Are Herbs and Supplements for Anxiety Safe?
Numerous herbs and nutritional supplements have been shown through scientific research to reduce and prevent anxiety. Many people like them not only because they can be effective, but also because they tend to have fewer side effects than prescription anxiety medication. To find and use supplements and herbal remedies that improve anxiety safely, without major, lasting side effects would be a great way to get rid of anxiety and thrive.
Herbs and supplements do offer great potential in anxiety treatment; however an important question must be explored: are herbs and supplements for anxiety safe? Do they do more harm than good when used to lower anxiety?
Many herbs are benign and don’t impair bodily functioning (Russo, 2001). Generally, most herbs and supplements are considered safe, but like anything you put in your body, they have the potential to be dangerous. The following considerations can help you decide if herbs or supplements are right for you.
Caution: Herbs and Supplements Aren’t Regulated by the FDA
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the food and pharmaceutical industries to make sure the foods we eat and the substances we take are safe. The FDA does not regulate the herb and supplement industries, however.
Without FDA regulation, it can be difficult to know what, exactly, you are getting when you purchase herbs or supplements for anxiety. Things like strength, effectiveness, and safety can be a mystery.
Further, without FDA oversight, there is a lack of standardization in the supplement and herbal industries. This means that the exact ingredients, quality, strength, and quantities of products vary across brands. One brand’s products might be stronger than another’s, for example, which makes it difficult to know how much to safely and effectively take for anxiety.
While researchers have learned many of the herbs and supplements that work for anxiety, researchers typically aren’t the people who are manufacturing them and selling them to individuals for anxiety management. So an herb, vitamin, or mineral might itself be safe, but the way it’s manufactured and sold may be ineffective at best and harmful at worst.
Many companies that produce supplements and herbs hold themselves to high standards and produce quality products. The safety and consistency of the products simply aren’t tested by the FDA and thus can’t be guaranteed.
Important Considerations in Using Supplements and Herbs for Anxiety
In addition to the precaution about non-regulation by the FDA, some other factors bear mentioning to help you decide if herbs and supplements for anxiety are right for you.
- Herbs and supplements shouldn’t be taken alongside prescription medication, as dangerous, and possibly life-threatening, interactions can occur.
- Even when taken on their own, without prescription medication involved, herbs and supplements for anxiety can sometimes cause dangerous side effects.
- For a great many herbs and supplements, short-term use is considered safe; however, long-term use can lead to unpleasant side effects. For some supplements and herbs, long-term effects are still unknown.
- Some supplements are water-soluble, which means that they aren’t stored in the body and are therefore considered safe. It’s impossible to overdose on water-soluble substances because they are flushed out of the body.
- Other supplements are fat-soluble. These are stored in the body and can build up to toxic levels. Overdose is possible with fat-soluble supplements.
- Some herbs are considered safe for the general population but not for special populations such as children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
Everybody is different. Our anxiety is unique, and our bodies are unique. It’s possible for an herb or supplement for anxiety to be safe for one person but dangerous for another. Make sure you treat your anxiety in a way that is effective for you.
For Herb- and Supplement Safety, Consult Your Doctor or Professional
Herbs and supplements for anxiety can be effective ways to enhance wellbeing and live anxiety-free. There are indeed safety considerations, but the best way to determine if herbs and supplements are safe for you is to consult with your doctor, an herbalist, or a naturopath.
If you are taking any prescription medication, whether or not it’s for anxiety, it’s imperative to talk to your medical doctor before proceeding with herbal or supplemental remedies because of the risk of dangerous, even life-threatening interactions.
Inform yourself about herbs and supplements. Working with a professional can be helpful so you can receive recommendations tailored for your unique body, anxiety, and lifestyle. Consulting books on herbs and supplements for anxiety can also help you choose a program that is safe.
Consulting with a professional to make sure you follow a nutrition and supplement plan that works for you personally is the best way to benefit from herbs and supplements for anxiety. This can help you feel confident that the herbs and supplements you are using for anxiety are safe.
Last Updated: 02 October 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD