Herbs for Treatment of Anxiety

When faced with a perceived threat, your body undergoes biochemical changes that trigger feelings of anxiety. The symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to, restlessness, obsessive thoughts, trembling, difficulty breathing, sweating, faintness and muscle tension. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine reports that unwarranted anxiety may be the result of a past trauma, stress, a phobia, substance abuse, an overactive nervous system or an underlying disease. Some herbs may help in the treatment of anxiety, but consult your doctor before discontinuing current medications or therapy.

Stress Reduction

Some herbs may offer direct relief from anxious feelings. The Mayo Clinic lists kava, valerian, passionflower and theanine as potentially helpful in the treatment of anxiety. Among these herbs, kava is the top choice, although preliminary tests indicate it may result in liver damage, especially for those with an existing liver condition. Exceeding the dosage recommended by your doctor may increase your risk of side effects.

Gale suggests St. John’s wort and gotu kola for reducing stress and for easing anxious feelings.

Herbs are sold as supplements in the United States and the FDA does not verify the claims of those who sell the herbs. However, some herbs have medicinal effects and a certified herbalist or a doctor of naturopathy should evaluate your symptoms and offer dosage instructions.


Adaptogens, herbs that allow you to adapt to your anxious feelings, may provide relief from the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. Gale suggests some potentially beneficial herbs, including chamomile, milk thistle, skullcap, oat straw, licorice root, borage and Siberian ginseng.

Chiro.org adds the following to the list of adaptogenic herbs: Asian ginseng, American ginseng, suma, ashwaganda, astragalus and schisandra.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) incorporates herbal remedies with other treatments to address the patient’s entire body and energy flow. Herbal blends may include reishi, a mushroom with the ability to calm and reduce anxiety. Chinese green tea and the cordyceps mushroom also figure prominently in treating anxiety. Consult your doctor before starting an herbal program that includes Chinese herbal preparations.

About this Author

Glyn Sheridan is a freelance writer with published credits in regional and national media. Sheridan specializes in health, fitness, construction and business writing. She is also a past editor of “Kansas Women – Focus on Fitness.” Sheridan’s education includes marketing and journalism.