Herbs for Calming Anxiety

Although prescription sedatives can reduce anxiety, they also carry the risk of unpleasant side effects and addiction. For relief from mild anxiety, herbs can provide an alternative. While no herb can eliminate generalized anxiety disorder or prevent panic attacks, some may help you cope with the symptoms. Some anti-anxiety herbs cause drowsiness or reduce alertness, though, so avoid them before driving or using heavy machinery.

Valerian

Long popular as a sleep aid, valerian has a sedative effect that may also reduce anxiety. While studies support its effectiveness against insomnia, limited evidence is available for its anti-anxiety properites. In one small 2002 study, participants with generalized anxiety disorder who took around 80 mg daily for 4 weeks reported significantly less anxiety, researchers from Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil discovered. You can brew valerian tea from dry roots or take capsules of valerian root extract.

Lavender

Several forms of this fragrant garden flower help control anxiety. Use lavender oil for massages, in your bath or in a diffuser for temporary stress relief. The lavender oil preparation Silexan appears comparable to lorazepam, but nonaddictive and free from serious side effects, notes a study published in the February 2010 issue of “Phytomedicine.” The Commission E Monographs, which describe herbs prescribed in Germany, suggest lavender flower tea for anxiety and insomnia. Tuck a lavender sachet into your pillow case to help you relax at night.

Passionflower

Despite their flamboyant appearance, the flowers of this warm-climate vine have earned a reputation for promoting sleep and relieving nervous stomach upsets. Limited clinical evidence suggests they may have a calming effect similar to benzodiazepine. Brew tea from 4 to 8 grams of dry flowers or take 0.5 to 2 grams dried flower capsules up to 4 times daily, according to recommendations from the National Institutes of Health.

Lemon Balm

This aromatic herb has been used for improving mood, reducing stress and anxiety and encouraging sleep. A single 600 mg dose of lemon balm helped study participants feel calmer during a laboratory stress test, notes a study in the July-August 2004 issue of “Psychosomatic Medicine.” In combination with other relaxation herbs such as valerian and chamomile, the effect may be even greater. Lemon balm tea, capsules and tinctures are all options for using this herb.

American Skullcap

Although this North American native has a 200-year history of use in treating anxiety and tension, it hasn’t been a popular subject for research. In one small study, rats showed significantly less anxiety after consuming American skullcap, researchers from the University of Ottawa, Canada, found in 2003. Powder and liquid extracts are the most common forms of this herb. Improperly harvested skullcap may contain the potentially harmful plant germander, so buy skullcap from reliable sources only.

About this Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in East Central Europe Studies in 2000, Nicole Langton began writing for a natural health company where she developed a deep interest in nutrition and natural treatments. In 2003, she earned a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults and spent several years teaching.