Many people are looking for herbal remedies to relieve their anxiety as anxiety is the number one mental illness in the United States. Traditionally, several different herbs have been used to treat anxiety. However, it's important to remember that anti-anxiety herbs are medicines and can have side effects and interact with other medications.
Herbal remedies for anxiety should only be taken under the supervision of a professional. Women who are pregnant or nursing need to be particularly careful when choosing which anti-anxiety herbs to take.
Valerian Herbal Anxiety Medication
Valerian is a common herbal remedy for insomnia but is also sometimes used for anxiety. Valerian is an anti-anxiety herb that produces a sedating effect and so should not be taken with other sedating drugs like sleeping medication or cold medication. Other medication that should not be combined with valerian includes:1
Studies are mixed as to whether valerian works as an herbal anxiety medication, with a recent review of literature indicating it is not effective.2 Valerian is sometimes mixed with lemon balm or St. John's wort when used as an herbal antianxiety medication. When valerian is mixed with these other herbs it's particularly important not to mix the herbal supplement with other drugs.
Kava Kava Herbal Anxiety Medication
Kava kava is a well-known herbal supplement for mild-to-moderate anxiety. However, while some studies have shown it useful for anxiety, others have shown it no better than a placebo. Kava kava is thought to produce an antianxiety effect without sedation, like valerian.
Note: The FDA has advised kava may cause serious liver damage and is known to interact with other drugs like alcohol, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics.3
Other Herbal Remedies for Anxiety
A naturopath may prescribe many different herbs for anxiety. Other common choices include:
- Passionflower – initial studies show it may be as effective as some prescription antianxiety medication but it may interact with sedatives, blood thinners and antidepressants.4
- Licorice – should not be used if you suffer from heart failure, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, or high blood pressure