Anxiety can be a disabling condition that’s accompanied by long-term stress and a decline in overall health. It contributes to many chronic diseases, even when treated with conventional medications. That’s why we need to use natural remedies for anxiety and other mood disorders that address the root of the problem instead of putting a Band-Aid on your anxiety symptoms.
In fact, anxiety can affect people of all ages, with a lifetime prevalence between 4.3 percent and 5.9 percent. In addition, 40 percent to 60 percent of people with anxiety experience signs of depression, which makes it an even more serious and difficult condition to treat properly. Research shows that people with anxiety have difficulty successfully achieving short- or long-term remission, with remission rates remaining as low as 38 percent after five years.
The good news is that there are many natural remedies for anxiety that are safe and don’t cause adverse side effects like so many anti-anxiety medications. By eating a clean and well-balanced diet that contains important nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3s, and using essential oils for anxiety, you may notice an immediate difference in your mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns.
Plus, there are many supplements and lifestyle changes that serve as natural remedies. Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a dangerous situation. It’s often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. It’s also the most prevalent mental health condition. Anxiety becomes problematic when it is constant or in reaction to inappropriate circumstances, which over time can negatively affect your day-to-day life.
Causes of Anxiety
- traumatic life experiences
- thyroid problems
- dysfunctional serotonin
- excessive alcohol
- caffeine or sugar intake
- hormone imbalance
In addition, research shows that risk factors for anxiety disorders include being female, experiencing stressful life events in childhood and adulthood, having a family history of mental health disorders, having limited economic resources, and being shy in childhood.
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Conventional Treatment for Anxiety.
Typically, anxiety is treated with a combination of psychotropic drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy. Pharmacologic interventions for anxiety include:
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are used to treat anxiety, depression, panic disorder, fibromyalgia, and back pain. They work by blocking or delaying the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, which helps improve your mood. Some SNRI brand names include Cymbalta, Pristiq, Effexor, and Savella. Common side effects of these medications include dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, sexual problems, constipation, weight loss, insomnia, headaches, dry mouth, and agitation.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are used to correct low serotonin levels in the brain. SSRIs are used to treat anxiety disorders and depression. Some examples of commonly prescribed SSRIs include Lexapro, Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa. Possible side effects of these medications include drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, headache, sexual problems, agitation, dizziness, dry mouth, insomnia, and blurred vision. In fact, research shows that approximately 30 percent to 50 per cent of patients on SSRIs experience these kinds of mild side effects.
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are used to enhance the effect of GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of neurons that cause anxiety. Benzodiazepine drugs are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, pack attacks, and seizures (due to their anticonvulsant properties). The most popular types of benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, Librium and Tranxene. These medications come with side effects like dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, sweating, trouble sleeping, impaired coordination, confusion, and an increased risk of falling in elderly patients.
The controversial botanical substance kratom is also sometimes used to alleviate anxiety and help with pain relief. Thankfully, there are natural remedies for anxiety to try as well.
Several studies show that there is a connection between diet choices and psychology, physiology, and behavior. Dietary choices impact a person from the moment he or she is born to adult life.
Consuming too many or too few calories can increase anxiety symptoms and other psychological or emotional disorders. Also, a poor diet can lead to many anxiety symptoms, including moodiness, fatigue, and abnormal blood sugar levels that cause nervousness and jitters. A poor diet can also lead to weight gain, and this can impact your body image and bring on feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods can be a natural remedy for anxiety because they are important for neurotransmitters synthesizing and balancing your mood and stress response. In addition, it’s also important to eat healthy fats, unrefined carbohydrates, and lean protein. To improve anxiety symptoms, make sure to add vitamin B foods, magnesium-rich foods, foods high in calcium and omega-3 foods to your diet too, including:
- wild-caught fish (like salmon, mackerel, tuna, white fish, and herring)
- grass-fed beef
- organic chicken
- nutritional yeast
- yogurt or kefir
- leafy greens (like spinach, kale, chard, and collard greens)
- fresh vegetables (like celery, bok choy, broccoli, beets, and artichokes)
- fresh fruits (like blueberries, pineapple, banana, and figs)
- sea vegetables
- healthy fats (like avocado, coconut oil, and olive oil)
- beans (such as black beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas, and fava beans)
- legumes (like lentils and peas)
- nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
- seeds (including flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds)
- unrefined grains (like farro, quinoa, and barley)
Research shows that consuming foods that have a high glycemic index can contribute to anxiety and depression. Sugar and refined carbohydrates can give you blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day, increasing anxiety, nervousness, and fatigue. These foods can cause mood swings and alter your energy levels, making it more difficult to get your symptoms under control. They also contribute to inflammation and alter your brain structure and neurotransmitter function.
To maintain normal blood sugar levels and improve your symptoms, stay away from refined foods, including baked goods (like pastries and cookies), sweetened beverages, fast foods, fried foods, processed meat, and refined grains (which can be found in cereals and packaged bread). One specific dietary option that covers many of these bases and may actually influence anxiety is the keto diet. Preliminary research in animals has found that following this high-fat, low-carb diet may result in a lowered risk for anxiety.
Too much caffeine or alcohol can increase symptoms like moodiness, nervousness, and jitters. A study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry found that abstinence from alcohol is associated with a lower risk of anxiety. To reduce anxiety, avoid alcohol completely, or limit your alcohol intake to one to three drinks per week — but no more than two at a time.
Research also shows that consuming too much caffeine can induce symptoms, and people with panic disorder and social anxiety seem to be particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Limit coffee or black tea to no more than one cup per day.
Although anxiety is characterized by excessive worrying and tension, other physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety include:
- muscle tension
- chest tightness
- heart palpitations
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems
- panic attacks
- difficulty concentrating
- inability to socialize
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety because it helps stabilize the body’s response to stress. In a systematic review that assessed data on the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a treatment for anxiety, researchers found that most studies concluded with significant improvement in symptoms with ashwagandha therapy.
However, ashwagandha is not only a stress reliever. It also protects the brain from degeneration, and it works to improve symptoms by destroying free radicals that cause damage to the brain and body. Research shows that ashwagandha helps improve focus, reduce fatigue, and fight it without the side effects of most anti-anxiety medications.
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Research shows that kava root can be used to treat anxiety because it’s a nonaddictive and non-hypnotic anxiolytic. Kava is used to improve mood, ease anxiety and boost sociability. It works by stimulating dopamine receptors and inducing euphoria.
In fact, a randomized, controlled trial conducted in Australia found that kava can be considered a first-line therapy for generalized disorders, and it’s shown to be safe for people undergoing treatment. A meta-analysis reported by Cochrane that involved seven trials suggests that there are significant effects from kava treatment for anxiety with few side effects, which are all considered mild.
Take kava under the guidance of your healthcare provider, as it can interact with certain medications. Also, do not consume alcohol if you are using kava, and be aware of the most common side effects, including headache, drowsiness, and diarrhea.
Supplementing with 5-HTP, which is synthesized from tryptophan (an important amino acid that works as a mood regulator), can help alleviate a variety of anxiety-related disorders, such as difficulty sleeping, moodiness, and headaches. 5-HTP increases serotonin, which is a calming neurotransmitter that transmits signals between the nerve cells and alters brain functions that regulate your mood and sleep patterns.
Because of its soothing effects, studies suggest that 5-HTP treatment is connected with a considerable reduction in anxiety. However, it’s important that you do not take 5-HTP with any prescription anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications.
GABA is an amino acid that is responsible for decreasing anxiety in the nervous system, and it also helps relax your muscles. It is used to treat a variety of diseases in addition to anxiety, including PMS, insomnia, blood pressure stabilization, ADHD treatment, fat burning, and pain relief. GABA is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can cause a sedative effect, helps regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs, like Xanax and Valium, work to increase the amount of GABA in the brain.
There are GABA supplements available in your local health food or vitamin store. Another option is to use valerian root, which naturally increases your brain’s GABA level and helps calm anxiety.
Magnesium plays many important roles in the body, and magnesium deficiency is one of the leading deficiencies in adults. If you’re struggling with anxiety, you may want to try taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium helps relax your muscles and calm the nervous system. Also, it’s vital for GABA function and regulating certain hormones that are crucial for calming the brain and promoting relaxation.
Magnesium is widely used to treat anxiety, poor digestion, muscular spasms, and sleep difficulties. Look for magnesium in citrate, chelate, and chloride, which are forms that the body absorbs better. However, be aware that too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, so be careful with the dose. Because of this, start with smaller amounts of magnesium, and work your way up to a dose that’s effective for you.
B vitamins help combat stress and stabilize your mood. Vitamin B6 boosts mood, balances blood sugar, and maintains a healthy nervous system as a natural remedy. In fact, symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency include anxiety, irritability, depression, changes in mood, muscle pains, and fatigue.
In addition, vitamin B12 is also important for fighting chronic stress, mood disorders, and depression. It helps improve your concentration and energy levels and allows your nervous system to function properly. (20)
Lavender oil has been demonstrated to alleviate anxiety and soothe the body. A randomized study in Germany found that Silexan, an oral lavender oil capsule, is just as effective as benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication. Lavender oil can induce calmness and relieve symptoms like nervousness, headaches, and muscle pain.
Put three drops of lavender oil in your palm, and rub it onto your neck, wrists, and temples. Diffuse lavender oil for immediate relief, inhale directly from a bottle, or add to warm bath water for natural anxiety-fighting.
Because of its moderate sedative and relaxation-promoting characteristics, Roman chamomile essential oil is used to soothe nerves and reduce anxiety. Inhaling it works as an emotional trigger because the fragrance travels directly to the brain to help fight symptoms.
A study found that orally taking chamomile oil significantly reduces anxiety and depression symptoms compared to a placebo. Diffuse five drops of Roman chamomile oil at home or at work, inhale it directly from the bottle, or apply it topically to the neck, chest, and wrists. Roman chamomile is also gentle enough for children to use as a natural remedy.
Regular physical activity helps improve sleep quality, reduce inflammation, boost confidence, improve energy levels, and ease stress and tension. Because of their relaxing, deep breathing methods, and stress-reduction advantages, yoga and tai chi are helpful workouts for anxiety patients.
A 2012 review found 25 yoga trials significantly reduced stress and anxiety symptoms in individuals. In fact, yoga changes your brain by impacting your GABA levels and suppressing neural activity.
Besides yoga and tai chi, you can practice other exercises that help to calm the body. For example, running, walking or hiking outdoors, lifting weights, and even dancing can help combat stress.
Lack of sleep increases anticipatory by stimulating brain regions involved in emotional processing. This means sleep deprivation can contribute to common symptoms. In suffering, restoring sleep patterns can help to minimize excessive worrying symptoms.
Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night in order to reduce stress, balance your hormones, prevent moodiness, and reduce fatigue. You can also diffuse lavender or Roman chamomile essential oil in your bedroom to help induce relaxation.
A 2013 randomized, controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that mindfulness meditation had a beneficial effect on symptoms and improved stress reactivity and coping mechanisms when faced with a stress challenge.
If you’re new to this, try guided meditation as one of your natural remedies, which is available on YouTube and podcasts. It helps reduce your cortisol levels, improve your sleep quality, boost your productivity at home and at work, and treat your anxiety.
In your effort to overcome anxiety, finding support from your family, friends, community, and professional therapists can be extremely helpful. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s underlying thoughts in determining how that person acts and feels. Therapists help change your thought patterns and reactions so you can better handle stressful situations.
If your anxiety affects your quality of life, consider joining a local support group or connecting with other people who are dealing with anxiety. Together, you can use these natural remedies for anxiety with members of your community and work through tough situations with their support.
If you choose to use any of these natural remedies, do so under the guidance of your healthcare provider. Also, make sure that he or she knows what other medications you are taking in order to avoid dangerous interactions.
For example, some of these natural remedies, including kava root, 5-HTP, and GABA, do interact with commonly prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. Do not use these supplements or herbs along with prescribed drugs.
- Anxiety is a normal response to stress or a dangerous situation. However — referred to as the “fight or flight” response — it’s the most prevalent mental health condition.
- Research shows that people with anxiety cannot always successfully achieve short- or long-term remission, with remission rates remaining as low as 38 percent after five years.
- Conventional treatments for anxiety include a combination of psychotropic drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy, though there are natural remedies too.
- Natural remedies offer alternative therapies that don’t cause adverse side effects and have been proven effective. These natural remedies include supplements like magnesium, GABA, and vitamin B complex; herbs like kava root; essential oils; and dietary and lifestyle changes.
Try these natural remedies for anxiety if you suffer from this condition