There are many essential oils & herbs that can help reduce anxiety. However, there is no “one remedy fits all” for holistic treatments. Sensitivity to plant-based products is individualized, so a little experimentation is a good thing. Keep notes about how you feel with each herb or essential oil you try so you can narrow down the list of what works for you and what doesn’t. Most importantly, if you are taking any prescription medication for anxiety, do not stop taking it to try herbal remedies – talk to your health professional first! Now let’s find out which ones do what! (NOTE: almost all herbal tinctures contain alcohol, so they’re not for children or for adults who should not consume any alcohol. It is a very small amount, but I wanted mention that in case you didn’t know what a tincture is. There are some that don’t have alcohol and are okay for kids).
- CHAMOMILE: relaxes and tones the nervous system, and often helps with digestive problems that accompany anxiety. Drink great-tasting chamomile tea every 2 hours, or at least 30 minutes before sleep. For essential oil, make sure you have Roman chamomile, not German chamomile (which is blue in color). A great blend to try in a diffuser or personal inhaler is Roman chamomile, mandarin, and lavender. Chamomile has a very strong scent, though, so use only 1 drop of it with 5-6 drops each of the mandarin & lavender. Don’t over-diffuse – turn on your diffuser for about 10-15 minutes before going to bed and then turn it off.
- LINDEN: this herb gently relaxes muscle tension, soothes nerve pain, and tends to lower blood pressure. Linden helps with anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, and agitation. The tea is supposed to be pleasant, but I admit I haven’t tried it yet. There is no essential oil made from this plant.
- VERVAIN: soothing and calming, especially for people who hold tension in their neck and shoulders. Vervain can be made as a tea, or taken in tincture form (which you can purchase from me!). I’ve heard that this sometimes helps people who have panic attacks when almost no other medication works for them. Tinctures have a pretty long shelf life (thanks to the alcohol content) so you can purchase it and keep on hand for when it might be needed.
- MOTHERWORT: in addition to being great for the cardiovascular system overall, motherwort is especially useful for anxiety that causes rapid heartbeat. It’s also helpful for people who tend to “over-mother” others or have difficulty setting boundaries to the point of harming themselves. Caution: do no use with cardiac drugs without consulting the prescriber.
- LAVENDER: this plant is just lovely – fragrant, uplifting, and relaxing. Lavender can relieve both anxiety and depression. Try using lavender soap, herbal teas, or a massage oil. Lavender essential oil is often called the “mother” of essential oils because it literally mixes well with any other oil and tends to enhance the properties of the others. Though it can be used on the skin neat (undiluted), it might be too strong to achieve the relaxed state you’re seeking, so try it diluted to 3-5% instead. Certified aromatherapists and other professionals can help you use lavender essential oil in the way that best benefits you.
- SKULLCAP: a useful tonic for the nervous system, this flowering herb is a great addition to your herbal menagerie. This one works for the irritability that often accompanies hormonal swings (hello PMS, or menopause, or andropause). Skullcap is fantastic for when you are hypersensitive to stimulation. Drink a cup of skullcap tea every 2 hours during those stressful and irritating moments! Also, don’t forget to take your magnesium supplement, also available for purchase from me.
- KAVA-KAVA: this one has been researched quite a bit, and one of its actions seems to be the ability to modify (not bind to, which is actually important but too complex to discuss here so just believe me) the same receptors in the brain that cause medications like diazepam to work. Unlike the prescription anti-anxiety medications, kava does not cause addiction or tolerance when used for a period of time. Kava relaxes the body but essentially leaves your ability to think and function intact. Do you have social anxiety? Kava is for you. Kava has become quite a fad in some areas of the country… there are even Kava “bars” in places like Knoxville, Asheville, Boone, and Greenville (SC). Beware: kava must be harvested from roots, not stems & leaves, to prevent liver toxicity. Use a trustworthy source. You can purchase kava tincture from me!!
- VALERIAN: this one is a pretty strong anti-anxiety herb; it acts much like prescription anti-anxiety medications in the brain. Like kava, this one doesn’t cause addiction or tolerance issues. Valerian can also improve the quality of sleep, works as a muscle relaxant, and can relieve stomach or intestinal cramping. Though drinking the tea is certainly helpful, a larger dose (such as in a tincture) might give you better results. My supplier provides pure, guaranteed quality, ready-made tinctures, so let me know if you want to order. Most are around $15 for a 1 oz. bottle.
- PASSIONFLOWER: yes, flowering herbs are common to anxiety remedies! Passionflower is a strong, calming herb that is often used to treat insomnia. It is sometimes used during the day for severe anxiety also. Does a “circular thought pattern” keep you from sleeping? You definitely need to try passionflower!
A cup of tea or dose of tincture every 2 hours is usually recommended. Caution: do not use passionflower if you take MAOI medications for depression without consulting your prescriber.
- LICORICE: and I don’t mean Twizzler’s candy! Licorice tea, ingested regularly (daily), is a good overall treatment for chronic anxiety. Used the dried roots to make a tea, 2-3 times per day. Licorice tincture is also available. Use caution if you’re taking “fluid pills” or a digitalis-based heart medication (ask your cardiologist).
If you don’t already drink hot tea, don’t be afraid to give it a try… I was never much of a tea drinker until recently. I still love, love, love my coffee, but I often drink herbal tea in the afternoon or evening. You might be surprised how comforting a steaming cup of tea can be. Often, creating the “ritual” of making tea is stress-relieving all by itself. If you try it but don’t like it, contact me for a vial of tincture! I’ll give you tips on how to use it, too.