Anxiety affects nearly 55 million people in the United States alone. Anxiety is basically a feeling of persistent worry that hinders your ability to relax. No one likes to be anxious as many times it is mixed with fear, depression and insomnia. Unwanted physical symptoms can also coincide with anxiety including headaches, trembling, sweating, muscle tension and muscle aches.
What causes anxiety? Many experts believe that imbalances in serotonin, dopamine, and GABA in the brain are potential causes. These neurotransmitters are affected by stress, poor diets, blood sugar swings, hormone imbalances, traumatic life experiences and especially an over or under active thyroid. Overactive thyroid symptoms include anxiety, agitation, weight loss, insomnia, and headaches. Hypothyroidism and anxiety are also related as the body struggles to maintain normal metabolism.
Conventional medicine has used drugs that target imbalances in these neurotransmitters quite successfully but they don’t always work and can have unwanted side effects. Up to this point, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been scientifically proven to be the most effective, long-term treatment for anxiety.
Alternative medicine offers a variety of well-researched options to help those of you with anxiety. Let’s delve into this wonderful world of herbal medicine and supplements that have proven effectiveness without side effects.
Passionflower has a long history in folklore as an anti-anxiety agent used by people all over the world for centuries. Between 1970 and 1990, passionflower was actually listed as an official plant drug by the pharmacopoeias of America, Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Egypt and India.
One study compared the effectiveness of passionflower versus the benzodiazepine oxazepam. The results showed that passionflower was just as effective at reducing anxiety as the medication. One interesting fact is that the subjects taking passionflower did not report impairment in their ability to work unlike the subjects taking the medication.
Kava is commonly consumed as a drink made from the plant Piper methysticum. Many cultures have consumed Kava to relieve anxiety, restlessness and insomnia for centuries. Kava is attractive because it does not cause mental impairment or sedation like benzodiazepines. Kava works by binding to GABA receptors which is the main calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Kava also has opioid-like properties as well as balancing dopamine and serotonin.
Researchers have found that Kava is an excellent alternative to benzodiazepines and antidepressants without side effects. The FDA sent out a warning about Kava in 2002 that it may cause liver damage in some individuals. This was refuted in 2008 by Teschke et al who found that the initial reported cases of liver damage were due to poor quality kava, overdose, prolonged therapy and co-medication. As with all supplements, be sure that you are buying the highest quality products available. Of 435 individuals taking Kava in a clinical trial, no liver issues were reported.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is derived from the flowering tops of a perennial shrub. It has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. Like Kava, St. John’s wort binds to GABA receptors and also helps to balance serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. St. John’s wort is mostly widely known for it’s use in depression. A study published in 1996 found that St. John’s wort was more effective than placebo in treating depression. One trial in Germany found that SJW was just as effective as the drug imipramine in treating mild to moderate depression. Since depression and anxiety are commonly linked, it is an excellent choice.
One study of 149 patients with depression and anxiety showed that after six weeks of treatment SJW significantly reduced anxiety.
**Liquid tincture forms of the above listed herbs are recommended, instead of capsules.**
Lysine & Arginine
Amino acid therapy is widely used to manipulate levels of serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline. Lysine has been traditionally used as an anti-viral for conditions such as herpes and shingles. Other amino acids such as tyrosine and tryptophan have been used to raise levels of dopamine and serotonin.
Recent studies have found that lysine and arginine may influence neurotransmitter levels as well. Lysine has been shown to affect serotonin levels by binding to serotonin receptors, reducing the stress-response and lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Two studies have found that the combination of lysine and arginine effectively reduced anxiety with no reported side effects. Average dosing is 3 grams of each per day taken on an empty stomach.
We can’t forget my all-time favorite mineral once called “The Crown Prince” of minerals. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to anxiety and related disorders. Three studies have been done on magnesium and it’s anti-anxiety effects all of which showed positive results. The average dose used in the studies was 300mg. I recommend magnesium glycinate taken before bed or during times of anxiety during the day. Magnesium is responsible for 350 enzyme reactions in the body and will benefit you in many ways other than just for anxiety. **Note: The most absorbable form of magnesium is through topical application using Magnesium Gel. This will be the fastest way to elevate your magnesium level.**
Anxiety and depression can be a sign of more serious psychological and physical problems so always consult your physician before self-medicating. Your thyroid and anxiety are sometimes related so if you are experiencing anxiety, you should always have your thyroid checked to see if this is a major contributing factor. These natural alternatives can provide excellent relief from anxiety without side effects. I am always amazed how Mother Nature has given us many of the remedies we need for common ailments.
Article: Dr. Hedberg
Addendums: Karen Dame