Herbs For Anxiety
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What is anxiety?
Also referred to as worry, anxiety is a state of being in which various cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and somatic (i.e. related to sleep) factors are involved. Anxiety is a general feeling of fear or apprehension; its root word angst meaning "to vex or trouble." Signs and symptoms: Restlessness, impatience, feeling "on edge," and poor concentration are common symptoms of anxiety. Other physical symptoms might include headaches, pain or discomfort in the muscles and/or jaw, dry mouth, fatigue, insomnia, tension, bloating, indigestion, excessive sweating, and tightness in the chest.
What causes anxiety?
While many people feel anxious from time to time, others experience anxiety on a regular basis. In the former case, anxiety is typically related to an isolated incident, such as a job interview. Others suffer from frequent or chronic anxiety triggered by recurring situations or stimuli. The latter case might also be characterized by feelings of anxiousness or worry about "nothing" in particular - a symptom considered to be indicative of generalized anxiety disorder. 
Anxiety might also be caused by medical conditions such as thyroid problems, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Some prescription medications are known to cause anxiety, as well as certain herbal remedies, supplements, and recreational drugs. Caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms, and should be taken into consideration when determining the cause of anxiety.
Types of anxiety:
The term "anxiety disorder" is defined as "abnormal or pathological worry or fear". An anxiety disorder is different from infrequent feelings of fear or worry that occur as a normal part of everyday life. For example, it is considered a normal behavior for students to feel anxious about the S.A.T. test. It is also considered normal for patients to worry about upcoming surgeries, or for parents to worry when their children go away to summer camp... but when a person develops fears about the doctor's office in general, their behavior might be considered a phobia. When a student experiences anxiety about performing on any and all tests - to the point of its affecting their ability to study - their behavior might be considered an indicator of performance anxiety or "test" anxiety (a condition generally associated with students but also has been know to occur among workers regarding their job, career, or profession). 
Clinical categories of anxiety disorders include:
• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
• Panic disorder (Anxiety Attacks)
• Social phobia. 
Orthodox Anxiety Treatment:
When a person's anxiety levels inhibit their ability to cope with situations, it is recommended that they consult professional help. It is also typically recommended that an official diagnosis be made before sufferers of anxiety begin considering treatment options. When evaluating cases of anxiety, a doctor will take into consideration the possibility of medical causes. If medical conditions are ruled out, a doctor might recommend that the patient in question seek cognitive, emotional, or behavioral therapy. Alternative or complementary treatments might also be considered.
Prescription medications for anxiety disorders include:
Antidepressants - Originally developed as treatments for depression, antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety disorders. SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa) are medications commonly prescribed in the case of panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. Generalized anxiety disorder is often treated with bupropion (Wellbutrin), or with the SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor). Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for anxiety. Imipramine (Tofranil) is prescribed for panic disorder and GAD, and clomipramine (Anafranil) is sometimes prescribed to OCD sufferers. As treatments for anxiety disorders, antidepressants are generally commenced at low doses and increased over time. 
Other medicines prescribed to treat anxiety are MAOIs (i.e. phenelzine [Nardil], tranylcypromine [Parnate], and isocarboxazid [Marplan] ). In order to avoid adverse food-drug interactions, certain foods and medicines should be avoided. 
Self-Help For Sufferers of Anxiety
According to experts, anxiety disorders respond very well to clinical treatment and also to self-help strategies. However, not all people who worry a lot have anxiety disorders, nor are they all in danger of developing one. Those who observe themselves consumed by excessive worry might ask themselves the following questions:
Do you make enough time to relax and have fun each day?
Do you find yourself getting the emotional support you need?
Are you caring for your body?
Are you overwhelmed by responsibilities?
When you need help, do you ask for it?
When life circumstances are overwhelming, some of us take on too much responsibility and neglect to care for ourselves. Feeling overwhelmed is an indication that balance is "off" in our lives. To regain balance, many self-help strategies can be employed. Sometimes, the best medicine is a conversation with a trusted friend. Talking about the experience of anxiety can make life seem a lot less frightening. 
Self-help treatments for anxiety include:
Making time to relax. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being. Eating healthy and nutritious foods. Make time for breakfast, and eat frequent small meals throughout the day in order to avoid going too long without eating. Skipping meals can cause low blood sugar (which tends to increase anxiety). Spa therapies, massage and similar relaxing healthful activities can also be beneficial.
Avoiding consumption of alcohol, nicotine or drugs. While cigarette-breaks from work and glasses of wine in the evening might seem relaxing, studies show that consumption of nicotine and alcohol actually increase anxiety levels. Try drinking herbal tea such as chamomile instead of wine, beer or spirits, and eating regularly instead of smoking.
Regular exercise. Studies show that exercise can naturally decrease stress and relieve anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week.
Getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can intensify anxious thoughts and worsens feelings of fear. Experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. It's also commonly advised to switch off the computer up to 2 hours before sleep, as it is thought by some that working on the computer late in the evening may contribute to insomnia.
Good time management. One thing that can really raise anxiety levels is the panic situation caused by not having enough time to do things. Good time management practices and efficient use of time can help with avoidance of panic scenarios. Confront issues and take care of them before they become worse.
Avoid exposure to "trigger" scenarios. For some people, anxiety is triggered by certain experiences - perhaps by something such as watching distressing news on the TV or movies with graphic scenes in them. If so, turn it off! Learn to recognize things that trigger anxiety and where it is reasonable to do so, sidestep them.
Keeping a journal. Experts recommend that sufferers of anxiety write down their worries, in order to self-reflect and avoid dwelling on irrational fears.
Natural Alternatives to Prescription Medications for Anxiety:
Many people who experience anxiety are not willing to take prescription medications, or would prefer to seek out alternative methods. Included in such methods are herbal remedies, many of which have gained recognition in the medical community for their potential to calm the nerves, decrease stress levels and reduce the severity and/or prevalence of anxiety attacks in certain individuals. Some herbs, such as chamomile, are commonly-used for the purpose of relaxation-- chamomile tea is a popular home remedy for sleeplessness and is often given to children to help them relax before bed. Other herbs are consumed widely but rarely acknowledged as medicinal herbs--for example, the natural relaxing, sedative herb hops has been used for centuries to enhance the flavor of beer.  Lesser-known herbs such as valerian and kava have recently been the subject of scientific inquiry for their potential to bring about feelings of well-being and ease. Valerian and other calming herbs are utilized as key ingredients in commercial tea products marketed for rest and relaxation.  In terms of their effectiveness as remedies for anxiety, herbs might not work for everyone. However, many claim to have benefited greatly from their use. Herbal remedies are often prescribed by practitioners of natural medicine, and are sometimes used in place of (or in addition to) prescription medications and/or lifestyle changes. As with any medication (herbal or otherwise), experts recommend that patients talk to their doctor before making changes in their current treatment program.
10 Herbs For Anxiety
The following natural remedies and herbs have been indicated by various researches for Anxiety:
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Indigenous to Europe and regions of Asia, Valerian has been used for centuries as a remedy for insomnia, nervousness, trembling, headaches and heart palpitations.  Clinical study of valerian root has revealed its usefulness as a treatment for anxiety. In World War II it was used by English soldiers to minimize the stress of air raids, and has also been mentioned as being an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.  Use of valerian as an anxiety remedy in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine has led to scientific inquiry regarding its effects on GABA neurotransmitters. 
Kava (Piper methysticum)
Grown on the Western Pacific, kava (also called kava-kava) has a history of use among various Polynesian cultures. Generally considered a mild relaxant, kava has been reported to have intoxicant effects when used in high doses and in some cultures has been used ritually as a mind-altering substance . Studies show that kava is comparable to pharmaceutical medications for anxiety disorders in the benzodiazepine class.  Unlike other sedatives, kava is known for having sedative effects without causing cognitive impairment. While traditionally extracted from the root only, the active components in kava (kavalactones) are also present in the stem and leaves of the plant.  In a randomized, double-blind trial in 1996, 29 patients with anxiety symptoms were treated with kava extract (100mg standardized with 70 percent kavalactones) three times per day for four weeks. When compared with the placebo group, anxiety symptoms were greatly reduced in patients treated with kava, and no adverse effects were reported. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial in 1997, 101 outpatients with moderate to severe anxiety disorders were given one dose (three times daily) of kava extract with 70 percent total kavalactones for 25 weeks. Participants in the trial suffered from a range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and specific phobia. Researchers found that after 24 weeks of treatment, patients in the kava group had improved significantly in terms of anxiety, fear, tension and insomnia. Adverse reactions to kava treatment were minimal. According to the outcome of the study, kava is considered a safe alternative to benzodiazepines and synthetic antidepressants in treating anxiety disorders.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
First mentioned mentioned by Hippocrates, who classified it as a medicinal plant, St. John's wort has a history of use as a treatment for mental disorders and physical ailments of various types. The results of contemporary research imply that St. John's wort might be useful as an alternative or complimentary treatment for mild to severe depression . St. John's wort has been used as a treatment for various conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). St. John's wort is reported to alleviate symptoms of menopause such as moodiness, sleep disturbances, headache, migraine, and fatigue, and has also been used for the purpose of smoking cessation. When applied topically, St. John's wort is considered to be an effective treatment for bug bites, burns, inflammation, muscle soreness and nerve pain . St. John's wort has been studied for its usefulness as a treatment for anxiety, but further research must be conducted before conclusive evidence is found. 
While side effects are uncommon, caution should be taken before using St. John's wort, especially by people who take anti-coagulants (i.e. Warfarin), medications for HIV/AIDS (Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors (for HIV/AIDS), sedative medications (barbiturates), birth control pills, tricyclic antidepressants including amitriptyline (Elavil), or selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, anti-anxiety medications such as alprazolam (Xanax), pain medications (narcotics) including but not limited to meperidine (Demerol), hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin), or medications that are broken down or otherwise affected by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates) . Reported side effects of St. John's wort include sun sensitivity, restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, dry mouth, stomach pain and associated gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, sexual dysfunction, and skin reactions. 
Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
First used by traditional cultures of the Americas as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, Passion Flower has been of scientific interest in recent years. Studies show that passionflower may have the potential to be used successfully as a treatment for anxiety-- the plant's active components have been found to increase GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain, creating a sense of calm.  Results from a 2001 study indicate that passionflower might be comparable to the pharmaceutical drug oxazepan (Serax) as a treatment option for generalized anxiety disorder. Teas, tinctures, and other herbal products marketed as "calming," or "anti-anxiety" often contain passionflower. In a recent study, an herbal product containing passionflower and other calming herbs was administered to 91 individuals with symptoms of anxiety. Researchers found that when compared with the placebo, the herbal formula was effective in alleviating anxiety symptoms. 
Passionflower is considered to be safe and non-toxic, but certain individuals may experience minor to moderate side effects. According to experts, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take passionflower. Individuals with anxiety symptoms should talk with their doctor before making changes to their current treatment plan.
Passionflower has also been reported to interact with a number of prescription medications including barbituates, benzodiazepines such as alpraxolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), tricyclic antidepressants such as ampitriptyline (Elavin), amoxapine, doxepin (Sinequan), and nortriptyline (Pamelor); anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dillantin); medications for insomnia such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and ramelteon (Rozerem); as well as antiplatelets and anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin; and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors or MAOIs). 
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile)
First used by the Ancient Egyptians, chamomile is perhaps the most well-known of all "calming" herbs.  Chamomile has a history of use in natural and alternative medicine, but only recently has it been studied regarding its potential to treat anxiety.  Results from clinical trials indicate that chamomile helps to reduce symptoms of general anxiety disorder--researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that when compared with the placebo group, anxiety symptoms were significantly reduced in patients treated with chamomile.  Use of chamomile has been associated with promoting restful sleep-- while the idea is supported by results from in-vivo trials, no conclusive evidence has been found regarding a connection between chamomile and the human sleep cycle.
In a 2005 study, researchers found that the soothing effects of chamomile may be long-lasting if consumed regularly over a period of time. 
Chamomile is generally considered safe but may provoke allergic reactions in certain individuals. People with a history of sensitivity to ragweed should take extra care before drinking chamomile tea or using products that contain chamomile, as the two plants are close relatives and may cause a similar histamine response. 
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Traditionally used by brewers as a flavoring agent and preservative, hops is native to Britain and was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder. A popular natural remedy for anxiety, sleep disturbances, nervousness, restlessness and tension, the sedative properties of hops may have first been discovered by gardeners who would fall asleep while picking the herb.  According to traditional herbalists, hops is most effective as a remedy for anxiety when combined with valerian, passionflower, and chamomile. Scientific inquiry into the potential medicinal benefits of hops suggests that it is effective as an alternative treatment for anxiety. In a recent double-blind study, hops was more effective than placebo when administered as a tincture that included valerian root. 
Hops is considered safe for medicinal use, but caution should be taken by those with sensitivities to plants of the Cannabaceae (cannabis) class. 
Through the years, there have been increasing number of claims regarding the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba in combating anxiety. Research shows that this herb is capable of enhancing brain circulation which results in better mood. Also, ginkgo biloba is reported to act as an anti-depressant. 
For centuries, ginkgo biloba has been widely used to treat a wide range of mental conditions including dementia, depression, Lyme disorders, and Alzheimer's disease. In a study conducted to test the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba, it was found out that the herb is indeed capable of reducing one's level of stress and anxiety.  The mechanism suggested for why ginkgo biloba helps people with anxiety is by enhancing the circulation of blood to the brain - which can result in better management of tinnitus, confusion, headache, depression and anxiety. 
Though ginseng is not widely recognized as an anxiolytic, ginsenosides (active components in Panax ginseng) are reported to stimulate better blood circulation in the brain which results in reduced physical stress and anxiety. Numerous scientific studies have indicated that ginseng may provide benefit in cases of anxiety.  
This herb is better known for its adaptogenic properties which enhance the body's physical resistance against wear and tear caused by emotional and physical stress. A scientific study conducted in 1982 which involved nurses who were asked to switch from day to night shift revealed that those who took ginseng were able to sustain their emotional balance while those who did not take ginseng were moodier and emotionally unstable. 
Please note that ginseng is often used as an energy booster and so it may not be suitable for all people. Consult a professional.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
In addition to its anti-bacterial properties, lavender is also an excellent choice of herb for stress relief. This powerful herb is regarded as capable of promoting a deep sense of calmness, relaxation and even sleep. Lavender is also effective at reducing one's level of anxiety and irritability. It works by balancing the hormones and stimulating the body's immune system.  Aside from its ability to alleviate insomnia, lavender is also capable of reducing stress and depression.
For centuries, lavender has been widely used to treat anxiety. The plant contains 16 constituents and when used as oil, it creates aroma that offers calming effects, decrease anxiety and enhance mood scores. 
Aromatherapy is known as one of the best recognized therapies for anxiety, stress and depression nowadays. According to research, when the essential lavender oil is inhaled, molecules begin to enter the brain then interact with parts of the organ that is associated with emotion, the hippocampus and amygdala. By acting as sedative to these areas of the brain, feelings of stress and anxiety are gradually reduced. Also, a study in 2007 revealed that lavender significantly reduced the level of serum cortisol among men. Cortisol is a type of hormone that is associated with stress. 
Coming from the mint family, catnip is a powerful herb is capable of treating various symptoms of anxiety. For people with severe anxiety, catnip makes an effective relief. It reduces stress, eases muscle tension, improve appetite and eliminate headache that is triggered by insomnia. 
According to research, catnips have been around for so long and they are known as stimulants for cats. When cats eat or nip catnip, it gives them a great deal of energy and brings them into a playful trance.
Today, catnip is recognized as a powerful herb that is capable of stimulating the nervous system, and treating physiological imbalance and other symptoms of anxiety and depression. The plant also contains good nerve tonic that helps in relieving tension throughout the body. Furthermore, it is capable of rejuvenating nerve activities, stimulating the brain and relaxing the nerves which result to reduced anxiety and stress. 
Also, catnip contains nepetalactone substance that offers calming effects. Apart from being an excellent relaxant, catnip is also noted as a good natural sedative that promotes feelings of drowsiness. 
Herbs For Anxiety - References:
 Generalized anxiety disorder: People who worry about everything--and nothing in particular--have several treatment options. (2011). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 27, 1-3.
 "University of Minnesota Libraries: The Transfer of Knowledge. Hops-''Humulus lupulus''". Lib.umn.edu. 2008-05-13.
 Holzl J, Godau P. (1989). "Receptor binding studies with Valeriana officinalis on the benzodiazepine receptor". Planta Medica 55 : 642. DOI:10.1055/s-2006-962221.
 Kobak KA, Taylor LVH, Warner G, Futterer R. St. John's wort versus placebo in social phobia: Results from a placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2005; 25(1): 51-58.
 St. John's wort. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/329.html
 Passionflower. Penn State. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000267
 A History of the 'Noble' Chamomile - Anthemis nobilis. http://www.chamomile.co.uk/history.htm
 Nauert, Rick. PhD. Chamomile for Anxiety. Pych Central. http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/02/12/chamomile-for-anxiety/11400/html
 Smucker, Celeste M. MPH, PhD. Chamomile helps with anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/034454_chamomile_anxiety_depression.html
 Herbal Anti-Anxiety. Hops. Practical Anxiety Disorder Advice. http://www.practical-anxiety-disorder-advice.com/herbal-anti-anxiety.html
 Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hops. FoundHealth. http://www.foundhealth.com/generalized-anxiety-disorder/generalized-anxiety-disorder-and-hops
 Hops. A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hops--32.html
 Hops. Drug Information Online. http://www.drugs.com/npc/hops.html
Article researched and created by Kelsey Wambold and Elfe Cabanas, © herbs-info.com 2013
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