Since modern medicine began around two centuries ago, our species has made incredible advances in healthcare. We have created ever-improving treatments for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and have bought a number of deadly diseases under our control. But as pharmaceutical companies continue their fantatical search for the next lab-created wonderdrug, their short sight blinds them from the awesome healing power of the natural world, which offers us remedies for a huge variety of medical issues, one of which is anxiety.
In this article, we will explore some of the best natural remedies for anxiety, to help you reduce your stress levels, and live a happier life.
Natural remedies for anxiety
Aromatherapy for anxiety
Aromatherapy uses medicinal plant oil (called essential oils) to treat physiological, psychological, and emotional conditions, one of which is anxiety. Aromatherapy has been used as a medical treatment for thousands of years, and is validated with clinical evidence.
A number of plants and herbs have been studied for their anti-anxiety properties, which are absorbed through the use of diffusers, spritzers, inhalers, bath salts, and body oils.
Here are the most effective plants and herbs for anxiety.
Lavender is a popular herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia, often sprinkled over pillows before bedtime, helping to entice us into the land of nod. It has also shown to boost your memory, improve your mood, relieve pain, and heal your skin.2 With such an impressive list of benefits, it must surely take the award for the best purple plant on earth (sorry jacarandas!)
Chamomile is a daisy-like plant that grows in various places across the world. A recent study revealed the success of chamomile for those suffering from generalised anxiety disorder, with over half of participants reporting a reduction of anxiety symptoms. It has been taken as medicine for thousands of years, and the ancient Egyptians even considered it to be a gift from a sun god.
Clary sage is a small purple herb that grows along the Mediterranean Basin, as well as north Africa and Central Asia. A study from 2013 showed that clary sage produced a significant reduction in blood pressure and respiratory rate for patients suffering from urinary incontinence.5
Neroli is another orange-based essential oil, manufactured from the blossoms of the Citrus aurantium. A recent study showed the oil to produce a calming effect, and thought to help those with insomnia.5
As with aromatherapy, herbal remedies also use plants and herbs to treat medical ailments and enhance wellbeing. But unlike aromatherapy, these remedies are usually taken in pill form, and often combined with other natural ingredients to produce a desired effect.
These are the herbal ingredients that have shown to be most effective for anxiety.
Bergamot orange is produced by cold-pressing oranges from the Citrus bergamia tree, which is found exclusively in the southern Italian province of Reggio Calabria. A number of studies have revealed the anxiety-reducing effects of bergamot,5 which can also reduce depression and other mood disorders by releasing dopamine and serotonin.6
Passion flower is a large genus of climbing vine that grows across the Americas. It contains calming properties, with a small number of clinical trials revealing the anti-anxiety effects of the plant. It is also taken as treatment for insomnia, stress, ADHD, and pain.
Passion flower is available in tablet form, usually combined with other herbs that achieve the same effect.
Valerian is a flowering plant found in the grasslands of North America, Asia, and Europe. Some studies have shown valerian to help with anxiety, stress, and insomnia. For anxiety, it’s recommended to take between 120 to 200mg of Valerian three times a day.1
Lemon balm is another natural remedy that has shown to soothe stress and reduce feelings of nervousness. The recommended dose is 300 to 600m of lemon balm, three times a day.3
Acupuncture for anxiety
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine with ancient roots. The first description of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment appears in The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, written around 300 BC in China. The chinese created needles from bamboo, copper, silver, iron, bronze and gold, and it’s believed that modern hypodermic needles were inspired from these original versions.
Today, acupuncture can help treat chronic pain, rhinitis, sinusitis, dental pain, fertility, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Those suffering from generalised anxiety disorder can find relief through acupuncture, when conventional methods such as medication and psychology have failed. If you’re feeling let down by conventional medicine, acupuncture is a safe natural alternative that can help to treat your anxiety.4
Massage for anxiety
The skin is made up of billions of cells, and as social animals, we’re highly attuned to being touched. As our species evolved into primates, we slowly learned that cooperation was a much better way to survive, and that hugging, grooming, and touching each other proved a powerful way for us to bond. Six million years later, we may have lost our full-body hair, long arms, and preference for walking on all fours, but we haven’t lost our love of being touched.
Being touched releases oxytocin, a neurochemical that promotes trust and cooperation. It makes us feel appreciated and loved, and is considered by Berkeley researchers to be a language of moral connection.7 This is one of the reasons that massage is such a popular way to reduce stress and anxiety. Being massaged by a professional doesn’t just help to relieve muscle tension, it directly activates our relaxation response (the counterpart to the fight-or-flight response8), which reduces our blood pressure and heart rate, improves our digestive function, and balances our hormone levels. Massage uses the awesome restorative power of touch to make us feel less anxious, and when combined with aromatherapy (aromatherapy massage), you have a winning combination for relieving anxiety.
Nutrition for anxiety
Food is the fuel that keeps us going. A healthy diet vastly reduces the risk of killer diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as improving our immune system, memory, brain function, and mood. Eating the right types of food can also reduce symptoms of anxiety, making diet an important factor is anxiety management.
These are the most effective dietary changes you can make to reduce anxiety.
- Eat a balanced diet—eating a balanced diet improves our overall health, and when we’re healthier, we naturally feel better.
- Drink plenty of water—water is the oil that makes our bodies run smoothly, and is shown to have natural calming properties that can help to manage anxiety.9
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine—when consumed in excess, alcohol and caffeine can worsen anxiety and depression, so should be avoided by those suffering from either illness.
- Eat complex carbs, and avoid simple carbs—complex carbs such as brown rice, brown bread, potatoes, quinoa, and legumes are metabolised more slowly and help to maintain our blood sugar levels, which makes us calmer. Foods that are high in simple carbs such as soda, candy, cookies, and anything with lots of sugar have the opposite effect, and can heighen anxiety.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables—another piece of advice that we’ve heard time and time again. Rating plenty of fruits and vegetables makes us healthier is countless ways, and also helps to reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Eat foods high in magnesium—leafy greens, spinach, swiss chard, legumes, nuts, and whole grains are low in magnesium, which has shown to help with anxiety.
- Eat foods rich in zinc—zinc has been linked with reduced anxiety. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolk
- Eat foods high in antioxidants—antioxidant-rich foods are thought to ease symptoms of anxiety disorders. Eating more beans, fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables will increase your antioxidant intake, and may help to reduce anxiety.
- Jacquelyn Cafasso, 2019, Valerian Root Dosage: How Much Is Safe?, Healthline
- Nicollete Perry, 2019, A Love Letter to Lavender: History, Benefits, Types, and More, Healthline
- Emily Cronkleton, 2019, Lemon Balm: Uses, Benefits, and More, Healthline
- Kathryn Watson, 2019, Acupuncture for Anxiety: Benefits, Side Effects, and What to Expect, Healthline
- Rachel Nall, 2019, Best essential oils for relieving anxiety, Medical News Today
- Corey Whelan, 2018, Bergamot Oil Uses and Benefits, Healthline
- Dacher Keltner, 2017, Feeling sad or anxious? Human touch reduces stress and conveys emotion, Wired
- Katharina Star, 2019, How Therapeutic Massage Can Help Ease Anxiety, Very Well Mind
- Fahimeh Haghighatdoost, Awat Feizi, Ahmad Esmaillzadeh, Nafiseh Rashidi-Pourfard, Ammar Hassanzadeh Keshteli, Hamid Roohafza, and Payman Adibi, 2018, Drinking plain water is associated with decreased risk of depression and anxiety in adults: Results from a large cross-sectional study, World Journal of Psychiatry