Anxiety can be debilitating, but the prescription medications used to treat it may adversely affect patients or have unpleasant side effects. Some sufferers have turned to natural herbs for anxiety as a gentle, holistic treatment. A few such herbs are chamomile, St. John’s wort, valerian, kava kava, and passion flower.
Chamomile may be one of the most well-known natural herbs for anxiety. In the wild, chamomile grows as a small, white or yellow flower that smells a little like apples and looks like a miniature daisy. The dried blooms create a slightly sweet, golden tea that calms anxiety and can also help digestive functions. Steeping approximately a teaspoon (8 grams) of dried blossoms in 8 ounces (about 237 mL) of hot water for about 10 minutes generally results in a soothing tea.
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St. John’s wort reduces anxiety by soothing the actual nervous system. It slows nervous function just a little, usually giving the patient a sense of calm and well-being. The flowers of this herb are the medicinal part of the plant. They look like buttercups with rounded, shiny yellow petals that form blossoms no larger than a dime.
Valerian plants sprout clusters of very pale, pink flowers similar to Queen Anne’s lace. The root of the plant may be steeped to create a tea, though valerian has an unpleasant taste. Herbalists often combine it with other natural herbs for anxiety and sweeteners to improve its flavor. This herb is also a natural muscle relaxer.
Kava kava root contains chemical compounds called kavalactones that relieve both anxiety and depression. Different species of the plant contain different levels of kavalactones, but all are effective. These natural herbs for anxiety are harvested for their roots, which can be processed into pastes, capsules, and teas.
Passion flowers produce a tea that is a little sweet and bright red in color, making it as much a treat for the eye and tongue as it is for frayed nerves. When taken right before bed, it may even help the patient get a better night’s rest. This sweet, floral tea is one of the tastiest natural herbs for anxiety.
Patients should always consult a doctor before taking any natural herbs for anxiety. Pregnant and nursing women in particular must always ask about how such alternative treatments may affect them and their infants. Herbal treatments are often gentler on the system than stronger medications, but doctors can provide information about possible drug interactions and proper dosage amounts and frequency.