Supplements for Anxiety

Anxiety is an incredibly common experience that has the potential to affect you in many different ways. For some, it’s a matter of repetitive thoughts and sense of emotional dread. For others, anxiety comes in the form of physical symptoms, ranging from headaches and muscle tension to nausea and sweaty palms. Do these forms of anxiety affect you daily, interfering with your ability to live a normal life?

If so, you might have an anxiety disorder – along with approximately 40 million other Americans who are diagnosed each year! What you can do? Fortunately, there are many effective ways to treat anxiety. In this article, we explore some alternative approaches by reviewing 5 natural supplements that can be used to manage symptoms of anxiety. Read on to learn more.

Mainstream Treatments for Anxiety  

If you visit a regular doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, you’re likely to be treated by means of talk therapy, psychiatric medication or a combination of the two. Effective therapy approaches include Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBST).

On the other hand, medications that are used to treat anxiety include certain antidepressants (such as Celexa or Prozac) and benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Valium). However, medications may cause side effects ranging from nausea, dry mouth and constipation to drowsiness, memory impairments and addiction. It’s no wonder, then, that people around the world are seeking out less harmful ways of treating their anxiety.

5 Supplements That Are Used to Treat Anxiety

Below, we cover five of the most popular supplements that people use to manage stress and anxiety.

1. Kava

Kava is a bitter drink made from the root of the Piper Methysticum plant, which is native to the Pacific islands. Kava is a popular drink in Polynesia, for example; where it is consumed recreationally, much in the same way that alcohol is consumed in the West. Kava has been used for centuries as a part of religious and traditional healing ceremonies and it is well known for its calming properties. Several studies have found Kava to have powerful anti-anxiety effects. However, it is recommended that people approach this plant with caution because it may put you at risk of liver damage – further research is required at this point.

2. Passion Flower

There are many different species of the passion flower plant: not all have therapeutic benefits. Some, however – such as a flower known as Passiflora incarnata – are thought to be helpful for people who struggle with agitation, restlessness or insomnia. This plant has a long history of use as a herbal remedy amongst Native Peruvians and Native Americans. It has been suggested that this plant reduces anxiety due it’s impact on a brain chemical called GABA, which is known to play a role in anxiety disorders as well as other psychological conditions, such as depression.  

3. St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort is a plant that’s found naturally in Europe. This is another plant-based remedy that has been used therapeutically for centuries. St John’s Wort was even thought to have been used by ancient Romans to treat wounds sustained in battle. Although this plant is most commonly used for its antidepressant qualities, some research has shown that it may be effective in treating anxiety disorders as well. Just like any other herbal remedy, however, St John’s Wort should be used cautiously and only under medical supervision, as it may make other medications (including heart, HIV and birth-control medications) less effective.

4. Lysine

Lysine itself is not a plant but an amino acid or a cell protein. Some studies suggest that lysine may play an important role in helping people to cope with anxiety. How so? Lysine affects serotonin levels – a brain chemical that’s altered in people who suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders. Research also shows that lysine may play an important role in reducing the intensity of the body-brain stress response, while reducing quantities of stress hormones (namely cortisol) in the bloodstream.

Where does one find lysine? Interestingly, dried apricots contain very high proportions of lysine. Alternatively, there are a broad range of food types that contain lysine, including avocados, tomatoes, pears, leeks, legumes, nuts, seeds, beef and chicken.

5. Ashwagandha

Also known as Indian Ginseng, this herb has a long history of use amongst practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine. Traditionally used to treat a wide range of ailments – from obsessive compulsive disorder and asthma to ADHD and bronchitis – Ashwagandha is another natural supplement that is often used to help people struggling with anxiety disorders. How does it work? This herb is known as an ‘adaptogen’ – a substance that helps the body to stabilize and regulate itself on a physiological level in the face of stress.

Do Supplements Really Work?

The supplements that we have reviewed have a long history of use as anti-anxiety agents. But are they effective? Do they work just as well as therapy and/or psychiatric medication? Or does it simply come down to the placebo effect? Importantly – are these supplements safe?

In recent years, a fair amount of research has shown that the abovementioned supplements may be effective in treating anxiety. In particular, Kava and Passionflower appear to have the strongest body of evidence behind them. Nonetheless, there are certain safety concerns when it comes to using unapproved treatments such as these, especially if you’re using other formal medications at the same time.

At this point, therefore, most mental health professionals agree that supplements hold a lot of promise – but that more research is required before we can be sure of their efficacy and safety. If you’re thinking of using a supplement to treat anxiety, therefore, we recommended that you do so only under medical supervision.

A Natural Cure for a Natural Problem?

Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent psychological disorders around, affecting millions of people across the globe. Fortunately, anxiety is also a condition that responds very well to treatment. However, talk therapy can be time consuming and expensive; and psychiatric drugs often cause unpleasant side effects. It’s no wonder that many around the world and turning to supplements as a way of managing their symptoms. While at this point more research is required, these natural remedies hold a lot of promise as a potentially safe and effective treatment for everyday stress and anxiety disorders. 

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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