(Prevent Disease) Herbal therapies are astoundingly popular and interest in them is growing as the dangers of pharmaceuticals become widely known and accepted. In 2008 statistician Patricia M. Barnes of the National Center for Health Statistics and her colleagues reported that almost 20 percent of children and adults in the U.S. had used an herbal medicine during the past year. That percentage according to some experts has doubled. A team led by physician David M. Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School determined that use of herbs for physical and mental problems including anxiety had risen 380 percent in seven years.
The use of plants as treatments dates to at least 3000 b.c. although some theories propose humans have been using plants has medicine for as long as we’ve existed. Today this practice is part of a broader movement that has been fueled by the high ineffectiveness of prescription drugs, their side effects and the fact that these drugs do not work for everyone. Natural remedies come with little to no risk and if you find the right one for your condition, you can use it for life. That being said, always consult with a Naturopathic Doctor before initiating any herbal treatments for diagnosed conditions, especially if you are already taking medication.
1. Cannabis Cannabis has very powerful neuroprotective properties with an incredible ability to regulate emotional behavior and may be the most reliable medicinal plant available as a therapeutic target for the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders. A study conducted with mice suggests that beta-caryophyllene may be useful in treating anxiety and depression. The findings were published online in the journal Physiology & Behavior.
2. Valerian Valerian root (valeriana officinalis) is derived from a plant native to Europe and Asia and has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for various ailments. It is believed that valerian root has an impact on the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that is responsible for regulating and specifically for inhibiting the activity of the brain’s neurons. Extra GABA in your system promotes relaxation and lowers stress levels. For this reason, valerian root is known as a sedative. Valerian is very effective at relieving stress itself and insomnia caused by stress.
4. Lemon Balm A large amount of published data has emerged on the benefits of lemon balm for alleviating anxiety and mood disorders in humans. In the past five years alone, the powerful relaxing effects of lemon balm extracts have been documented by scientists around the world. These studies confirm what herbal practitioners have long known–that lemon balm in combination with other herbal agents is effective in addressing conditions related to stress and anxiety. In one study of healthy volunteers, those who took standardized lemon balm extracts (600 mg) were more calm and alert than those who took a placebo.
5. Passionflower Natural sedative relieves occasional anxiety and mild panic attacks. Passion Flower is a woody vine that bears small berry-like fruit calledgrandilla. The brightly colored flowers and above-ground portions of the Passion Flower vine are used to derive medicinal compounds that relax the central nervous system and promote emotional balance. In the United States, Passion Flower is classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the Food and Drug Administration. Substances that receive a GRAS classification have maintained a long, safe history of common use in foods or have been determined to be safe based on proven scientific research.
6. Winter Cherry Relieves nervous tension, occasional anxiety and mental fatigue. Winter Cherry, or Ashwagandha Root, is among the most prominent herbal preparations used in Ayurveda, a holistic system of medicine that originated in India. The root of this small evergreen shrub is primarily recognized for its adaptogenic properties, meaning it naturally increases the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress. Practitioners of Ayurveda traditionally prescribe Winter Cherry to promote gentle relaxation and emotional balance. Research has shown that Winter Cherry is a safe, natural sedative that produces the most noticeable benefits following daily use for two to six weeks.
7. Lavender Lavender is a common herb used in aromatherapy for mental health and mood. Lavender is a part of aromatherapy for headaches and depression. Lavender is a part of several scented products like perfumes soaps, shampoos and sachets. The plant is usually extracted into an oil and used in aromatherapy for mood, stress and anxiety. Lavender should be used with the recommendation of a physician, because it can interact with other medications. In one German study, a specially formulated lavender pill was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (brand name: Ativan), an anti-anxiety medication in the same class as Valium.
8. Ashwagandha Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb from the roots of Withania somnifera, a plant in the nightshade family. It has long been prized for hundreds of years for its ability to help the body deal with stress. It has also been used to boost the immune system, improve memory, and to promote overall wellness.
9. L-theanine (or green tea) Research shows that L-theanine helps curb a rising heart rate and blood pressure, and human studies have found that it reduces anxiety. In one study, anxiety-prone subjects were calmer and more focused during a test if they took 200 milligrams of L-theanine beforehand. Astonishingly, even extremely short-term use of theanine had remarkable effects on manifestations of anxiety.
10. Rhodiola Rosea (Arctic Root) Relieves occasional anxiety and positively supports the body during periods of stress. Arctic Root is a plant indigenous to Siberia, where it thrives in high altitudes and dry arctic climate. The primary medicinal compounds of Arctic Root are derived from the root of the plant.
In Russia, Scandinavia and much of Europe, Arctic Root has been traditionally recognized for its adaptogenic properties. An adaptogen is a physiological agent that naturally increases the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress. Rhodiola Rosea has been clinically shown to stimulate Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine activity, and may help to support healthy neurotransmitter balance.
11. St. Johns Wort Natural reuptake inhibitor that supports a healthy neurotransmitter balance. St. John’s Wort is an aromatic perennial herb with an abundance of golden-yellow flowers. Tiny perforations filled with phytochemical-rich oils cover the aerial (above- ground) portions of St. John’s Wort and yield an extract that gives the plant its primary health benefits. Current usage statistics indicate that millions of Americans supplement their daily diets with St. John’s Wort to promote positive mood balance. The medicinal components of St. John’s Wort, which include Hypericin and Hyperforin, have been clinically shown to promote a healthy neurotransmitter balance, which can help to provide positive mood support following two to six weeks of continued use.
12. Chamomile There is good evidence that chamomile possesses anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties and can be used to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. In one study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, in Philadelphia, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients taking placebo.
13. Skullcap Skullcap is the anxiety remedy for people who experience anxiety along with restlessness, muscle tension, and jaw clenching. If you tend to toss and turn in bed, or if you feel like you can only relax when you’re out walking (but sitting still makes you want to jump out of your skin), or if you feel like “climbing the walls” when you’re stuck inside during a bout of anxiety, skullcap can help you to unwind not only your anxiety, but also the accompanying muscular tension and restlessness. Skullcap is effective in tea or tincture (a tincture is an herb extracted in alcohol) form, but if you can tolerate small amounts of alcohol I think 20-40 drops of the tincture (for a 150-pound person) is the most effective form.
14. Kava Kava The known active ingredients in kava are phytochemicals called kavalactones. Kava Kava is best-known as a ceremonial South Pacific beverage. Six major kavalactones are used to identify the chemotype of variety as they represent greater than 90 percent of the total amount of kavalactones within the kava specimen. These kavalactones give kava its stress fighting, muscle relaxing, anxiety reducing effects. The are also very effective for depression and sleeplessness.
15. Licorice Root contains a natural hormone alternative to cortisone, which can help the body handle stressful situations, and can help to normalize blood sugar levels as well as your adrenal glands, providing you with the energy necessary to deal with the stressful situation at hand. Some claim licorice stimulates cranial and cerebrospinal fluid, thereby calming the mind.
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Dave Mihalovic is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer prevention and a natural approach to treatment.