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4 Natural Supplements That Can Help With Anxiety

By on May 23, 2018 in Anxiety Relief with 0 Comments

We all suffer from anxiety from time to time.  Everyone will be familiar with that feeling of dread and fear which is a natural response when we feel we are under threat.  It is part of our “fight, flight or freeze” response.

Anxiety turns into a problem when anxiety lasts for a long time and affects you physically and emotionally.  Those suffering from anxiety disorders find it difficult to relax and to function from day to day.  It is a prevalent illness. Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation indicated that as many as 8.2 million people suffer from anxiety in the UK alone. Last year we brought you seven natural supplement ideas for treating your anxiety and in this article we dig deeper into what we believe are the four best natural options for finding more inner calm.

Treatments for anxiety

There are several treatments for anxiety – from self-care tools, talking treatments like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to medication.  Those suffering from anxiety can be prescribed a cocktail of drugs like anti-depressants, beta-blockers or benzodiazepine tranquilizers. Whilst these drugs can work to arrest the symptoms of depression, there are side effects and can be potentially addictive.

Anxious woman waiting on the couch

Why natural supplements?

The interest in taking natural remedies for our ailments is not new.  There is a rich history of civilizations using plant-based natural remedies for thousands of years.  The advantages of plant-based remedies are manifold – the main being that it is a food source, not synthetic. The cost of natural supplements tend to be cheaper than prescribed drugs and there are little side effects.

A study done by Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, Los Angeles reviewed the effectiveness of natural supplements to alleviate anxiety.  Over 2619 participants, between the age of 18 to 82, were given a mixture of natural supplements and their anxiety levels checked against the baseline.  The following three natural supplements have been recommended:

Kava

Kava (Piper methysticum)  is a herb native to Polynesia.  Hailed as ‘the king of natural anxiety treatments’, the humble herb, when taken with food, had shown to help with mild anxiety disorders.  The herb is considered to have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect.

The active ingredients within the herb, kavalactones, prevent spikes of epinephrine which could overwhelm the body.  It was noted that Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) levels were improved in those who took kava as a remedy. GABA is one of the body primary neurotransmitters that calms the central nervous system.

Research demonstrates that patients taking kava over eight weeks fared better on the Hamilton Anxiety scale compared to those taking a placebo.  The herb does not impair the participant’s motor control or reaction action. A further German study illustrates that kava promotes deep muscle relaxation and regulate emotions, making it conducive for patients to get some sleep.

The side effects are nil for short-term use.  The herb is not addictive nor caused any withdrawal symptoms.  It is powerful enough as a remedy that the experts have advised not to take any other supplements or medicine in tandem with this herb.  It might amplify the effect and cause drowsiness.

It is not recommended to mix this herb with alcohol due to its adverse effect on the liver.  The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory in 2002  about the potential risk to liver injury. The research done above disapprove this concern – the liver toxicity was probably a rare side effect and only due to very high doses.

Passionflower

For those suffering from mild anxiety, passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) supplement may be a better option than kava.  Considered as ‘lite kava’, it is less powerful yet the supplement still gives a mild anxiolytic effect and sedative effect.   There has been less research on the effectiveness of passionflower as an anti-anxiety supplement, as compared to kava but historically, the herb had been used in folk remedy to treat restlessness and general anxiety.

In the research above, passionflower supplements compared very favorably against synthetic benzodiazepine.  While participants taking the synthetic drug reported faster relief of the symptom, the side effects of passionflower supplement are milder.

Magnesium

While not strictly a plant-based supplement, magnesium is a mineral that exists naturally in food.  Current food production had stripped this mineral and we all have very low levels of magnesium intake.  The low levels cause a number of the physical symptoms of anxiety.  It is a catch-22 situation because in turn, having anxiety further deplete the level of magnesium in the body.

The research done on magnesium showed that taking regular doses of magnesium can reduce psychological distress in anxiety sufferers.  Women taking magnesium in combination with other vitamin supplements reported relief from pre-menstrual anxiety.  The research also concluded that there are little side effects from ingesting magnesium supplements.

Valerian Roots

Unlike kava or passionflower, valerian roots (Valeriana officinalis)  is not an anxiolytic.  The use of valerian is mainly to treat the symptoms of anxiety.   It is often used as a sleep aid.  Anxiety sufferers often battle with insomnia, which exacerbates the underlying anxiety problem.  Getting relief from insomnia gives the sufferer some respite from the vicious cycle of agitation, tension, and tiredness.

The roots are available in tea, liquid extracts or capsule form and are usually taken before bed. A period of two to three weeks is needed for the supplement to be effective and it is recommended that anxiety sufferers shouldn’t take it for more than three months. Side effects may include mild indigestion, headache, and palpitations; and Valerian cannot be taken with alcohol and medicines such as sedatives and antihistamines.

Conclusion

Often people opt for natural supplements to avoid side effects. In most cases and when taken with correct advice and guidance, the four natural supplements can help with anxiety.

It is, however, important to keep in mind that these supplements are still ingested medicine.  Those who are looking for the most natural treatment for anxiety should still use therapy or guided exercises to help with stress.   As in other medicines, supplements should be taken with care and with the guidance of a medical practitioner.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tom Andrews BSc is the editor of MentalWellnessToday.com. He devotes his time to psychology and mental health research and also enjoys climbing, hiking, and team sports. Tom is a contributor to several other highly regarded health magazines and blogs.

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