Updated: Apr 8
Anxiety is a common problem for many of our clients; some struggle with the jitters, some with restlessness, some need a mood booster and some just can’t sleep. These twelve herbs are proven to provide calm and get you back to feeling like you (and they smell and taste great!)
can also be known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry has been used for centuries in classical medicine. When being prepared for medicinal purposes, the root and berries are used from this short shrub-like plant found primarily in Africa and the Middle East. The berries and root are typically dried and ground into a powder and placed into tablet form or dried into a tea. In Ayurveda you might add small amounts of ashwagandha to honey and drink it like an ancient energy drink to beat the symptoms of fatigue. This herb is touted in Ayurvedic practices as a ‘Rasayana,'' or an herb that promotes health and vitality. The word ‘ashwagandha’ comes from the Sanskrit word aśva (अश्व) meaning ‘horse’ because it boosts vitality and mood similar to that displayed in wild horses. One important consideration for ashwagandha is dosing, large doses of ashwagandha have been known to induce diarrhea, vomiting, stomach upset and should never be taken by pregnant or nursing women. This herb is most beneficial to individuals feeling lethargic and need a boost in their daily lives.
More than just a plant to get your cat high, catnip is incredibly useful for patients who feel moderately anxious as it can help create a sense of calm in humans. As a member of the mint family this herb has a floral but woodsy taste that pairs well with mint, citrus and honey. When prepared for tea, which is the most common preparation, only the leaves and the tiny white flowers are used as the root of this plant is known to have stimulating rather than calming effects. Unlike ashwagandha, catnip is known to cause mild drowsiness in humans so you should never drink catnip tea before work or driving. It can also effect pregnant women differently and lead to early contractions or miscarriage, do not drink catnip tea if you’re pregnant. However, because catnip is a known diuretic you should not drink catnip tea right before bed unless you want to get up several times in the night. The best way to get the most out of a mug of catnip tea is to drink a few hours before bed to loosen up any bundled feelings and increase chances for a restful sleep.
Everyone’s sleepy time tea of choice, chamomile is well known to have sedative properties. These cheerful, daisy-like flowers can be dried into a tea or can be used for aromatherapy purposes to induce calm and help you to fall asleep faster. Restlessness is a common symptom of anxiety and many people have found that chamomile tea is useful in treating restlessness and promoting calm. An extra added benefit for you ladies is that chamomile can help aid in the treatment of menstrual cramps! Unlike catnip you can drink chamomile tea right before bed with little issue.
Mildly reminiscent of licorice and having the crisp taste of spring, fennel and fennel seed are great additives to any diet but especially those suffering from the symptoms of anxiety. Fennel relieves anxiety-related GI upsets, reduces flatulence and abdominal tension, and relaxes the large intestine. It is most effective when taken as a tea, before or after meals, and has no known side effects. Unlike most items on this list you can eat fennel raw, straight from the supermarket to introduce into your diet! Raw fennel bulbs contain approximately 11% of your daily fiber intake. High fiber diets can help treat the lesser symptoms of anxiety and improve tummy issues.
Green Tea -
A personal favorite of mine! As someone who doesn’t typically drink regular caffeine like coffee (it gives me the jitters) I’ve found green tea offers me a boost without the jitters. Recently I’ve been drinking the Lipton Diet Green Tea in Berry and Citrus and have enjoyed the flavors and the fact they’re zero calories and over 100% the daily value of Vitamin C for the day. Green tea also contains l-theanine, a compound that might treat certain symptoms of anxiety like an inability to concentrate. Keep in mind green tea is caffeinated so you shouldn’t drink it right before bed but it can be an excellent morning beverage.
Kava Kava -
Also known as simply Kava, this beverage is on the rise as a relaxation promoter and stress reliever. Hailing natively from the Pacific Islands, this plant name comes from the native word for ‘bitter’ and is known to have a bitter aftertaste by itself. Only recently has kava become a recognized treatment in the United States but there is great evidence for kava creating calming and mildly sedative effects. If you want to try kava locally try KavaNirvana in Fort Myers, the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is a delicious blend of pineapple and coconut cream with kava added in.
My love of lavender has already been discussed (check out my article, “Lavender: Sleep Master or Good-Smelling Lie,” for more varied treatment potential) but it works amazingly as a treatment of anxiety as well. Lavender is incredibly versatile. You can eat it, use it in aromatherapy or use it topically for what ails you, but when discussing anxiety specifically the greatest benefit comes from aromatherapy and consumption. The scent of lavender can reduce stress and promote sleep in individuals. I like lavender in my diffuser and promote its use in sleep sprays. Lavender flower which has been distilled for consumption is known to promote rest in some individuals.
Lemon Balm -
Another relative in the mint family (mint is really working here), lemon balm’s bright, citrusy scent can help provide a mental boost to those suffering the symptoms of anxiety. You can consume lemon balm dried in tea but you can also use it fresh as a substitute for mint! The consumption of this plant is known to boost the GABA neurotransmitter which might aid in the treatment of anxiety.
Milk Thistle -
This spiky cactus-looking plant with bright purple flowers is a known treatment for liver disease, but it might have anti-anxiety effects as well. A study in Iran compared milk thistle to Prozac and found they had similar effects in patients suffering from OCD. Keep in mind these results have yet to be replicated but the potential results are incredibly promising so it merited milk thistle’s inclusion on this list.
While the name passionflower might lead people to believe this flower causes, erm, excitability, it’s only called this because they’re absolutely stunning! Passionflower is known to have anxiety reducing and sedative effects, it can also potentially help with muscle spasms due to stress. Due to its known sedative effects you should never drive or operate heavy machinery after consumption of passionflower because it can make you sleepy more than the other herbs on this list.
The queen of flowers, roses are great when used in aromatherapy and in teas as a mood booster. While roses don’t have sedative effects, the scent of rose might induce a feeling of calm when used in conjunction with other scents (like lavender or chamomile) or in bath products. (Keep an eye out for my article: “Roses - Worth the Thorns?” coming soon!)
Another mint relative (the last one, I promise), skullcap has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat chronic pain. In reference to anxiety, skullcap tea or extract has been shown to improve mood and might be useful in the treatment of insomnia by boosting the GABA neurotransmitter.
So, what did you think of our top picks? Have you tried any of these herbal supplements out? If so, comment below to tell us your experience. For more tips like these visit:
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