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The 5 Best Herbs for Anxiety, According to Science

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

Herbs for anxiety

Anxiety disorders are on the rise and while modern medicine helps people cope, it is important to understand that these medications also come with a price tag.

For example, the most common drug prescribed for anxiety disorders are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). You may know these drugs by the name of Prozac, Paxil, or Celexa.

Some of the side effects include: (1)

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Suicidal behaviour

  • Insomnia, headaches

  • Compulsive restlessness

Other drugs that are common for the treatment of anxiety include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and benzodiazepines. (2) These also come with many dangerous side-effects including mood imbalances.

The Trouble With Conventional Treatment

As highlighted above, not only do these drugs create some of the same symptoms they're trying to treat, but they also lose their efficacy over time due to an increase in tolerance and therefore, higher doses are required in order to continue treatment.

Fortunately, safer alternatives exist. For centuries, herbal medicine has been practiced across many cultures for its therapeutic value, ease of access and lack of side effects.

Best Herbs For Anxiety

Below are the top five herbs that are used for anxiety disorders; the selection criteria is based on herbs that have the most robust research available.

Ashwagandha is a herb commonly used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a nervine tonic. It is also an adaptogen herb meaning it helps the body adapt to stress and has proven effective in treating anxiety disorders. (3) (4). The recommended dose is 500-1000 mg.

Tulsi is also known as Holy Basil, indigenous to India, and has been used in Ayurvedic medical practice for over 3000 years. Holy Basil is also an adaptogen, helping the body manage and adapt to life’s stressors. Multiple studies have shown the efficacy of this amazing herb in the application and treatment of anxiety. (5) The recommended dose is 500 mg of leaf extract taken twice a day to relieve symptoms of anxiety and other psychological disorders.

Passionflower is another great herb known for its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. Originated in native America, it has been used to treat insomnia and anxiety. Recent studies show that when compared to oxazepam, a benzodiazepine (a strong psychoactive drug used to treat anxiety), passionflower had comparable results without the side-effects of the drug. The recommended dose is 45 drops of passionflower extract taken daily. (6)

Lavender has traditionally been used for its calming and therapeutic properties. Evidence suggests that lavender oil taken orally is an efficient mood stabilizer, may be helpful in treating neurological disorders and has anxiolytic and neuroprotective properties.(7) The recommended dose is 100 mg containing at least 25% linalool, an active ingredient in lavender.

Lemon Balm has been used for over 2000 years and it is believed to be a mood modulator. It has the ability to improve cognitive function and has proved effective in the treatment of anxiety. Administration of 300 mg lemon balm extract for 15 days showed to improve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia in participants. (8) (9)

Get Started With Herbs for Anxiety

For many people, the thought of using herbs can feel cumbersome or inaccessible. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth!

Most health food stores, or reputable online stores, will stock herbal remedies in multiple forms: tinctures, extracts, or capsules. A tincture uses alcohol as the solvent and is considered a concentrated extract. An extract uses other solvents like vinegar, glycerin, or water and is less concentrated. A capsule is the ground up plant encapsulated for convenience.

While each format has its benefits, capsules are the most popular choice since they don't have a taste, and are extremely portable. For example, Veeva’s Anxiety Formula comes in a capsule and contains a blend of botanicals including ashwagandha, holy basil, and passionflower.

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Disclaimer: if you are currently taking medication for anxiety, do not attempt to wean yourself off medication without the oversight of your doctor. Do not take herbal remedies while on anxiety medication without consulting with your doctor first.

This article was written by Tatiana Vicol, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of The Corporate Nutritionist. A nutrition expert with a burning passion to help people reach their best life possible, Tatiana has been featured in numerous publications both online and print. You can also connect with her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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