The search for natural anxiety relief is a worldwide phenomenon. Fortunately, natural remedies for anxiety that have been in use for centuries are now backed by solid scientific research. Prescription drugs and expensive psychotherapies become unnecessary when you know which natural anxiety remedies work best.
Finding Herbs for Anxiety
Internet searches are simply going to be overwhelming. Dozens of herbs are available in hundreds of supplements that are marketed by thousands of websites and in countless retail nutrition stores. Sorting through all that information can be worthwhile only if you have the time and inclination to do so.
A better strategy is to check out the scientific research behind some of the already well-known herbs. This at least gives you an indication of how good they are beyond their use as traditional medicines.
Looking up original research is rewarding if you know how to use PubMed and can follow the scientific jargon in the abstracts that are free there. The nice thing about research on natural remedies for anxiety, though, is that it is often summarized in monographs by herb groups and companies that are serious about creating supplements based on medical evidence.
The following are examples of four of the top herbs for treating anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia. I give you an overview of what to expect by searching the medical database (PubMed), plus a downloads of monographs that have been prepared for the educated public. Dig into them for much more detail when you have some time. They are fascinating guides to what you can expect from these herbs.
This is absolutely one of my favorites. I use it myself, with great results, and I enjoyed lecturing about it in my college classes. There is so much information on this herb that it could fill a book.
A cursory PubMed search on just the scientific name (Piper methysticum) yields a list of 197 research articles. The most pertinent references for its medicinal use are summarized in a monograph on kava that is available to the public. This herb has an extensive history in traditional medicine, which is reflected in this detailed monograph.
Kava (or ‘kava kava’) is so popular worldwide that you will easily find it in capsules, tinctures, and even as whole roots. In fact, on a vacation to Fiji a few years ago, I found that about half the stalls at the daily farmer’s market in the city of Suva were selling kava roots.
You can bet that I spent a few relaxing afternoons with some of the natives who invited me to their daily kava rituals!
St. John’s Wort
This herb is famous among those in the know as a wonderful treatment for mild anxiety. In fact, it has attracted a huge amount of attention from the research community. A PubMed search on the scientific name (Hypericum perforatum) shows 984 published articles on this herb.
Here is a silly note. A few years ago some dufus in mainstream medicine conducted a study where the final result showed St. John’s wort to be useless against severe depression. All he had to do was consult any herbal medicine book to see that the study was doomed at the outset. The key is using St. John’s wort for mild depression, where it has been used successfully for generations.
This herb seems to be what the medicos call an SSRI (i.e., ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor’), which is how some prescription antidepressants work. More recently studies have documented its use in treating anxiety.
Of course, the herb folks have put together a nice monograph on St. John’s wort for the public. Again, it is fascinating and worthwhile reading for you when you get a chance.
This herb also has a long history in traditional medicine. However, it has only relatively recently attracted attention from research science. PubMed lists 89 references in a search on its scientific name (Passiflora incarnata). Fortunately, herbalists have taken the best of these and put together a monograph on passion flower for public use.
Even a quick glance at that monograph shows how important passion flower is as one of the top herbs for anxiety. Fortunately, it is also easy to find. It is no wonder that this herb is a popular ingredient in the best natural anxiety remedies.
Albizia julibrissin (sometimes spelled ‘Albizzia’), or silk tree, is one of the most beautiful trees that I enjoyed as I was growing up in northern California. When I started studying plant biochemistry I found out that this native of southeastern Asia has a rich history in eastern herbal medicine. Modern research on this herb has not yet caught up with its importance for treating stress and depression. However, early indications are that certain of its phytochemicals have effects on GABA receptors, which influence areas in brains that regulate excitability. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
I have dug into the research on albizia to see how it matches up with its traditional medicinal use. Since no monograph is available on it yet, I simply put the list of pertinent articles into a file that you can examine for yourself. Be forewarned that this is super geeky, since it lists primary scientific references and abstracts.
Nevertheless, this file on albizia research gives you at least a preliminary idea of what researchers have been finding out about this herb. My comment is: so far, so good.
By the way, the first time I became aware of this herb is when I bought a retail nutrition store and found it on the shelf. I had to scurry to educate myself on it because so many of my customers wanted to know about herbs for anxiety. Those who used it were quite pleased with how well it worked.
All the best in natural health,
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