiety:
- Lavender – reduces muscle tension, balances the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, supports immune system
- Rosemary – clears thinking and relaxes muscles, stimulates immune system and digestion, improves circulation, builds confidence and brings body and mind into balance
- Melissa (Lemon Balm) – encourages a cheerful disposition, improves digestion
- Hyssop – eases fear, grief, oversensitivity, hysteria, improves digestion and circulation
- Orange – reduces anxiety and improves mood, eases high blood pressure and balances irregular heartbeat
- Neroli (Orange blossom) – counters emotional shock, mental confusion, anger, fear, and lack of confidence, redirects energy toward positive action, particularly helpful to those who get upset for no clear reason, counters depression
Herbs for Anxiety:
- Motherwort – reduces heart palpitations, sedates hormonal uproar related to periods of hormonal change such as adolescence and menopause, clears excessive heat particularly in the upper body
- Valarian root and flowers – moderate sedative effects, aids sleep and grounding
- Nettle – nutritive, rebuilds adrenals
- Oats oatstraw and oat tops – nutritive, calms digestion, builds testosterone
- Skullcap – mild sedative, slows racing thoughts
- Chamomile – eases digestion, nervine
- Passionflower – calms nervous system, child safe sedative
- Catnip – nervine, calms digestive system
- Hops – mild sedative, calms digestive system, builds estrogen
- Lemon Balm calms upset stomachs, nervine
- Borage – nervine, rebuilds the nervous system, eases the effects of overwork and exhaustion
- Holy Basil, aka Tulsi – nervine, clears the mind
- California poppy – sedative, analgesic for the nervous system
The first line of defense should always be dietary. Make sure that the diet that you consume is not adding to your stress load. Processed foods are difficult to digest and lack essential nutrients. Simplify your diet. Be sure to include fresh fruit and vegetables every day. Eat your protein source early in the day. A high protein breakfast such as an egg, peanut butter toast, granola or a smoothie will get you started healthfully. Drink plenty of water. This sounds basic but it makes a big difference quickly.
Don’t forget to exercise. Our bodies are designed to keep up up and moving. When we experience stress, exercise releases endorphins that soothes anxiety. It also helps calm an over active immune response during stress that triggers a cascade of other problems. This is why even simple stretching exercises brings relief to fearful situations.
When you notice stress, anxiety, or worry beginning to build, make time for reflection and release in your day as well. Simple meditation with a focus on breathing can help considerably. Even just five or ten minutes a day of sitting in a quiet spot where you feel safe and will be undisturbed, getting as comfortable as you can, and letting your mind focus solely on each breath will help create ease in your body and mind. Be sure to let your breath be natural, not forced. If you desire, you can imagine the stress, anxiety, or worry flowing out with each exhalation and ease, peace, and confidence flowing in with each inhalation. The important part is to release the tension and remember what it feels like to be relaxed.
Another easy, effective form of meditative release can come through writing. Take five or ten minutes, or more if you so desire, to let all the worries, racing thoughts, anxieties, and whatever else is clamoring for attention within you spill out onto the page. You can type or write longhand. It really doesn’t matter so long as you try to get out of your own way and let it out, no matter how uncomfortable or ugly the thoughts. When you’re done, you can destroy the pages (burning them can be cathartic, but the simple act of dragging the file to the trash and emptying the trash on your computer can be just as freeing) or you can choose to save them for review or destruction as some future date. Go with whatever feels right to you at the time and trust that your intuition on the matter is right.