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Herbal Remedies for Stress & Anxiety

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated August 14, 2017

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, which is practically unavoidable in today’s modern world. Acute stress and anxiety are normal and may even be helpful at times; however, chronic stress and anxiety can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to help combat stress and anxiety. Keep in mind that herbs may interact with other herbs, supplements and medications, so consult your doctor before taking a herbal remedy for stress and anxiety.

Chill Out With Kava Kava

Kava kava, or kava root, grows on the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The active ingredients in the kava root -- called kavalactones -- contain chemicals that may promote sleep and relaxation and improve mood, thereby reducing mild stress and anxiety. Kava kava may also improve cognitive performance, unlike some common anti-anxiety medications that decrease cognitive function. Kava root is available as a chewable root, tablet, liquid or extract. Some possible side effects of kava root include dizziness, drowsiness, upset stomach and restlessness.

Less Stress With Passionflower

Passionflower is a calming herb used for generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia and stomach upset related to anxiety. Researchers believe that passionflower works by increasing levels of GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps decrease the activity of some other brain cells, promoting relaxation. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that passionflower tends to be milder than kava kava and valerian root, and because of this, it is often used in conjunction with other herbs to help reduce stress and anxiety. Passionflower is available as a tea, tincture and extract.

Get to the Root With Valerian

Valerian root is an herbal remedy used to decrease anxiety and nervous restlessness. Valerian root is also used for insomnia because it helps people fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. Researchers believe that valerian root works the same way as passionflower -- by increasing levels of GABA in the brain. The most common side effects associated with the use of valerian are headaches, dizziness, itchiness and gastrointestinal upset.

Stay Calm With Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, an herb that belongs to the mint family, is a calming herb that was used as early as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep and appetite and ease pain from indigestion. Lemon balm is often combined with other herbs, such as valerian and chamomile, to promote relaxation. Researchers credit plant chemicals in lemon balm called terpenes with lemon balm’s relaxation properties. Lemon balm is available in tea, capsule, tincture and topical form.

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