We live in a stressful world and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better anytime soon.
Before reaching for the Valium though, I would like to show you some of the herbs for anxiety that we have at our disposal!
Anxiety, panic attacks, and stress. Each one is a very unpleasant experience. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18 percent of adults suffer from some kind of anxiety. That’s a whopping 40 million adults in the USA alone!
While there are chemical solutions to these problems, they often leave people feeling “dead” inside. It’s the same report of anti-depressants.
So you have a choice of feeling like you’re about to die or feeling like the living dead. Not a very satisfactory choice.
The great thing is, we have herbs for anxiety!
First of all, before we get into it and start dissecting anxiety and the herbal remedies we have to fight back, I would like to mention this: While I have degrees in herbal medicine, I am not a psychologist or therapist. I have no training in diagnosing any of the topics we’ll be looking at.
My training and education are purely in holistic and herbal medicines so please don’t take what I say here as gospel. While I have done a lot of research on these topics there’s no telling if the information that was already put out on the internet is accurate.
If you have any mental health issues that are causing you severe problems in your life, please get an appointment with a mental health specialist.
If you have suicidal thoughts, please call one of these organizations who can help you, no matter what you are going through.
You’ve got nothing to lose by talking to them:
Call: 1-800-273-8255 / LIVE CHAT
Website: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call: 116 123 / [email protected]
What Is Anxiety Disorder
“Anxiety disorder” is a bit misleading as there are actually 6 kinds of anxiety disorders that people suffer from.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Phobia (now called Social Anxiety Disorder)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
While some of these are less well known, they are still affecting people’s lives for the worse.
Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People who have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) are prone to worry excessively about a whole range of things.
While most people worry about things in their daily lives, people with GAD will obsessively worry.
GAD sufferers find it hard to break the cycle of worry and one worry topic will lead to another.
It can get to the point where getting through the day without worry IS the worry in its self.
This is becoming one of the biggest anxiety conditions in millennials. Social anxiety is exactly what it sounds like, a fear of social situations that can lead to a person becoming a recluse.
As you can imagine, having social anxiety can lead to all kinds of problems in your life. It can be hard to work a job, have friends and enjoy any aspect of interaction with people.
While shyness is similar, social anxiety can be crippling and can lead to other mental health issues.
Helpguide.org describes social anxiety as this – “Underlying social anxiety disorder is the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. You may be afraid that people will think badly of you or that you won’t measure up in comparison to others. And even though you probably realize that your fears of being judged are at least somewhat irrational and overblown, you still can’t help feeling anxious.”
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Mostly found in young kids and pets, this can also be found in adults to some degree.
Ever had that clingy girlfriend/boyfriend that would be lost without seeing you every second of every day, and texts you 1000 times an hour? That could be separation anxiety.
When I was at school, around age 5, there was a girl named Sarah who would literally cry and cling to her mother when she was dropped off at school.
She would be in hysterics, crying to the point of throwing up. There were occasions where her mom actually took her back home because the teachers couldn’t calm her down.
This is an example of how it can cause you some issues in life. The trauma probably still lingers with her and I don’t doubt she has a few problems in her social/dating life. Last I heard though, she’s doing well in the banking and finance industry.
Everyone knows what this is, right? You have heard this at least once in your life, I’m sure. The thing is, most people have got it wrong.
The common assumption is that its a fear of open spaces but this isn’t the case.
Agoraphobia is a condition made up of multiple fears.
These can be:
- Using public transport
- Enclosed spaces (elevators, movie theaters, etc)
- Open spaces (malls, parks, etc)
- Leaving home alone
Someone with agoraphobia could have one or more of these fears in varying degrees.
This is what most people think of when talking about anxiety.
Panic Disorder is what its name suggests, a panic attack condition.
I can tell you from personal experience, panic attacks are one of the worst things you can go through.
You can be fine one minute and have a full-blown meltdown the next, without any warning.
I have had them fairly bad but some people can black out from them. Symptoms of a panic attack can include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Rapid/elevated heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Tightness in the chest
- Trouble catching your breath
- The feeling of impending doom
- Feeling like you are going to have a heart attack and die on the spot
- Lack of logical thinking
- Choking feeling
- Upset stomach
- Sweating and shivering
- A feeling of disconnection from reality
Panic attacks can come on from nowhere or be triggered by situations that cause a high level of fear or worry.
For example, if you have social anxiety and your boss decides that you should give a presentation in front of the entire company, that will likely cause a panic attack.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
PTSD is most commonly thought of as a military mental health condition as a lot of people who see combat suffer from it.
That is far from the truth though. Anyone who has seen a or experienced an extremely traumatic event can develop PTSD.
People with PTSD can have the following:
- Nightmares of the event
- Panic attacks
- Uncontrollable thoughts and actions related to the event
Quite a few military personnel suffer from PTSD and have to deal with flashbacks to combat situations.
A car could backfire and they will suddenly dive behind cover or start acting like they are in combat. This is because they are seeing that memory play out again as if its reality.
While herbs can help to calm someone down and help with stress, if you have PTSD, you should seek therapy.
Medications will not solve the problem without a good counselor and propper psychiatric care.
Anxiety And Depression
While these are separate conditions and can be caused by different things, you can also find them together.
Its normally because of dealing with the issues of anxiety, depression can set in. Anxiety can cause problems in your life as I mentioned earlier, and if your life starts being effected, depression isn’t far behind.
The good news is that the herbs used to treat anxiety will also help with depression.
Depression can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and this will need a different approach to cure.
If the depression is caused by the limitations of anxiety, the same herbs will help in both cases.
What Causes Anxiety
There are many reasons and combinations of factors that can cause an anxiety disorder to develop.
Like with other mental illnesses, it can be caused by genetics, environmental or psychological factors.
For a deeper understanding of what is causing your specific situation, you would need to speak with a psychologist or therapist to dig deeper into the problem.
There are also different degrees of these issues. For example, if you have a period of stress but it’s not normal for you, its just a stressful time.
If you are constantly having panic attacks, that is a much higher degree of problem.
Why Herbs For Anxiety
Using herbs to deal with anxiety is a much cleaner option that is not only effective to help you relax, but some herbs are also adaptogens which will help other organs in your body, too.
While chemical medications can interact with herbs, the herbal way is a much more natural and holistic solution.
The herbs you can use for anxiety are also cheaper than medication (unless you have some really expensive health insurance), so you can heal your body naturally and save money doing it.
Herbs won’t give you unwanted side effects unless you are overdosing on them. I’m assuming here that you are not on any chemical prescription meds. If you are, you might find that they won’t play nice with some herbs and you will get unwanted side effects from the interaction but not the herb in its self.
Using herbs is not only effective but they are easier to get hold of and use at home. You can buy herbs for all kinds of problems and be making your own medicines in no time at all.
Another great benefit of using herbs is that you will have complete control over what you are putting into your body.
You know where it came from, you know what it does and you know how much to take.
After a while of using herbs, you will learn your body and figure out the dosage accordingly.
As an example, I’m more sensitive to Skullcap and Valarian than my wife. I take half the recommended dose of the tinctures and they work at full effect. My wife, on the other hand, gets a milder effect from a full dose.
veryone is different and this is one thing that sets herbalists and holistic medicines apart from big pharma and chemical medicine; we are not a “one size fits all” kind of creature.
Can Anxiety Kill You
The short answer is no, anxiety won’t kill you by its self.
The longer answer is possibly but indirectly. Living with high stress and anxiety levels can lead to heart problems, high blood pressure and in the case of severe depression, suicide.
The stress and anxiety don’t kill you but it can lead to other things that can.
If you live a stressful life, work a stressful job or have a lot of anxiety, you will want to monitor your blood pressure.
You can buy a home monitoring machine and do it that way or if you’re in the US, you can go to Publix or CVS.
Some of these stores have a free blood pressure monitoring machine and if you sign up an account with them, you can keep a record of your results.
You can also see your doctor for checkups. Whatever you do though, make sure you keep a check on it as that is one of the first signs that something is wrong with your system.
What Anxiety Feels Like
This depends on what kind of anxiety you are dealing with. A panic attack feels different from the fear of agoraphobia.
I would take a guess and say that all of them make you feel out of control and isolated. I’ve noticed that people that have never had to go through a panic attack, don’t understand what it feels like.
Anxiety is not something you can “suck up” or “just get over it”. It doesn’t work like that. It feels like you are going to die if you have it bad enough.
With panic attacks, you can also feel hyper-aware and hypersensitive to light, noise, and temperature. A noise that normally won’t bother you will become another source of anxiety, worry, and panic.
Can Anxiety Be Cured
This is a sticky question. For some people, yes, many months of psychotherapy and anxiety management with herbs or medication can cure anxiety.
For some people, the answer is no. If you’re in this group, you are going to be able to manage your symptoms so that you can actually function.
While this might sound like its the worst thing ever, it’s actually not. Everyone, every human on the planet, needs a certain level of anxiety to survive.
Anxiety and fear are an important function of the human brain, it keeps us alive and out of dangerous situations.
The problem is that the brain is overusing the section that deals with fear. We are in a heightened state of fight or flight when we shouldn’t be.
Aiming for a cure is not really what we need.
Speaking of cures, be very wary of any ads that promote a cure. There is no magic pill that will solve all your problems, you will just be wasting your money and getting disappointed for no reason.
There are options for anxiety management though, and that is really the point of this post. These herbs will help you manage your anxiety so that you can actually function.
The other good news is that if your anxiety is environmental, you can use these herbs to get you through until you can change your environment.
So let’s take a look at what herbs we have for anxiety.
Herbal Remedies For Anxiety
There are quite a few herbs that will help with anxiety and depression.
As I said, there is no magic pill or tea or herb that will fix everything.
These herbs will relax you, unwind the tightness in the chest and give you a brighter outlook so that you can make the necessary changes in your life.
Most of these herbs are easy to get from health food shops or places that stock herbal supplements. If you go to a store like this, go in knowing what you want.
In my experience, the staff are not herbalists, they have no training in holistic medicines and will try to sell you what they believe is the cure.
You don’t want or need their combination of 1000 herbs and berries or their super antioxidant mega powder, or whatever they have been told to push that day.
You should find most of these available though, especially in tincture or capsule form.
How To Make Herbal Tea
I’ve decided to make a separate post with the details.
For each herb, I’ll just list the amount of herb to the amount of water. Follow the steps in the How To Make Herbal Tea post and you will have a relaxing tea in no time! (Well, 15-20 minutes anyway)
So, let’s go over the best herbs for anxiety.
Lemon Balm herb (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm has a lot of uses in dealing with brain issues. Although it tastes like lemon, it’s really part of the mint family.
With this herb, teas taste great so that is an option for taking it.
With some herbs like Skullcap and Valarian, the tea tastes awful so it’s better to get a tincture. More on those in a minute!
WARNING: Because Lemon Balm is a sedative, there could be some interaction with chemical medications that do the same thing.
Things like Ativan, Donnatal, and Ambien could cause problems.
Lemon Balm Tea:
Herb amount: 2tsp of the dried leaves
Water amount: 8oz
Steep time: 10-15 minutes
Dosage: 3 cups a day
Valarian ( Valeriana officinalis )
Valarian is a very effective calming herb. You’ll often find it in tincture or pill form as the herb its self is not very nice tasting.
While valerian is effective at calming anxiety attacks, it’s also a good sleep aid. If you’re having trouble catching some zzz because of worry and stress, valerian is a great option.
My personal recommendation for Valarian is to take it in a tablet or capsule form as you won’t taste it. These are pretty easy to find in most health food stores or vitamin outlets.
WARNING: Valarian will likely interact with sedative medications such as Xanax, CNS Depressants and Valium. If you are on any medications like this, do not take Valarian before stropping your chemical medication.
Passionflower Herb (Passiflora incarnata)
Passion Flower is an effective nervine and sedative that works great for anxiety.
It’s also very effective against those times when your brain won’t shut up. When you have too many thoughts and it sounds like Grand Central Station in your head.
When I was studying meditation, a Buddhist monk told me that they call this “restless brain” condition “monkey brain” because it won’t sit still and it’s always too loud. I love that analogy lol.
So, Passion Flower is also good against the monkey brain. It’s also common knowledge that Passion Flower makes you passionate… That is actually wrong for the most part.
If your sex life is suffering because of stress or performance anxiety, Passion Flower will help but it doesn’t do anything for the libido.
What Does Passionflower Tea Taste Like?
Passion Flower has a “green” taste with a slight hint of toasted oats. It makes me think of a countryside grain farm in summer in my mouth… Make of that what you will 😛
Other people describe it as fruity, floral and slightly sweet. Not in a sugary way but in a natural way. Like most herbs, its hard to describe but worth tasting so you can make up your own mind.
Passion Flower Tea:
Herb amount: 1 heaped tsp of the dried leaves and stems.
Water amount: 8oz (1 cup)
Steep time: 8 -15 minutes (the longer the steep, the more oat-like the taste)
Dosage: 3 cups a day
Skullcap is one of my favorite herbs for sleep and anxiety. While it works well for both, it relaxes without actually making you drowsy.
Skullcap helps with sleep by getting you relaxed so that you get the rest you need. It works great for anxiety, acting quickly and in my experience, lasts quite a long time between doses
What Does Skullcap Tea Taste Like?
Just like Valerian, Skullcap tastes pretty bad. I would describe it as a slightly peppery, earthy, overpowering bitterness. It’s not comparable to any food I have ever had so it’s hard to describe
Because of the taste, you will mostly find Skullcap in pill or tincture form. It still tastes nasty but not as bad as it would if you make a tea out of it.
If you do pick it up in either pill or tincture form, follow the dosage instructions until you know the herb enough to experiment.
If you happen to have picked up a bag of loose leaf Skullcap for tea and you can’t handle the taste, you can always make a tincture out of it so don’t throw it out!
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Where to start with this one… Let’s dissect the name first and that will lead us nicely into the taste.
So, Ashwagandha has a few interesting common names such as “poison gooseberry” and “winter cherry” but the name Ashwagandha its self has meaning.
I had to actually research this and apparently, the name is in Sanskrit, the oldest known language.
Ashva means horse and gandha mean smell. And yes, Ashwagandha smells like its name.
As for the taste, it lives up to its name. You will find Ashwagandha in pill and tincture form and out of the two, I suggest the pills. A capsule of Ashwagandha still has a taste but nowhere near as bad as it would taste in tea form.
Milky Oat (Avena sativa)
This is an interesting one. I did some research on where Milky Oat comes from and to give you some background on the common name.
Normally common names don’t line up to the actual thing it’s named after. Skullcap is an example. In this case, though, Milky Oat really does comes from oats.
Apparently, during the growing and maturity of the oat top, it has a milky substance in it. You have to be fast to harvest it though as it only happens for 1 week in the growing cycle.
On to the medicinal benefits of Avena sativa though. It’s not just a great ait for sleep but is also a handy and tasty relaxant. Avana Sativa is very nourishing for the nervous system so it will help your frazzled nerves along with helping you relax.
You can by the dried tops to make tea or you can get tinctures. One of the nice things about Milky Oat is that it’s safe for everyone, even pregnant women. The only time you should be careful is if you have a gluten allergy. If you have an intolerance, you should still be fine using Milky Oat.
Milky Oat Tea
To get the most out of the tops, you will need to steep them overnight to extract everything. So follow the instructions but instead of steeping for 20 minutes, you will leave it for 12 hours or more.
Herb amount: 3/4 cup of tops
Water amount: 4-5 cups or enough to cover the tops.
Steep time: At least 12 hours
Dosage: 3 cups a day
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip was used by the Native Americans as well as a lot of other indigenous peoples. They used it for its gentle calming and relaxant properties, just like we still do today.
You can get a tincture form of Catnip but according to other herbalists, its best taken as a tea.
I’ve not used Catnip myself so I can’t argue with this but if you can only get a tincture, feel free to use that.
Nepeta cataria is a very gentle and safe herb that can be used for other things than just insomnia. I’ll do a proper write up on Catnip and I’ll add the link here somewhere.
Catnip, also called Catmint, lives up to its name in taste. I’ve been told that it has a lemony-mint like a flavor that is lovely in tea.
Catnip Tea Recipe:
Although I’m sticking to simple recipes here, you can combine Catnip with Chamomile or Mint to give you a lovely, flavourful tea. You could also add honey and lemon, too!
Herb amount: 1 – 2 tsp of the dried leaves and flowers.
Water amount: 8oz (1 cup)
Steep time: 10 -15 minutes
Dosage: 3 cups a day
Linden Flower (Tilia americna or T. cordata)
Linden Flower comes from the Linden tree that is commonly found in the northwestern states of the US.
This wonderful tree has many uses, not just medicinally. The wood is commonly known as Basswood and is used in wood whittling, carving and guitar construction.
The leaves and flowers are used for their relaxing and uplifting properties. While Tilla cordata is stronger than americana, they both have the same medicinal uses.
Linden Flower tea has been used for years for its gentle, relaxing effect and great taste. People have poetically described the taste as “summery and light”. It’s also sweet but you can always add honey to help it along if its not enough for you.
The nervine properties of Linden will help you deal with a stressful day and help you relax when life is getting to you.
It’s also great to drink before bed if stress and anxiety are keeping you up at night.
Linden Flower Tea
Herb amount: 1 – 2 tsp of the dried leaves and flowers.
Water amount: 8oz (1 cup)
Steep time: 10 -15 minutes
Dosage: 3 cups a day
Vitamins For Anxiety
Part of holistic medicine is lifestyle and nutrition. You can drink all the herbal tea in the world but unless you change the underlying cause, you will never get over the issue.
On that note, I thought I would write a little on the topic of vitamins and give you some foods that you can eat to get these vitamins naturally. You can also get these in supplement (tincture or capsule) form but if you eat a better diet, you will help to heal your body in other ways too
Note: I will be focusing on fruits and vegetables here. You are a carnivore, you will find a very common list of foods on every nutrition blog ever written. This list is more focused on vegetarians and vegans but its good for everyone!
B12 has been directly linked to the nervous system strength. A lack of this vitamin can cause anxiety, nervous problems and a host of other issues.
If you are Vegan, you might want to make sure you are eating at least some of the things on this list and/or taking a supplement. A blood test for vitamin and mineral levels wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
- Fortified Cereals
- Nooch (nutritional yeast)
- Fortified Plant Milks
- Some “Fake” Meat Products
- Seaweed (nori) & Algae
While these things have sources of B12, eating these alone might not be enough.
Calcium is known to support and nourish the nervous system.
Getting enough Calcium can help to limit the number of panic attacks and anxiety you experience.
So, where can we get it?
- Soy Products (yogurts and milk as well)
- Tahini (sesame seed paste)
- Fleafy Greens (Cabbage, Bok Choi, Collard Greens, Turnip and Spinach)
- Nuts (Brazil, Hazel, Macadamia, walnut, pistachio)
- Other Veggies (Broccoli, Brussels, Okra, and Kale)
- Dried Fruits
- Bread (most flours are fortified with calcium)
- Seeds (chia, sesame, Flax)
So, you just saw how to get your Calcium and now its time for Magnesium. But here’s the funny thing, most of the calcium list has Magnesium too!
There are some other things we can add to this list though, so let’s get into it!
- Black Beans
- Nuts (Peanuts, Almonds, and Cashews)
- Dark Chocolate
I would say that it’s pretty easy to get Calcium and Magnesium if you eat your veggies. If you still find it hard, there are supplements.
Mmm good ol’ potatoes! I don’t think I could enjoy food if I had to give up my tubers!
It’s pretty common knowledge that potatoes and bananas are good sources of potassium but there are other very tasty options with ever more potassium in them!
Here are a few in order of the amount of potassium from most to least. I would also like to link you to a chart I found in my research that does a great job of listing this info. (Scroll down a bit and you’ll see the chart).
- Lima Beans
- Sweet Potato
- Pinto Beans
- Kidney Beans
In my opinion, these are the tastiest in order of importance but if you like your Beet greens, you’re in luck!
Make sure you check that chart for all the info. Vegan Chili, anyone?
Aromatherapy For Anxiety And Depression
There are quite a few beautiful scents that will help you relax. You can get these as candles or oils that you can use in a burner.
One of the most well known essential oils for stress and anxiety management is Lavender.
Lavender Essential Oil For Stress
You can find lavender in so many forms these days, its harder to avoid it than find it!
From soaps and candles to body lotion and air fresheners. Lavender is popular because it not only smells good, it helps to relax your mind.
My favorite way to use Lavender is by applying the essential oil to pressure points. I mainly use it on the underside of my wrists. I find that it helps the body absorb the oil and because you move your hands around, you stir the air and release more fragrance.
You can also use it in the usual way with an oil burner/diffuser or light a candle. Either way will work well!
Not so well known but Jasmin is another great oil for relaxation and mood-lifting.
Jasmin works on the nervous system to help you relax without causing drowsiness.
There was a study done on the effects of the scent of Jasmin on the brain. You can read the test results here.
Bergamot oil comes from oranges of the same name. As you can imagine, Bergamot has a lovely citrus smell.
When it’s used on the skin, it helps reduce the anxiety and depression chemicals in the body and promotes a calming feeling.
Don’t use Bergamot if you are going to be out in the sun as it can be photosensitizing.
Ylang Ylang is a cheerful, uplifting oil that has been proven to reduce stress and depression.
The scent acts directly on the brain via the olfactory system. It changes brain chemistry by sniffing up the fruity, floral scent!
Just like everything else in this article, it has many other uses besides anxiety and stress management.
This is another photosensitizing oil so no sunlight if you’re using it topically.
Anxiety Self Help
In this last section, I would like to talk about the things you can do or change in your life to help your situation.
In my case, my body hates stimulants like caffeine, it spikes my anxiety and causes unnecessary panic.
If you’re the same, stay away from caffeine. People will say “Oh, I can’t live without my coffee!” but that is just the addiction talking.
Whether its guided meditation or just closing your eyes for a while, meditation can help you in more ways than one.
If you lower your stress, you can lower your blood pressure.
If you lower your stress, you might not reach for those cookies as comfort food.
Meditation is an art that takes practice and some people (like me) can never seem to get it. But that doesn’t matter! The only way to fail at meditation is to not attempt it regularly.
When I was in a situation where I couldn’t get herbs and I was having a LOT of stress, I turned to youtube and found these guys. I have been listening to their stuff for years and this one in particular really helps me to relax and deal with life.
Sip some herbal tea, listen to some rain sounds and when you’re ready to sleep, put on this video and prepare for a great sleep.
Some people like forest sounds, some people love the ocean sounds. Whatever your preference, listening to soothing music or sounds while you are having a hard time can help to ride it out.
If you’re stressed overwork and you can work with earphones in, load up some relaxing sounds and pretend you’re not at work.
ASMR is also a very popular option and youtube is full of people making quality ASMR videos that can help you relax.
Hitting the gym is a great idea when you’re dealing with anxiety.
Working out reduces hormones in the body that are considered “stress hormones” like cortisol.
It also released endorphins that will alter the brain chemistry to make you feel much better, and you get a great lookin’ bod as a side effect! 😉
This is another anxiety management idea that I have personal experience with. Tai Chi not only helps with anxiety, but it also balances the body and centers your energy.
Tai Chi was developed as a martial art way back in the 8th century and is still practiced today. Nowadays you’re more likely to find it being used as a way to relax and beat depression but once you become fluid with the movements, it can be used for its original purpose.
For more info on the history of Tai Chi, check out this article.
Wow, that was a long post!
I’m sure that you will find something in here that will work for you and while these herbal teas are simples, they are still very effective.
If you feel like you need more than just tea, try combining ideas. Practice some Tai Chi while diffusing Ylang Ylang into the air or sip a tea while listening to rain sounds.
Try out as many ideas as you can and see what works for you. Something else to keep in mind is that sometimes you might need to cycle ideas because something that works on your anxiety this week might not work so well next week. If that happens, that is a good time to change it up.
Other people are fine with a handful of solutions that work all the time, everyone is their own person and everyone’s demon is different.
Keep fighting and if you feel like nothing is helping, talk to a Dr, you might have a chemical imbalance brought on by something else going wrong in the body.
Until the next post, stay strong!
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