How I Treat Anxiety Naturally: Herbal Remedies & Other Options
2015 ~ Demetra Nyx
I have been asked this question so many times. And there are so many ways to answer it. Because anxiety is diverse. Not only are there a ton of different types of anxiety, but it also shows up in different ways for different people. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I'm going to try to break down tips I think would be most helpful, along with an explanation of each one.
I do struggle with anxiety. I wouldn't say it's severe; I'm pretty in control of it now, most of the time. While I've always had anxious tendencies, what really set it off for me was my brother being in a car accident 4 years ago. The way this shows up for me is that I get extremely worried about bad things happening to people that I love. It happens more frequently when I'm already under a lot of stress. If it's bad enough, I'm not capable of stopping my mind from creating all of the absolute worst-case scenarios of what could have possibly happened and believing them. Anxiety has also shown up for me in ways like stressing and obsessing over what foods I eat (something that was a big problem for me for a long time), worrying about relationship issues, and not knowing what I'm going to do with my life. But for me, when it's strong enough that I can't control it, I feel panicky and can't stop the obsessive thoughts.
Honestly - yes, herbal medicine will help. The tips below will help. But I've really had the most success from actual therapy, from going to someone and talking about how I'm feeling in person. It has helped me more than I could have ever imagined because it allows me to recognize my own patterns and understand where they come from. I feel almost like this helps me stop the anxiety before it even starts. I don't know that herbs can do that; I think they will work with you to help alleviate the anxiety that's there but I don't think they can really treat the root cause. For that you will probably need to do some deep inner work. It's also worth mentioning that natural remedies work best when you are using a combination of things. So along with herbs - healthy foods, adequate rest, movement, etc, will help create a synchronistic kind of healing.
Also, I think there's an interesting connection between astrology and mental issues. To get into that is beyond the scope of this piece, but for example, I have a lot of fire very strongly in my chart. For me, I feel more balanced overall if I do a lot of intense exercise and move that energy around. Some people might fare better with meditation or baths or dance or being outside in nature. I also have a lot of Capricorn in significant places in my chart which means that I fare better with structure and when I'm doing work. My overall mental health, and therefore my anxiety, is much worse when I don't have anywhere to be and am not accomplishing anything. This will vary person to person! My chart is not the same as yours, so what will work for me might not work for you.
I also wrote this, which might help you learn more about herbal medicine and what you might be doing incorrectly. It's definitely worth reading before you try any of the ideas below.
Herbal Medicine for Anxiety
As I mentioned in the previous article, I treat herbs as living beings instead of as drugs. They have personalities; their own particular energies and uses. There are so many herbs that could be considered "good for anxiety." It depends more on your own anxiety and what resonates best with your body. Below, I'm going to give some descriptions of what different herbs feel like to me. You can choose which one feels best to you.
Two "baseline" herbs: wild oat tops and nettle. Picture the idea of treating your anxiety as a kind of pyramid shape. These herbs help fill in the bottom of the pyramid, and will help nourish your body in a subtle, stabilizing way. Subtle doesn't mean less effective. It means it's filling in all the bases; supporting all systems so that your body can function healthily and efficiently.
These two herbs should be drunk as an infusion. Susun Weed terms these "nourishing herbal infusions," and these instructions come from her wisdom. You can choose one and drink it daily or every other day, or choose both and alternate days. To make an infusion, bring a quart of water to a boil. Put an ounce by weight (you'll need a scale to measure) of herb into a quart jar. Pour the water over the herb, into the jar. Put the lid onto the jar. Let sit for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. In the morning, strain out the herb (I like to discard the herb outside so it goes back to the earth), and drink the liquid. Both of these taste way better to me when poured in a glass over ice.
Wild oat tops: supports body during times of stress, can relieve anxiety, depression, tension, and nervous exhaustion. Supports emotional flexibility and a stronger libido. Really nourishing to the nervous system overall.
Nettle: rich in iron, selenium, calcium, vitamin K, and much more. Great source of vitamins and minerals. Super nourishing to the adrenals. It energizes your body and restores a healthy reaction response.
Other herbs: can be considered the top of the pyramid, and used for more specific types of anxiety, depending on your body and what you need. These should be prepared as a tea, using about a tablespoon of herb for every 8-12 oz of water. Bring water just to a boil, pour over herb, and steep covered for 15-20 minutes. Drink 4-8 oz every 2-3 hours when anxiety has been unsettling. These are the herbs I think would be most useful, and a little about what they feel like to me. Feel free to combine two of them if you feel like that's best, but I wouldn't use more than two because I don't think it will work as well.
Passion flower: For anxiety attacks. Calms nervous anxiety especially. Can also improve concentration and is cooling to the body. Super helpful when you're worrying. It's a relaxant and sedative, but in a different way than, say, lavender or chamomile. Passion flower is for times when anxiety is nervous and intense.
Lavender: Lavender feels gentle to me. Helpful for headaches and tension, and to uplift mood. Lavender brings up the past, and so if anxiety has to do with things that have happened in the past, and not as much with worrying about the future, it might be more helpful here.
Chamomile: Calms anxiety and tension. Can be especially helpful if anxiety results in an upset digestive system, because it will settle that as well. Calming and restoring.
Lemon balm: Slows things down. Reduces tension, anxiety, and agitation. Uplifts mood. Also improves memory and concentration. Relieves headaches, vertigo, migraines. For some reason, lemon balm has always felt more masculine to me than any of the other herbs used for anxiety, and so I like to give it to men, or for women needing a sense of stability.
Motherwort: Calms anxiety, may help heartbreak. (For heartbreak, I'd combine with rose petals!) Particularly useful during menopause, and is super helpful to the woman's reproductive system in a ton of ways. The tincture of motherwort will be more useful than the tea. Like having a mother taking care of you.
Tulsi: Strengthening and uplifting. Reduces anxiety, mild depression, and clears a foggy mind. Increases resilience to stress. This is another herb that has more of a masculine feel to me.
Rose petals: Roses probably won't help anxiety by themselves, but if the anxiety is accompanied by a poor mood, insecurity, irritability, sadness, or grief, roses would be a great herb to combine with another one. I love rose so much. I find that rose just makes me feel better about my life overall.
Also worth mentioning: flower essences. I actually find that for me, flower essences are more effective on my anxiety than herbs, mostly because I am extremely sensitive to things. Sometimes when I'm anxious, herbs can feel like too much. Flower essences are so gentle, and they affect me immediately. A bottle of Bach's "Rescue Remedy" will last a long time, just putting a few drops under your tongue when you're feeling particularly anxious. I don't know that much about the other flower essences, but Rescue Remedy is kind of a very general anxiety fixer, while you might have even better luck with one that is specific to your type of anxiety. For example, I also use Red Chestnut, which is for fear of bad things happening to loved ones. You can find a list of the other remedies and what they're used for here.