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Can Naturopathy Help With Anxiety?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders have multiple risk factors, such as genetics, traumatic life events, substance abuse, brain chemistry, childhood developmental issues, other medical or psychiatric illnesses, etc. Nutrient deficiencies and certain foods can exacerbate anxiety.
The conventional treatment options for anxiety include medication (SSRIs, benzodiazepines) and psychotherapy. Despite the fact that these psychiatric drugs are generally well-tolerated, they are not without risks. Many individuals experience side effects, such as reduced sexual desire, stomach upset, diarrhea, insomnia, agitation, joint pain, dizziness, suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents, etc. Their use may cause a physical dependence explained by the syndromes of tolerance and withdrawal (needing a higher dose to reach the same effect and respectively experiencing negative effects with a lower dose or when the drug is abruptly discontinued). 1
Naturopathic interventions are often overlooked in mental health disorders and they can have a significant impact on anxiety disorders. Naturopathic doctors utilize a variety of tools to manage anxiety, from diet and lifestyle counselling to acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional and herbal supplements.
How Herbal Medicine Reduce Anxiety?
Here are some herbs that have been proven to help in anxiety cases:
- Lavender - in a double-blind, controlled study, an oral lavender oil capsule preparation (Silexan) showed comparable positive effects as Lorazepam (benzodiazepine) in adults with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Lavender oil was well-tolerated, had no sedative effects or drug abuse potential.2
- Ashwagandha - a randomized, double-blind, controlled study noted a 41% decrease in anxiety levels with ashwagandha supplementation compared to placebo (24% reduction), based on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA). The ashwagandha group showed a significant reduction in morning cortisol and DHEA (hormones secreted in response to stress). 3
- Passionflower - in a pilot study, a passionflower extract was found as effective as Oxazepam (benzodiazepine) in patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, with fewer side effects (low incidence of impairment of job performance compared cu Oxazepam).4
- Lemon balm - in a pilot study, a standardized herbal extract (Cyracos) was effective in 70% of individuals with a mild-to-moderate anxiety disorder and improved sleep issues in 85% of the cases.5.
- Kava Kava - a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial noted a significant reduction in anxiety levels based on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA) in the kava group compared to placebo (26% of the kava group showed remission of symptoms compared with 6% of the placebo group).6
Based on their constituents, herbs can cause adverse effects and interact with medications. If you experience anxiety, consult a naturopathic doctor for an individualized treatment plan and herbal recommendations.
- 1. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/anti-depressants.
- 2. Woelk H, Schläfke S. A multi-center, double-blind, randomized study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. Phytomedicine. 2010;17(2):94-99. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2009.10.006.
- 3. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract. Medicine. 2019;98:37(e17186).
- 4. Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26(5):363-367. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2710.2001.00367.x.
- 5. Cases J, Ibarra A, Feuillère N, Roller M, Sukkar SG. Pilot trial of Melissa officinalis L. leaf extract in the treatment of volunteers suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances. Med J Nutrition Metab. 2011;4(3):211-218. doi:10.1007/s12349-010-0045-4.
- 6. Jerome Sarris, Con Stough, Chad A. Bousman, Zahra T. Wahid, Greg Murray, Rolf Teschke, Karen M. Savage, Ashley Dowell, Chee Ng, Isaac Schweitzer. Kava in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e318291be67.