The symptoms of anxiety can range from daily feelings of undefined, low-key dread right up to a crippling fear which has real impacts on quality of life. And while severe cases should be treated medically, anxiety is a condition which responds well to being tackled on several fronts at once. Herbs can play an important role in taking the edge off anxiety, making space for other more formal treatments to work more effectively if needed. Here are five of the best herbs.
Lemon balm is a minty, lemony herb with two powerful anti-anxiety effects. Its high levels of the hormone cortisol mean it works to reduce stress and agitation, while it also has a mild euphoric effect to lighten mood and distract from worries.
Lemon balm can be made into a tea by infusing fresh leaves in hot water, or it can be shredded and added to food where its light, refreshing flavor improves a meal as well as your mental equilibrium.
Mint makes an invigorating tea which can perk up the senses and stimulate the mind. This may make it seem a strange candidate for easing anxiety, but it has three strong benefits.
First, it can replace coffee to give you a morning boost without the agitating effects of caffeine. Second, it has a calming effect on the digestive system, helping to quell the physical ‘butterflies in the stomach’ sensation, breaking part of the self-reinforcing nervousness loop.
Lastly, mint also works as a muscle relaxant, helping to diffuse feelings of physical stress. When your body is tensed up it’s hard for your mind to relax, and mint can be a great help in this area. All mints can be made into a tea simply by stewing a few leaves in hot water, but peppermint is the strongest and most effective variety for treating anxiety.
Lavender has a long history as a soothing, relaxing herb. However, its flavor isn’t one that most people find enjoyable, and it’s best used as an external treatment rather than being ingested. Here are three ideas for making lavender an ally against anxiety.
- Add dried lavender flowers to potpourri for your bedside table, to help bring on restful, soothing to sleep.
- Drizzle lavender essential oil over a fabric bag of wheat or rice, to make a microwavable warming bean bag that brings both mental and physical comfort.
- Add the essential oil to a hot bath for a soak which soothes the mind as well as the body.
However, if lavender’s distinctive flavor is to your taste, the seeds can be crushed and added to cookies and other sweet treats for a quick floral pick-me-up when you’re feeling low.
Chamomile tea is known for reducing irritability and improving mood. Perhaps more importantly for people with anxiety, it also promotes easy and restful sleep, helping to refresh and repair frazzled minds after a stressful day. Chamomile tea bags are widely available, making it one of the easiest anxiety-busting herbs to enjoy.
Valerian in tablet form is sold as a sleeping aid, and it is also known for reducing restlessness and nervousness. The active ingredients are most concentrated in the root of the plant, and while it’s classed as a safe herbal treatment, taking too high a dose may cause unwelcome side effects such as uneasiness and headache. Valerian is best taken as a shop-bought supplement, where the size of dose can be relied on.
If you’re suffering from profound anxiety, it’s important to speak to your doctor. However, these five herbs can all play their part, purchased individually or from a supplement manufacturer, in reducing the daily effects of anxiety.