Anxiety Away: 5 Herbs to keep the Stress and Anxiety at Bay

With a year like what we’ve had, who wouldn’t be stressed and anxious. But with a light at the end of the tunnel for us all to look forward to, its important that we maintain a sound mind, keep calm, and continue to keep the stress and anxiousness at bay. Luckily, there are a ton of natural herbs and supplements that have naturally occurring calming effects and have been shown to help reduce our body’s reaction to stress. So put down that wine glass as we break down the 4 herbs that can help provide natural relief from stress and anxiety

1. Lavender

Lavender is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. Many people use lavender to help calm the nerves and alleviate anxiety.

Lavender is a flowering plant belonging to the mint family. Many people use lavender to help calm the nerves and alleviate anxiety.

People may use lavender in the following ways:

  • making tea from the leaves
  • using the oil in aromatherapy
  • mixing the essential oil into a base oil for massage
  • adding the oil or flowers to baths

Lavender essential oil (LEO) contains chemicals called terpenes. A 2017 review article suggests that two of these terpenes called linalool and linalyl acetate may have a calming effect on chemical receptors in the brain.

The review suggests LEO may be an effective short-term treatment for anxiety disorders. However, studies of the long-term effects of LEO are lacking.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile is a herb that also flowers, and looks similar a daisy flower. There are two varieties of chamomile that people can use medicinally: Roman chamomile and German chamomile.

 

Regardless of the variety consumed, there are also a number of ways that Chamomile can be consumed in order to help relieve stress and anxiety:

  • tea
  • extract
  • tablet
  • skin cream

clinical trial that took place in 2016 researched into the possibility of chamomile as a long-term treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), as well as investigating any side effects

The study had 93 volunteers who each received 1,500 mg of chamomile every day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, some out of the 93 continued taking chamomile for the next 26 weeks, and the rest were given a placebo.

Researchers saw that the participants who continued consuming chamomile after the 12 weeks were no less likely to experience a relapse of GAD symptoms than those switching to placebo, but they did notice that when a relapse did occur, the symptoms were less severe, giving strong evidence for chamomile’s ability to help reduce anxiety disorders, and reduce the intensity of anxiety spells.

Some people can experience allergic reactions to chamomile, especially if they already experience reactions to the following plants:

  • ragweed
  • chrysanthemums
  • marigolds
  • daisies

Chamomile may also interact with certain drugs, including the blood thinner warfarin, and the antirejection drug cyclosporine.

Anyone taking any type of medication should check with their doctor before consuming chamomile teas or supplements.

3. Valerian

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been used since the second century to treat insomnia and anxiety, although it became popular in Europe during the 17th century. It contains sedative compounds; and the German government has even approved it as a treatment for sleep problems.

 Scientists believe that, like other calming herbs, valerian increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, similar to drugs like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) which relaxes the brain. 

Valerian’s scent is an acquired one (i.e. not the best), so many people choose to take it as a capsule or tincture, rather than a tea, however If you want to try it, be sure to take it in the evening and not before your morning commute to work! (unless you want to end up asleep on your keyboard). Valerian is often combined with other sedative herbs such as hops, chamomile, and lemon balm.

There is also scientific evidence behind Valerian’s mood-enhancing and sleep-improving properties. In one randomized, double-blind study, 75 participants with documented insomnia received either 600 mg. of valerian extract or 10 mg. of oxazepam for 28 days. Those who took Valerian had the same improvement in sleep with fewer side effects as the oxazepam group.

4. Wild Lettuce

Out of the many surprising natural sleep remedies, the standout superstar has to be wild lettuce — and no, this is definitely not the same as the green stuff you find in salads. 

Wild lettuce is another name for Lactuca virosa, which is a plant found in the Punjab regions of Pakistan and India as well as in southern England. This all-star relaxant has been said to quell anxiety and soothe sore muscles.

 

Wild lettuce is a natural sedative that soothes your body as much as it relaxes it. Its calming effect is extremely helpful in preventing sleepless nights, promoting healthier sleep, and keeping restlessness at bay. 

 

Wild lettuce may not be as popular as chamomile tea, but it is certainly in a league of its own for sleep aids. Wild lettuce has also been used to help painful menstrual periods, joint pain, asthma, and excitability in children. In fact, its nickname is “lettuce opium.” And though it does have a sedating effect, there are no opiates in the plant, and it is completely legal. Wild lettuce is commonly accessible in supplement form

5. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a small evergreen shrub that originates from parts of India, the Middle East and Africa. Its unusual name relates to the way it smells – ashwagandha roots smell like a horse, with ‘ashwa’ meaning horse

Its species name, somnifera, means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. Somnifera indicates its traditional Ayurvedic use for supporting somnolence, or sleepiness

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, meaning it promotes balance in many different systems of the body. Adaptogens are herbs that meet three specific criteria developed by Russian scientist N.V. Lazarez (who is best known for discovering other adaptogens such as Siberian Ginseng, and teaching renowned adaptogen research scientist Israel Brekhman).

According to Lazarez, adaptogens have to:

  • Be non-toxic
  • Reduce and regulate stress by helping the body adapt*
  • Benefit overall well-being*

Ashwagandha meets all of these criteria

Ashwagandha has been used for many things over the last 3,000 years. This includes relieving stress, aiding sleep, increasing energy levels and improving concentration. Overall, it’s earned itself somewhat of a big reputation over the years for coping with stress (thanks to the adaptogens) and improving thinking ability (e.g. attention and concentration levels).