Everyone gets anxious from time to time, but for some of us, its frequency and forcefulness often feels almost insurmountable. Maybe it’s a consolation (or maybe not), but you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most prevalent mental health condition in the U.S., impacting 40 million adults or nearly 1/5th of the population.
While your doctor’s first reaction to your anxiety may be to quickly kick out a prescription, there are many natural remedies for anxiety to explore first. Here are 11 expert-recommended options.
1 – Dr. Josh Axe recommends Ashwagandha.
“Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that is often used as a natural remedy for anxiety because it helps to stabilize the body’s response to stress. In a systematic review that assessed data on the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a treatment for anxiety, researchers found that most studies concluded with significant improvement in anxiety symptoms with ashwagandha therapy,” writes Dr. Axe. “However, ashwagandha is not only a stress reliever. It also protects the brain from degeneration and it works to improve anxiety symptoms by destroying free radicals that cause damage to the brain and body. Research shows that Ashwagandha helps to improve focus, reduce fatigue and fight anxiety without the side effects of most anti-anxiety medications.”
2 – Dr. Will Cole advises avoiding alcohol.
“Alcohol can often be used as a way to curb anxiety but that is far from a good idea. Research has shown that alcohol consumption is associated with a worsening of anxiety disorders over time. Studies have also shown that drinking alcohol can rewire the brain and contribute to feelings of anxiety.”
3 – Rodale Wellness author Michelle Schoffro Cook explains how probiotics can help.
“In an exciting study published in the medical journal Gastroenterology and conducted at the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Canada, researchers found that the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum effectively eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior in animals. It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of nerves in the gut that connect via the vagus nerve to the central nervous system. Through this connection, the beneficial bacterial strain was able to eliminate anxiety altogether.”
“In a Hungarian study, researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the factors involved in anxiety and depression and that treating the inflammation through probiotics such as B. longum along with vitamins B and D, and omega-3 fatty acids, significantly reduced symptoms.”
4 – Dr. Dave Mihalovic recommends Skullcap.
“Skullcap is the anxiety remedy for people who experience anxiety along with restlessness, muscle tension, and jaw clenching. If you tend to toss and turn in bed, or if you feel like you can only relax when you’re out walking (but sitting still makes you want to jump out of your skin), or if you feel like “climbing the walls” when you’re stuck inside during a bout of anxiety, skullcap can help you to unwind not only your anxiety, but also the accompanying muscular tension and restlessness. Skullcap is effective in tea or tincture (a tincture is an herb extracted in alcohol) form, but if you can tolerate small amounts of alcohol I think 20-40 drops of the tincture (for a 150-pound person) is the most effective form.”
5 – Robert Leahy, Ph.D. says you should turn your anxiety into a movie.
“You can let go of a worry by disconnecting yourself from it. One way is to imagine that your anxious thoughts are a show. Maybe they’re a little guy in a funny hat who tap dances and sings out your worry while you sit in the audience, eating popcorn, a calm observer.”
6 – Dr. Mehmet Oz suggests soothing your GI tract.
“Your stomach acts as a ‘second brain’ when it comes to worrying. In fact, like our brains, our stomachs have their own nervous systems, called the enteric nervous system. When we worry, millions of receptors embedded in the gastrointestinal tract react to fear by speeding up or slowing down our digestion, which can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn,” says Dr. Oz. “There are two great, natural treatments for anxiety-related stomach issues:
- Lemon balm has been used since the Middle Ages as a calming herb. Take 400 mgs twice daily to prevent your stomach from reacting to your worried thoughts, available in drugstores for about $4.
- You can also try iberogast, available in health food stores for around $20. Iberogast is a blend of plants and herbs, including caraway, chamomile, licorice, milk thistle and peppermint. Adding 20 drops to your water can sooth the receptors in your stomach when anxiety hits.”
7 – Eva Selhub and Alan Logan co-authored the book Your Brain on Nature and they recommend “forest therapy.”
Walking in the woods and immersing yourself in nature has been scientifically shown to reduce stress. It’s actually a prescribed practice in Japan called shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bath” and it lowers your stress hormone levels. “Studies have confirmed that spending time within a forest setting can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep, and increasing both vigor and a feeling of liveliness,” write Selhub and Logan in their book. “Japanese researchers found that 20 minutes of shinrin-yoku–compared with 20 minutes in an urban setting–altered cerebral blood flow in a manner that indicated a state of relaxation.”
8 – Deepak Chopra, one of the most renowned experts in alternative medicine recommends getting “grounded.”
Similar to forest therapy, Chopra emphasizes the soothing powers of Mother Nature. “I’ve recently been fascinated with the practice of grounding. It’s when people walk barefoot on the beach, the grass or other natural surfaces on the earth. They report that they feel better, in body and mind. The earth is a biosphere with negative and positive forces, like a battery, and your body is part of the battery. So take some time to walk barefoot on the earth, absorbing the free electrons, and recharge your battery.”
9 – Linda Esposito, LCSW, proposes practicing gratitude.
“As bad as your situation is, there's always someone in a worse predicament. Read a chapter of Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, or check out the headline of the daily newspaper. Be thankful your life is not the feature story. Make a mental note of the positive things in your life. Remember everything in life is temporary -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
10 – Alice Boyes, Ph.D. has a quick lip trick.
“Lightly run one or two fingers over your lips. This will stimulate the parasympathetic fibers in your lips and you’ll feel calmer.”
11 – Harvard Medical School experts recommend releasing yourself to the anxiety sometimes.
In their tips for beating anxiety to get a better night’s sleep they say, “if you don't fall asleep within 20 minutes of turning in (or if you wake up and can't fall back to sleep in 20 minutes), get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.”
Do you know any natural remedies for anxiety? Please share them in the comments below to help others!
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.