Category: Herbs

10 Herbs For Asthma

Top 10 Herbs for Asthma
Top 10 Herbs For Asthma
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photos © Adobe Stock (under license)

Perhaps one of the most terrifying experiences to undergo is to gasp for oxygen. Struggling to breathe can be horrifying for someone who is having an asthma attack. Consequently, you attempt to do all things possible like continuously coughing or wheezing as a way to obtain more air.

Such is the reason why asthma can be a life threatening respiratory condition. When asthma suddenly attacks, your airway muscles constrict and mucus membranes produce excess mucus, blocking your breathing. [1] Allergens like dust, spores, mites and animal hairs could trigger asthma. But so can cold air, infection and even stress. [2]

Way before inhalers, tablets and other pharmaceutical medications were developed, people relied on herbs to alleviate the symptoms of asthma. Herbal medicines may be able to help prevent it, reduce the severity of the disease, as well as control its symptoms. Though herbal medicine is regarded as a form of alternative medicine, more and more medical practitioners are now recognizing the benefits that can be offered by using herbs.

There are a number of benefits that can be attained by using herbs for asthma. One of the main benefits that can be attained by using this form of medicine is that herbs can help strengthen your immune system. As opposed to most pharmaceutical asthma medicines, herbs are abundant in minerals and vitamins that not only prevent asthma attacks, but also boost your immune system. With herbal medicine, you are fortifying your body’s ability to fight off against pathogens that cause asthma and other medical ailments.

Herbal medicines, as the name implies, are free from synthetic components, and are composed of natural ingredients. If you are suffering from asthma, and you are looking for a safer and a more natural way to manage it, make sure to consider these herbs:

10 Herbs For Asthma

German Chamomile (Matricaria recuita)

One of the best and most effective ways to prevent asthma attacks is to use German chamomile. German chamomile has antihistamine properties that help fight off allergic reactions and asthma attacks.[3] To get the best results from German chamomile, make sure to consume it at least twice a day.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

For centuries, Chinese have used turmeric to alleviate the symptoms of asthma. [4] Aside from alleviating the symptoms of asthma, turmeric can also be used to treat a wide variety of diseases like fever, cold, flu and many more. Turmeric has carminative, antibacterial, stimulant, astringent and antiseptic properties.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Studies have indicated that hyssop has anti-inflammatory properties on lung tissue and thus has potential as an asthma treatment. It also has antiseptic, antibacterial and antispasmodic properties, which may assist in reducing the distressing symptoms of asthma. In addition to that, hyssop is considered beneficial with other respiratory infections like bronchitis, phlegm, pleurisy and lung disorders. When using hyssop, however, make sure to use it for a short span of time since excessive usage of such herb can possibly lead to toxicity.

Licorice

Traditionally, licorice has been used to restore breathing and calm the air passageways. [5] Allergic asthma in particular has been found to be linked to pulmonary inflammation. Studies extracting the compounds present in licorice have discovered that they not only reduced this inflammation but also promote the necessary lung cell cultures to respond to antigen stimulation. [6] Licorice is a potent herbal remedy that should be moderately used to avoid unexpected side effects like headaches and hypertension. [7]

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

Medicinally used as a cough suppressant, [5] coltsfoot is also considered helpful for those recovering from asthma attacks. A study on 66 cases of asthmatics was conducted where 35 of which were given 15g of coltsfoot for 10 weeks. Results showed that even minimal airway obstruction present among sufferers in the convalescent stage can be reversed. This is crucial to prevent more severe conditions like emphysema. [8]

Grindelia

An expectorant herb, grindelia is also known as an effective anti-asthmatic herb. It is probably why it is included in the 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for bronchial asthma as well as an official part of the 1882-1926 United States Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary from 1926-1960. Its dried leaves and flowering tops are often found in natural formulations for asthma. [5]

Gingko Biloba

For the most part, gingko biloba is used as a memory enhancer. However Gingko biloba is also considered a good antihistamine and has anti-inflammatory properties as well. Doctors have found that extracts of this ancient medicinal plant help prevent asthma attacks triggered by allergens and exercise. [1] They have found that appropriate dosage of gingko works by inhibiting the platelet activating factor (PAF) to reduce airway hypersensitivity of asthma sufferers. [7]

Butterbur

The Mayo Clinic reports that this native European perennial plant has a chemical known as petasin which inhibits the molecules involved in the airway inflammatory response during asthma attacks– histamine and leukotriene. [1] This leukotriene inhibiting property of butterbur extracts is responsible behind promising researches that suggest this herb to be an inhibitor of allergic disorders.
[9] Likewise, a 2004 study in Germany has discovered that when butterbur extracts were given to sufferers for at least 2 months, both incidence and severity of asthma attacks decreased by half and 80-90 percent respectively. [1]

Slippery Elm

Growing abundantly in North America, the bark of slippery elm is thought to be effective in dealing with different sorts of skin ailments. Though more scientific studies are yet to be conducted to confirm the effectiveness of slippery elm in helping people with asthma, preliminary studies conclude that slippery elm bark can really be useful. When taken as tea or capsule, slippery elm helps in preventing bronchial spasms which are normally associated with asthma. In fact, it is highly recommended to people diagnosed with respiratory conditions like bronchitis and cough. [10]

Garlic

You will be surprised to know that garlic, which is readily available in your kitchen, is actually considered an excellent remedy for asthma. Though often used as flavor enhancer in culinary, garlic has proved itself to be worthy in managing asthma. Research shows that this herb contains active compounds that may help cure and eliminate symptoms that are associated with many respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Garlic is known to contain twice as much Vitamin C than tomatoes.

The Vitamin C content of garlic helps in neutralizing free radicals that contribute to the contraction of airway smooth muscles which only aggravate the condition of asthma sufferers.

Second, its Vitamin C content helps in breaking down histamine and in preventing the release of histamines out of the body. Histamine is one of the major contributors to allergic reactions and inflammation experienced by those diagnosed with asthma. Third, garlic helps in stimulating an increased production of prostacyclin, a compound that keeps the lung air passages open. This results to easy breathing in asthmatic patients. [11]

References:

[1] http://www.livestrong.com/article/362577-botanical-herbs-for-asthma/

[2] http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=1266

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15277119

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=turmeric+asthma

[5] http://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/herbs-for-asthma.html

[6] Glycyrrhiza uralensis Flavonoids Present in Anti-Asthma Formula, ASHMI (TM) Inhibit Memory Th2 Responses in Vitro and in Vivo. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23165939

[7] http://www.holistic-guide.com/asthma-herbs

[8] Measurement of MEFV in 66 cases of asthma in the convalescent stage and after treatment with Chinese herbs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2611953

[9] Petasites extract Ze 339 (PET) inhibits allergen-induced Th2 responses, airway inflammation and airway hyperreactivity in mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19827027

[10] http://voices.yahoo.com/12-slippery-elm-benefits-uses-6007698.html?cat=68

[11] http://www.healwithfood.org/asthma/garlic-good-treatment.php

Article researched and created by Cathy Ongking and Elfe Cabanas,
© herbshealthhappiness.com

10 Herbs For Allergies

Top 10 Herbs For Allergies
Top 10 Herbs For Allergies image to repin / share
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © Adobe Stock (under license)

If you suffer from an allergic reaction, perhaps a challenge you often face when it comes to finding the most ideal solution is that treatment may cause further adverse reaction and instead, perpetuate the allergy. This wariness is certainly not unfounded, as some studies have suggested.[1]

Allergies may be seasonal like hay fever which can be caused by the immune system’s overreaction to an otherwise harmless substance like pollen.

[2] This form of allergy is usually accompanied by sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, nasal discharge and perhaps breathing difficulty. [3] Others like allergic asthma can come from more varied origins like genetic, infectious and nutritional factors. This type of allergy continues to be on the rise despite modern pharmacological treatments for it. [4] Still, other allergies may solely come from food sources and may cause skin irritation.

Most allergic sufferers resort to antihistamines as a remedy. The problem with these drugs however is that they are also carried to the brain, causing drowsiness and sleepiness. On the other hand, doctors have found that herbal remedies do not necessarily have this side-effect because the mechanisms involved are different from those of medications; herbs have been shown to protect cells from histamines rather than block them as drugs do. [1]

Here are 10 such herbal remedies that have been reported to bring natural relief from allergy:

10 Herbs For Allergies

Stinging Nettle:

Leaves from this plant remain one of the top choices for alleviating the onset of allergic symptoms. They are rich in carotene, vitamin K and quercetin [2] and can be taken in tea or capsule form. [3] From a 2003 human trial, more than half of the participants confirmed the efficacy of freeze-dried nettle formulations against their allergies while close to half stated this herb worked at par or even better than their usual medications. [1]

Licorice:

In 2010, a study in Korea demonstrated the effects of licoachalcone, a constituent of licorice, as having antitumor, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. It inhibits cellular activities that promote allergic reaction and has been found to have therapeutic potentials to decrease skin inflammation. [5] Researchers have found that the reduced inflammation is due to licorice’s ability to enhance cortisol levels or to enable this hormone to last longer without any adverse side effects. [3]

Garlic:

Perhaps one of the safest and most accessible methods to prevent or relieve allergy is by taking raw garlic. Like stinging nettle, it contains quercetin which research shows, has anti-inflammatory characteristics [1] and serves as a mast cell stabilizer to keep cells away from histamine-causing inflammation. [2]

Bromelain:

Well, this is technically not an herb in itself but it is a plant-based remedy as it is a natural enzyme that is extracted from the stems of pineapples. [6] Some studies show that bromelain can help reduce nasal swelling and mucus production to make breathing easier such as during sinus infections. [2]

Accordingly, a 2012 experiment on mice revealed bromelain’s significant anti-inflammatory activities along the lungs, confirming its therapeutic value for allergic asthma sufferers. [4]

Butterbur:

Some medical experts hail butterbur as having the most promising results among all herbal supplements to prevent air passageway swelling because of its leukotrine inhibiting effects. Other findings show that extracts of this herb’s roots are equally potent as prescriptive drugs like Zyrtec and Allegra but without causing drowsiness. [2]

Sida cordifolia

(aka. bala, country mallow, heart-leaf sida or flannel weed)… native to India, Sida cordifolia is reported to have anti-inflammatory and decongestant effects and has traditional use in asthma, bronchitis and nasal decongestion. [7] It is contraindicated in individuals with a history of heart disease as it can raise blood pressure and heart rate. [8]

Phleum pretense

Extensive studies had been conducted to determine the effects of using pollen extract from phleum pretense in dealing with various allergy symptoms. Majority of the results showed that the extract has the ability to eliminate symptoms like eye irritation and fever in people suffering from allergies.[10]

When put under the tongue, phleum pretense is believed to be effective in relieving the symptoms of grass pollen allergies or hay fever. When injected into the skin, this herb can eliminate the symptoms of hay fever and some seasonal allergies. Some researches even believe that administration or using this herb for 3 years to children can significantly reduce their susceptibility to asthma. [11]

Tinospora cordifolia

Widely used in India as treatment for various health conditions, results of initial studies show that Tinospora cordifolio has the potential in the treatment and management of allergy symptoms. Results showed that intake of Tinospora cordifolio tablet can help in eliminating nasal discharge, itching and sneezing which are considered as one of the most common symptoms of allergy. [12]

One study involving 75 patients diagnosed with hay fever or allergenic rhinitis were given with tinospora cordifolia to test the claims on the healing capacity of tinospora cordifolia. Based on the results of the study, it was found out there has been a significant statistical reduction in the symptoms experienced by the patients. [13]

Ginkgo biloba

Best known for its cardiovascular benefits, intake of ginkgo biloba has also shown to be important in managing asthma and allergy. Aside from the fact that it contains highly potent anti-inflammatory chemicals, ginkgo biloba is also packed with seven antihistamines which make it an effective natural reliever to allergy symptoms. [14]

Also, ginkgo biloba contains ginkgolides which are scientifically proven to be effective in relieving asthma attacks, allergy and other lung problems. It actually relieves inflammation by eradicating free radicals. Furthermore, it allows better entry of oxygen into the lungs so sufferers are able to breathe easily and freely. [15]

Reishi Mushroom

Hailed as the medicine of kings or mushroom of immortality, reishi mushroom is a potent herb that offers astounding health benefits. For thousands of years, reishi has been used by ancient Japanese and Chinese cultures as medicine.

Researchers have finally found out what makes reishi mushroom effective in eliminating allergy symptoms. Reishi contains high amounts of lanostan compounds which act as natural antihistamines. [16] Lanostan in reishi helps in controlling the release of certain chemicals within the body thereby inhibiting the release of histamines also. [17]

Note
Some herbs are known to trigger allergies in some individuals. The most commonly allergenic herbs and spices include oregano, cinnamon, black and white pepper, mint, paprika and cumin. [9]

References:

[1] http://suite101.com/article/top-5-herbs-for-seasonal-allergy-treatment-a220386

[2] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/allergies-allergy

[3] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/herbal-remedies/herbal-remedies-for-allergies.htm

[4] Bromelain limits airway inflammation in an ovalbumin-induced murine model of established asthma. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894886

[5] Licochalcone E reduces chronic allergic contact dermatitis and inhibits IL-12p40 production through down-regulation of NF-kappa B. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20601178

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromelain

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sida_cordifolia

[8] http://www.livestrong.com/article/107883-herbs-alleviate-allergies/

[9] http://www.livestrong.com/article/492192-is-oregano-good-for-allergies/

[10] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/allergies-allergy?page=2

[11] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1170-PHLEUM%20PRATENSE.aspx?activeIngredientId=1170&activeIngredientName=PHLEUM%20PRATENSE

[12] http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/allergies-allergy?page=2

[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinospora_cordifolia

[14] http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail199.php

[15] http://voices.yahoo.com/ginkgo-biloba-treating-asthma-breathing-problems-6667376.html

[16] http://www.naturalnews.com/021498_reishi_mushrooms.html

[17] http://crowndiamondteam.com/reishi-mushroom-ganoderma-lucidum-useful-for-treating-allergies/

Article researched and created by Cathy Ongking and Elfe Cabanas,
© herbshealthhappiness.com

10 Herbs For Anxiety

Top 10 Herbs For Anxiety
Top 10 Herbs For Anxiety image to repin / share
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photo © Shutterstock (under license)

What Is Anxiety?

Also referred to as worry, anxiety is a state of being in which various cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and somatic (i.e. related to sleep) factors are involved. Anxiety is a general feeling of fear or apprehension; its root word angst meaning “to vex or trouble.” Signs and symptoms: Restlessness, impatience, feeling “on edge,” and poor concentration are common symptoms of anxiety. Other physical symptoms might include headaches, pain or discomfort in the muscles and/or jaw, dry mouth, fatigue, insomnia, tension, bloating, indigestion, excessive sweating, and tightness in the chest.

What causes anxiety?

While many people feel anxious from time to time, others experience anxiety on a regular basis. In the former case, anxiety is typically related to an isolated incident, such as a job interview. Others suffer from frequent or chronic anxiety triggered by recurring situations or stimuli. The latter case might also be characterized by feelings of anxiousness or worry about “nothing” in particular – a symptom considered to be indicative of generalized anxiety disorder. [1]

Anxiety might also be caused by medical conditions such as thyroid problems, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Some prescription medications are known to cause anxiety, as well as certain herbal remedies, supplements, and recreational drugs. Caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms, and should be taken into consideration when determining the cause of anxiety.

Types of anxiety

The term “anxiety disorder” is defined as “abnormal or pathological worry or fear”. An anxiety disorder is different from infrequent feelings of fear or worry that occur as a normal part of everyday life. For example, it is considered a normal behavior for students to feel anxious about the S.A.T. test. It is also considered normal for patients to worry about upcoming surgeries, or for parents to worry when their children go away to summer camp… but when a person develops fears about the doctor’s office in general, their behavior might be considered a phobia. When a student experiences anxiety about performing on any and all tests – to the point of its affecting their ability to study – their behavior might be considered an indicator of performance anxiety or “test” anxiety (a condition generally associated with students but also has been know to occur among workers regarding their job, career, or profession). [4]

Clinical categories of anxiety disorders include:

• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
• Panic disorder (Anxiety Attacks)
• Social phobia. [3]

Orthodox Anxiety Treatment

When a person’s anxiety levels inhibit their ability to cope with situations, it is recommended that they consult professional help. It is also typically recommended that an official diagnosis be made before sufferers of anxiety begin considering treatment options. When evaluating cases of anxiety, a doctor will take into consideration the possibility of medical causes. If medical conditions are ruled out, a doctor might recommend that the patient in question seek cognitive, emotional, or behavioral therapy. Alternative or complementary treatments might also be considered.

Prescription medications for anxiety disorders include:

Antidepressants –
Originally developed as treatments for depression, antidepressants are often used to treat anxiety disorders. SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa) are medications commonly prescribed in the case of panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia. Generalized anxiety disorder is often treated with bupropion (Wellbutrin), or with the SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor). Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for anxiety. Imipramine (Tofranil) is prescribed for panic disorder and GAD, and clomipramine (Anafranil) is sometimes prescribed to OCD sufferers. As treatments for anxiety disorders, antidepressants are generally commenced at low doses and increased over time. [2]

Other medicines prescribed to treat anxiety are MAOIs (i.e. phenelzine [Nardil], tranylcypromine [Parnate], and isocarboxazid [Marplan]). In order to avoid adverse food-drug interactions, certain foods and medicines should be avoided. [2]

Self-Help For Sufferers of Anxiety

According to experts, anxiety disorders respond very well to clinical treatment and also to self-help strategies. However, not all people who worry a lot have anxiety disorders, nor are they all in danger of developing one. Those who observe themselves consumed by excessive worry might ask themselves the following questions:

Do you make enough time to relax and have fun each day?
Do you find yourself getting the emotional support you need?
Are you caring for your body?
Are you overwhelmed by responsibilities?
When you need help, do you ask for it?

When life circumstances are overwhelming, some of us take on too much responsibility and neglect to care for ourselves. Feeling overwhelmed is an indication that balance is “off” in our lives. To regain balance, many self-help strategies can be employed. Sometimes, the best medicine is a conversation with a trusted friend. Talking about the experience of anxiety can make life seem a lot less frightening. [3]

Self-help treatments for anxiety include:

Making time to relax. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being. Eating healthy and nutritious foods. Make time for breakfast, and eat frequent small meals throughout the day in order to avoid going too long without eating. Skipping meals can cause low blood sugar (which tends to increase anxiety). Spa therapies, massage and similar relaxing healthful activities can also be beneficial.

Avoiding consumption of alcohol, nicotine or drugs. While cigarette-breaks from work and glasses of wine in the evening might seem relaxing, studies show that consumption of nicotine and alcohol actually increase anxiety levels. Try drinking herbal tea such as chamomile instead of wine, beer or spirits, and eating regularly instead of smoking.

Regular exercise. Studies show that exercise can naturally decrease stress and relieve anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3-5 times per week.

Getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can intensify anxious thoughts and worsens feelings of fear. Experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night. It’s also commonly advised to switch off the computer up to 2 hours before sleep, as it is thought by some that working on the computer late in the evening may contribute to insomnia.

Good time management. One thing that can really raise anxiety levels is the panic situation caused by not having enough time to do things. Good time management practices and efficient use of time can help with avoidance of panic scenarios. Confront issues and take care of them before they become worse.

Avoid exposure to “trigger” scenarios. For some people, anxiety is triggered by certain experiences – perhaps by something such as watching distressing news on the TV or movies with graphic scenes in them. If so, turn it off! Learn to recognize things that trigger anxiety and where it is reasonable to do so, sidestep them.

Keeping a journal. Experts recommend that sufferers of anxiety write down their worries, in order to self-reflect and avoid dwelling on irrational fears.

Natural Alternatives to Prescription Medications for Anxiety

Many people who experience anxiety are not willing to take prescription medications, or would prefer to seek out alternative methods.
Included in such methods are herbal remedies, many of which have gained recognition in the medical community for their potential to calm the nerves, decrease stress levels and reduce the severity and/or prevalence of anxiety attacks in certain individuals. Some herbs, such as chamomile, are commonly-used for the purpose of relaxation– chamomile tea is a popular home remedy for sleeplessness and is often given to children to help them relax before bed. Other herbs are consumed widely but rarely acknowledged as medicinal herbs–for example, the natural relaxing, sedative herb hops has been used for centuries to enhance the flavor of beer. [7]

Lesser-known herbs such as valerian and kava have recently been the subject of scientific inquiry for their potential to bring about feelings of well-being and ease. Valerian and other calming herbs are utilized as key ingredients in commercial tea products marketed for rest and relaxation. [8] In terms of their effectiveness as remedies for anxiety, herbs might not work for everyone. However, many claim to have benefited greatly from their use. Herbal remedies are often prescribed by practitioners of natural medicine, and are sometimes used in place of (or in addition to) prescription medications and/or lifestyle changes. As with any medication (herbal or otherwise), experts recommend that patients talk to their doctor before making changes in their current treatment program.

10 Herbs For Anxiety

The following natural remedies and herbs have been indicated by various researches for Anxiety:

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Indigenous to Europe and regions of Asia, Valerian has been used for centuries as a remedy for insomnia, nervousness, trembling, headaches and heart palpitations. [9] Clinical study of valerian root has revealed its usefulness as a treatment for anxiety. In World War II it was used by English soldiers to minimize the stress of air raids, and has also been mentioned as being an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. [10] Use of valerian as an anxiety remedy in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine has led to scientific inquiry regarding its effects on GABA neurotransmitters. [11]

Kava (Piper methysticum)

Grown on the Western Pacific, kava (also called kava-kava) has a history of use among various Polynesian cultures. Generally considered a mild relaxant, kava has been reported to have intoxicant effects when used in high doses and in some cultures has been used ritually as a mind-altering substance [12]. Studies show that kava is comparable to pharmaceutical medications for anxiety disorders in the benzodiazepine class. [12] Unlike other sedatives, kava is known for having sedative effects without causing cognitive impairment. While traditionally extracted from the root only, the active components in kava (kavalactones) are also present in the stem and leaves of the plant. [13] In a randomized, double-blind trial in 1996, 29 patients with anxiety symptoms were treated with kava extract (100mg standardized with 70 percent kavalactones) three times per day for four weeks. When compared with the placebo group, anxiety symptoms were greatly reduced in patients treated with kava, and no adverse effects were reported. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial in 1997, 101 outpatients with moderate to severe anxiety disorders were given one dose (three times daily) of kava extract with 70 percent total kavalactones for 25 weeks. Participants in the trial suffered from a range of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and specific phobia. Researchers found that after 24 weeks of treatment, patients in the kava group had improved significantly in terms of anxiety, fear, tension and insomnia. Adverse reactions to kava treatment were minimal. According to the outcome of the study, kava is considered a safe alternative to benzodiazepines and synthetic antidepressants in treating anxiety disorders.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

First mentioned mentioned by Hippocrates, who classified it as a medicinal plant, St. John’s wort has a history of use as a treatment for mental disorders and physical ailments of various types. The results of contemporary research imply that St. John’s wort might be useful as an alternative or complimentary treatment for mild to severe depression [14]. St. John’s wort has been used as a treatment for various conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). St. John’s wort is reported to alleviate symptoms of menopause such as moodiness, sleep disturbances, headache, migraine, and fatigue, and has also been used for the purpose of smoking cessation. When applied topically, St. John’s wort is considered to be an effective treatment for bug bites, burns, inflammation, muscle soreness and nerve pain [16]. St. John’s wort has been studied for its usefulness as a treatment for anxiety, but further research must be conducted before conclusive evidence is found. [15]

While side effects are uncommon, caution should be taken before using St. John’s wort, especially by people who take anti-coagulants (i.e. Warfarin), medications for HIV/AIDS (Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors (for HIV/AIDS), sedative medications (barbiturates), birth control pills, tricyclic antidepressants including amitriptyline (Elavil), or selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, anti-anxiety medications such as alprazolam (Xanax), pain medications (narcotics) including but not limited to meperidine (Demerol), hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin), or medications that are broken down or otherwise affected by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates) [16]. Reported side effects of St. John’s wort include sun sensitivity, restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, dry mouth, stomach pain and associated gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, headache, sexual dysfunction, and skin reactions. [14]

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)

First used by traditional cultures of the Americas as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, Passion Flower has been of scientific interest in recent years. Studies show that passionflower may have the potential to be used successfully as a treatment for anxiety– the plant’s active components have been found to increase GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain, creating a sense of calm. [17] Results from a 2001 study indicate that passionflower might be comparable to the pharmaceutical drug oxazepan (Serax) as a treatment option for generalized anxiety disorder. Teas, tinctures, and other herbal products marketed as “calming,” or “anti-anxiety” often contain passionflower. In a recent study, an herbal product containing passionflower and other calming herbs was administered to 91 individuals with symptoms of anxiety. Researchers found that when compared with the placebo, the herbal formula was effective in alleviating anxiety symptoms. [17]

Passionflower is considered to be safe and non-toxic, but certain individuals may experience minor to moderate side effects. According to experts, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take passionflower. Individuals with anxiety symptoms should talk with their doctor before making changes to their current treatment plan.

Passionflower has also been reported to interact with a number of prescription medications including barbituates, benzodiazepines such as alpraxolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), tricyclic antidepressants such as ampitriptyline (Elavin), amoxapine, doxepin (Sinequan), and nortriptyline (Pamelor); anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dillantin); medications for insomnia such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and ramelteon (Rozerem); as well as antiplatelets and anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin; and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors or MAOIs). [17]

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile)

First used by the Ancient Egyptians, chamomile is perhaps the most well-known of all “calming” herbs. [18] Chamomile has a history of use in natural and alternative medicine, but only recently has it been studied regarding its potential to treat anxiety. [19] Results from clinical trials indicate that chamomile helps to reduce symptoms of general anxiety disorder–researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that when compared with the placebo group, anxiety symptoms were significantly reduced in patients treated with chamomile. [20] Use of chamomile has been associated with promoting restful sleep– while the idea is supported by results from in-vivo trials, no conclusive evidence has been found regarding a connection between chamomile and the human sleep cycle.

In a 2005 study, researchers found that the soothing effects of chamomile may be long-lasting if consumed regularly over a period of time. [20]

Chamomile is generally considered safe but may provoke allergic reactions in certain individuals. People with a history of sensitivity to ragweed should take extra care before drinking chamomile tea or using products that contain chamomile, as the two plants are close relatives and may cause a similar histamine response. [21]

Hops (Humulus lupulus)

Traditionally used by brewers as a flavoring agent and preservative, hops is native to Britain and was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder. A popular natural remedy for anxiety, sleep disturbances, nervousness, restlessness and tension, the sedative properties of hops may have first been discovered by gardeners who would fall asleep while picking the herb. [22] According to traditional herbalists, hops is most effective as a remedy for anxiety when combined with valerian, passionflower, and chamomile.
Scientific inquiry into the potential medicinal benefits of hops suggests that it is effective as an alternative treatment for anxiety. In a recent double-blind study, hops was more effective than placebo when administered as a tincture that included valerian root. [23]

Hops is considered safe for medicinal use, but caution should be taken by those with sensitivities to plants of the Cannabaceae (cannabis) class. [24]

Ginkgo biloba

Through the years, there have been increasing number of claims regarding the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba in combating anxiety. Research shows that this herb is capable of enhancing brain circulation which results in better mood. Also, ginkgo biloba is reported to act as an anti-depressant.
[25]

For centuries, ginkgo biloba has been widely used to treat a wide range of mental conditions including dementia, depression, Lyme disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. In a study conducted to test the effectiveness of ginkgo biloba, it was found out that the herb is indeed capable of reducing one’s level of stress and anxiety. [26] The mechanism suggested for why ginkgo biloba helps people with anxiety is by enhancing the circulation of blood to the brain – which can result in better management of tinnitus, confusion, headache, depression and anxiety. [27]

Ginseng

Though ginseng is not widely recognized as an anxiolytic, ginsenosides (active components in Panax ginseng) are reported to stimulate better blood circulation in the brain which results in reduced physical stress and anxiety. Numerous scientific studies have indicated that ginseng may provide benefit in cases of anxiety. [28][29]

This herb is better known for its adaptogenic properties which enhance the body’s physical resistance against wear and tear caused by emotional and physical stress. A scientific study conducted in 1982 which involved nurses who were asked to switch from day to night shift revealed that those who took ginseng were able to sustain their emotional balance while those who did not take ginseng were moodier and emotionally unstable. [30]

Please note that ginseng is often used as an energy booster and so it may not be suitable for all people. Consult a professional.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

In addition to its anti-bacterial properties, lavender is also an excellent choice of herb for stress relief. This powerful herb is regarded as capable of promoting a deep sense of calmness, relaxation and even sleep. Lavender is also effective at reducing one’s level of anxiety and irritability. It works by balancing the hormones and stimulating the body’s immune system. [31] Aside from its ability to alleviate insomnia, lavender is also capable of reducing stress and depression.

For centuries, lavender has been widely used to treat anxiety. The plant contains 16 constituents and when used as oil, it creates aroma that offers calming effects, decrease anxiety and enhance mood scores. [32]

Aromatherapy is known as one of the best recognized therapies for anxiety, stress and depression nowadays. According to research, when the essential lavender oil is inhaled, molecules begin to enter the brain then interact with parts of the organ that is associated with emotion, the hippocampus and amygdala. By acting as sedative to these areas of the brain, feelings of stress and anxiety are gradually reduced. Also, a study in 2007 revealed that lavender significantly reduced the level of serum cortisol among men. Cortisol is a type of hormone that is associated with stress. [33]

Catnip

Coming from the mint family, catnip is a powerful herb is capable of treating various symptoms of anxiety. For people with severe anxiety, catnip makes an effective relief. It reduces stress, eases muscle tension, improve appetite and eliminate headache that is triggered by insomnia. [34]

According to research, catnips have been around for so long and they are known as stimulants for cats. When cats eat or nip catnip, it gives them a great deal of energy and brings them into a playful trance.

Today, catnip is recognized as a powerful herb that is capable of stimulating the nervous system, and treating physiological imbalance and other symptoms of anxiety and depression. The plant also contains good nerve tonic that helps in relieving tension throughout the body. Furthermore, it is capable of rejuvenating nerve activities, stimulating the brain and relaxing the nerves which result to reduced anxiety and stress. [35]

Also, catnip contains nepetalactone substance that offers calming effects. Apart from being an excellent relaxant, catnip is also noted as a good natural sedative that promotes feelings of drowsiness. [36]

References:

[1] Generalized anxiety disorder: People who worry about everything–and nothing in particular–have several treatment options. (2011). Harvard Mental Health Letter, 27[12], 1-3.

[2] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/what-medications-are-used-to-treat-anxiety-disorders. shtml

[3] http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxiety#Test_and_performance_anxiety

[5] http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/conditionsatod/a/Anxiety.htm

[6] http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/home-remedies/home-remedies-for-anxiety.htm

[7] “University of Minnesota Libraries: The Transfer of Knowledge. Hops-”Humulus lupulus””. Lib.umn.edu. 2008-05-13.

[8] http://www.celestialseasonings.com/products/sleepytime-teas/sleepytime-extra

[9] http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional

[10] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/DS00246/DSECTION=symptoms

[11] Holzl J, Godau P. (1989). “Receptor binding studies with Valeriana officinalis on the benzodiazepine receptor”. Planta Medica 55 [7]: 642. DOI:10.1055/s-2006-962221.

[12] http://www.holistic-online.com/herbal-med/_Herbs/h24.htm

[13] http://www.mauikava.com/

[14] http://socialanxietydisorder.about.com/od/treatmentoptions/p/stjohnswort.htm

[15] Kobak KA, Taylor LVH, Warner G, Futterer R. St. John’s wort versus placebo in social phobia: Results from a placebo-controlled pilot study. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2005; 25(1): 51-58.

[16] St. John’s wort. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/329.html

[17] Passionflower. Penn State. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000267

[18] A History of the ‘Noble’ Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis. http://www.chamomile.co.uk/history.htm

[19] Nauert, Rick. PhD. Chamomile for Anxiety. Pych Central.
http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/02/12/chamomile-for-anxiety/11400/html

[20] Smucker, Celeste M. MPH, PhD. Chamomile helps with anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. Natural News. http://www.naturalnews.com/034454_chamomile_anxiety_depression.html

[21] Herbal Anti-Anxiety. Hops. Practical Anxiety Disorder Advice. http://www.practical-anxiety-disorder-advice.com/herbal-anti-anxiety.html

[22] Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Hops. FoundHealth. http://www.foundhealth.com/generalized-anxiety-disorder/generalized-anxiety-disorder-and-hops

[23] Hops. A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve. http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hops–32.html

[24] Hops. Drug Information Online. http://www.drugs.com/npc/hops.html

[25] http://www.prlog.org/10261830-5-natural-herbs-for-anxiety.html

[26] http://gad.about.com/od/treatment/a/ginkgo.htm

[27] http://supplementsandnutrients.blogspot.com/2011/08/manage-depression-and-anxiety-with.html

[28] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002200

[29] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=ginseng+anxiety

[30] http://www.mindpub.com/altern03.htm

[31] http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-herbs-that-reduce-stress-and-anxiety.html

[32] http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/article_content.asp?article=289

[33] http://www.livestrong.com/article/365229-lavender-and-anxiety/

[34] http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/natural-herbal-remedies

[35] http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/catnip-for-anxiety

[36] http://www.buzzle.com/articles/catnip-effects-on-humans.html

Article researched and created by Kelsey Wambold and Elfe Cabanas,
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