Anxiety--the way your body reacts to dangerous situations--is a normal biological function. However, when your anxiety response occurs even when there is no specific threat, it can become an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety include muscle tension, restlessness, insomnia, stomach pains, and excessive sweating. If you have severe anxiety, you should be under the care of a qualified physician or mental health professional, however many people turn to natural remedies to reduce their anxiety. If you would like to try natural remedies, consult your doctor; as herbs can have side effects and interfere with prescription medications.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Chamomile—traditionally prescribed by herbalists as a mild sedative and a sleep aid—has antispasmodic and muscle relaxant effects, as well as the ability to soothe digestive disorders by regulating peristalsis. Chamomile, which can be taken as a calming tea or in capsules, helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, including the nervous feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach. Avoid chamomile if you are allergic to daisies, chrysanthemum or ragweed.
The leaves and flowers of the hops plant--also used to make home-brewed beer-- are employed to alleviate restlessness and insomnia. According to the Herbs 2000 website, a volatile compound called dimethylvinyl carbinol may give hops its calming effect 1. Hops can be taken in a standardized extract or sipped as a tea. You can also make a sleep pillow by stuffing a pouch with hop flowers.
Lemon balm tea can bring soothing relief to jangled nerves, and help to restore emotional equilibrium. It has a strong antispasmodic action and analgesic properties. Lemon balm tea may owe its calming and stabilizing qualities to its volatile oils of citral and citronella; it is also rich in beneficial flavonoids. Lemon balm tea is made by steeping 2 tablespoonfuls of the fresh herb for 15 minutes.
St John's Wort
St. John's Wort, also known as hypericum, rosin rose, and klamath weed, can relieve anxiety, insomnia, restlessness and stomach problems resulting from stress. The beneficial effects of St John's Wort may alleviate depression and anxiety by augmenting neurotransmitters in the brain 3. Be aware that St. John's Wort can cause increased sensitivity to light. Don't take St. John's Wort if you are pregnant, and never combine it with tranquilizers and alcohol.
Herbalists recommend valerian, also referred to as valeriana officinalis, for insomnia caused by anxiety. Valerian, which has sedative and anti-spasmodic effects, can help you fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep longer. For severe anxiety or panic attacks, put a drop of valerian into your bath water. You can also use valerian in low doses throughout the day for calming.
Kava kava, or Piper methysticum, can lift your mood and reduce anxiety. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center website, several studies suggested that kava kava may be useful in the treatment of anxiety, and one study found that it was as effective as prescription anti-anxiety medication such as Valium 4. It also has pain-relieving and muscle relaxant properties. To avoid the risk of liver damage, you should only take kava kava under a doctor's supervision
Ride a bike, swim, jog, or walk briskly for 30 minutes three to five days a week. According to Mayoclinic.com, the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood 3. Start slowly, if you're unaccustomed to exercise; take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park farther away from buildings so you can walk to them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Work with a therapist to identify unhealthy and negative beliefs that contribute to your anxiety. Learn to replace them with healthy, realistic beliefs, which will help to empower you to manage anxiety.
- leekris/iStock/Getty Images