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Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Feb 11, 2008
The hustle and bustle of modern life has caused a near epidemic of chronic anxiety. Many experts believe that upwards of 50% of the population suffers periodic bouts of debilitating anxiety symptoms, and all too often, doctors attempt to treat these conditions with medications. Many of these anti-anxiety medications have detrimental side effects and even withdrawal symptoms, but fortunately, there are also natural remedies for anxiety that can calm the inner turmoil and restore balance to life.

While many experts dispute the idea that anxiety is a "disorder," nearly everyone agrees that dealing with a chronic anxiety problem reduces our ability to function effectively in the world, and can even negatively affect the immune system.

The most common symptoms of anxiety include irritability, chronic worrying, insomnia, feelings of panic, grinding teeth, tightness in the chest, heart palpitations, shallow breathing and stomach discomfort. It is important to note that these are just a few of the more common symptoms; a complete list of possible anxiety symptoms would likely number well into the thousands, as every unique individual experiences anxiety in a slightly different way.

In North America, the most common way to treat anxiety issues involves the use of medications. But natural remedies for anxiety are often more effective, and have the advantage of not producing the unwanted side effects or withdrawal symptoms. The following herbs and natural remedies have all shown promise in decreasing, or in some cases eliminating, anxiety.

Kava. Kava is a natural herb that has been used as a remedy for anxiety for decades in Europe. This natural treatment has been studied in several university sponsored trials in Europe, and the evidence suggests that it can be effective in controlling anxiety. However, because of recent concerns about Kava's effect on the liver, the herb is now less frequently used in Europe, though it is still available in the United States in lower dosages.

Skullcap. Skullcap is a natural herb that has traditionally been used as a remedy for anxiety. Although there is only limited research available on its effectiveness, one double-blind, placebo controlled study found that skullcap was effective in reducing anxiety levels.

Passionflower. Passionflower is another herb that shows promise in treating chronic anxiety. One clinically controlled study compared passion flower to Oxazepam in 36 individuals reporting generalized anxiety symptoms. Although the results of the trial showed that Oxezepam relieved anxiety more quickly, Passionflower was found to be equally effective over a four-week period. Passionflower also showed no significant side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Melatonin. Melatonin supplements have been studied extensively for their ability to promote restful sleep. In the past few years, melatonin has also been the subject of anxiety research. One study found that melatonin was as effective as prescription anti-anxiety medication in relieving pre-surgery stress in women. Smaller studies have shown similar results for both women and men.

Besides these and other natural remedies for anxiety, there are also alternative treatment options including acupuncture, biofeedback, relaxation therapies, meditation, guided visualization, and aromatherapy. Unfortunately, most of these alternatives have not been studied at length, and therefore it is difficult to assess exactly how effective any specific treatment may be. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that relaxation therapy and guided visualization can significantly improve both chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Used in conjunction with other natural remedies for anxiety, these alternative treatments show great promise.
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