Can Herbs Reduce Anxiety?

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The Rise of Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies have grown in popularity in the U.S. In 2008, The National Center for Health Statistics reported that almost 20 percent of children and adults in the U.S. had used an herbal medicine during the previous year. In fact, the use of herbs for physical and mental issues had almost 400% between 1990 and 1997.

The main reason for the rise of herbalism has been due to the toxic and negative side effects caused by pharmaceutical drugs and people just wanting to get back to natural healing modalities.

The use of plants and herbs as medicinal treatments dates as far back to least 3000 b.c. That’s 5,000 years of history and track record. Pharmaceutical drugs have only been around for about 100 years.

Many believe big pharma has been suppressing herbal remedies and its powerful healing abilities because they can’t patent herbs and are profit driven.

Herbs have become a broader movement in complementary and alternative medicine and treatments such as herbs, acupuncture, aromatherapy and homeopathic medicine.

In a 2001 study by sociologist Ronald C. Kessler of Harvard Medical School, discovered that more than half of people with panic attacks or severe depression used some form of alternative therapy, including herbs, during the previous year.

Just Relax

Pacific Islanders have long used the kava plant which grows on those islands, for ceremonial, social as well as medicinal purposes for relaxation and reducing anxiety.

Kava was introduced to the U.S. in 1980 and has become popularized even in drinks.

Studies

Kava compares favorably to benzodiazepines (e.g. lorazepam, clonazepam, alprazolam) and other prescription anti-anxiety medications. In a double-blind study, they found generally anxious patients who gradually increased their daily dose of kava (up to 300mg/day of a standardized extract) while tapering off a benzodiazepine do not experience worsening anxiety or benzodiazepine withdrawal (Malsch 2001).

A randomized placebo-controlled multi-center study enrolling 129 outpatients concluded that a standardized Kava preparation (LI 150) was as effective as two commonly prescribed anti-anxiety agents (Buspirone™ and Opipramol™) in the treatment of generalized anxiety (Boerner 2003).

Three fourths of patients in both the Kava group and the conventional drug group were classified as “treatment responders,” and experienced 50% or greater reductions in HAM-A.


Kava can intensify sleepiness if taken with other medication such as sedatives, sleeping pills, antipsychotics or alcohol. It may also enhance the sedating effects of anticonvulsants and worsen the side effects associated with antipsychotic medication.

Studies on other herbal remedies for anxiety have been studies as well. These include ashwagandha, valerian and lemon balm.

Always consult with a medical professional before starting any herbal program.

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