If you take a lap around the internet, you’ll find countless treatments for anxiety. With so much information out there, figuring out what will have the best chance to work is a tall order.

Prescription drugs can be the most effective form of treatment [R], but many people wish to try natural treatments for anxiety before or instead of drug therapy [R].

This article presents a menu of natural evidence-based behavioral strategies and supplements that treat anxiety.

Contents

Introduction To Anxiety

Anxiety is a group of mental disorders including social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD, and phobias [R].

Common anxiety symptoms include inner turmoil, nervous behavior, and rumination [R].

Flawed processing of threat is the hallmark characteristic of anxiety [R].

While it is certainly helpful to experience fear and vigilance in response to an actual threat, someone with anxiety will interpret non-threatening signals as threatening, thus maintaining an unnecessarily high state of worry and arousal [R].

Underlying this exaggerated fear response is a network of brain structures that function improperly in response to stimuli. The amygdala, which controls fight-or-flight threat response, is often overactive [R].

On the contrary, the prefrontal cortex, which inhibits the fear-generation of the amygdala, is underactive [R].

Impaired activity of the hippocampus, striatum, anterior cingulate cortex, and insula can also be involved in anxiety [R].

These neural malfunctions are accompanied by disturbances in neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA), neurotrophic factors (nerve growth factor, BDNF), the HPA axis, immune function, heart rate variability, and cognitive function [R].

Now that we know what we’re up against, here are some tools you can use to overcome anxiety.

Behavioral Strategies

1) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Reduces Anxiety

CBT is the most widely used evidence-based strategy for reducing anxiety [R].

People who do CBT aim to develop coping strategies to solve current problems and modify unhelpful cognitive patterns (thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), behaviors, and emotions [R].

CBT is traditionally delivered face-to-face by therapists but is also performed on the internet with or without (self-guided) therapist involvement.

In the treatment of anxiety, internet-based CBT is often as effective as face-to-face CBT [R], although this is not always the case [R].

Because therapist involvement is not feasible or preferred for some people, self-guided CBT can also be used. Self-guided internet-based CBT reduced general anxiety, social anxiety, fear of public speaking, and depression in studies of 235, 81, and 127 people [R, R, R].

Mechanism

CBT reduces cognitive reappraisal frequency, subtle avoidance, cognitive distortions, safety behaviors, and rumination [R].

These changes may be due to CBT reducing activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, which are involved in emotional processing, and increasing prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex activity, which perform cognitive processing [R].

How to Implement

MoodGYM is a freely available and moderately effective online cognitive behavioral therapy program for anxiety [R].

Limitations

Self-guided CBT is often not as effective as in-person CBT, but still, has a positive effect on anxiety according to a meta-analysis [R].

The biggest challenge of self-guided CBT is low participant adherence to the protocol [R]. Individuals who want to perform self-guided CBT should consider their commitment to the program before starting.

2) Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Anxiety

Mindfulness is simply paying full attention to what’s happening in the present moment [R]. It can be performed throughout the day by being in-tune to what you are experiencing, although it is often developed through meditation.

Meditation is a type of mental training that aims to improve attentional and emotional control [R].

Meditation can be attention-focused (transcendental and mantra meditation) or awareness-focused (mindfulness meditation) [R]. These three types are the most-studied forms of meditation for anxiety. Mindfulness meditation is the only form of meditation that reliably improves anxiety [R].

The goal of mindfulness meditation is detached self-observation. Think of it as becoming a “witness” rather than a “judge” of events that happen about you (sounds, thoughts, etc.).

During mindfulness meditation, you concentrate on one main object (usually your breath) to stabilize your attention and then expand your awareness to body sensations, thoughts, memories, emotions, perceptions, intuitions, etc. This expansion happens gradually over a number of meditation sessions [R].

Single twenty-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation reduced state anxiety among 15 healthy subjects [R].

Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowered social anxiety with the same effectiveness as CBT in a study of 108 participants [R].

A systematic review of scientific literature showed that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy effectively reduces anxiety [R].

Mechanism

Mindfulness meditation improves attention and emotion self-control [R], both of which are important for healthy mood.

The anterior cingulate cortex controls executive attention to resolve emotions [R], while activity in this area of the brain decreases in trait anxiety [R].

Experienced meditators have greater anterior cingulate cortex activity [R], and meditation therapy improves anterior cingulate cortex activation [R].

Increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation follows a mindfulness-based stress reduction program in people with social anxiety [R]. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in working memory, cognitive flexibility, and planning [R].

In a mindfulness based stress reduction program, participants lowered amygdala activation, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation, and increased functional connectivity between amygdala and prefrontal cortex regions [R]. These changes are associated with decreased anxiety symptoms.

Amygdala activation is present in most forms of anxiety [R], and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation is associated with social anxiety [R].

People who meditate also have increased GABA and reduced cortisol and norepinephrine levels [R, R].

How to Implement

Many websites and apps provide guidelines for meditation.

3) Yoga Reduces Anxiety

Yoga is a form of exercise that involves physical poses, breath control, and meditation [R].

A large body of evidence supports the benefits of yoga in reducing anxiety [R].

Yoga improved mood, quality of life, and anxiety compared to a walking group in a study of 34 participants [R].

Yoga practice reduced anxiety in 300 individuals [R].

Participation in a 2-month yoga class lessened perceived anxiety in 65 women suffering from anxiety disorders [R].

Among 20 patients with hypertension, yoga lowered blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and negative emotions [R].

In 238 individuals with hypertension, hatha yoga was associated with decreased heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and perceived stress [R].

Iyengar yoga lowered blood pressure, anxiety, and perceived stress and improved mood and sleep quality, in 20 women with restless-leg syndrome [R].

Trauma-sensitive yoga lowered PTSD symptoms, depression, and anxiety in women with PTSD stemming from intimate-partner violence [R].

A group yoga therapy program lowered anxiety and stress in those with PTSD [R].

Mechanism

Yoga appears to reduce anxiety by improving HPA-axis function and increasing GABA.

Yoga lowered salivary cortisol, which was accompanied by reduced depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, in studies of 56, 59, and 46 individuals [R, R, R].

A single yoga session increased GABA among 8 yoga participants [R].

4) Exercise Reduces Anxiety

Regular exercisers have lower neuroticism, anxiety, and depression [R], while physical inactivity is associated with increased anxiety risk [R].

Aerobic exercise is effective for a variety of anxiety disorders [R], including generalized anxiety, panic, and PTSD [R].

Exercise also reduces anxiety symptoms in those without a diagnosed anxiety disorder [R, R].

Just a single bout of aerobic exercise reduced anxiety sensitivity in a randomized controlled trial of 21 adults [R].

Exercising on a treadmill at 70% of maximum heart rate for 20 minutes 3 times/week lowered anxiety sensitivity in 19 adults [R].

In a study of 24 women, the most substantial decrease in state anxiety happened following 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at roughly 90% maximal heart rate [R].

Both aerobic exercise and resistance training reduced anxiety sensitivity, but only aerobic training lowered the anxiety-related sensations after inhalation of carbon dioxide (a common task for inducing anxiety in research studies) in a 77-person study [R].

High-intensity interval training alleviated anxiety symptoms in 20 schizophrenic patients [R].

Mechanism

Although exercise promotes inflammation in the short-term, exercise results in chronic anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the brain [R].

Because neuronal inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to anxiety [R], the anti-anxiety effect of exercise is likely due in part to its protective effect on inflammation and oxidative stress.

Exercise increases brain serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine as well as endorphins [R, R].

Aerobic exercise increased BDNF in 12 panic disorder patients compared to 12 control patients [R].

People with chronic anxiety often have an overactive HPA axis. Regular exercise is associated with lower HPA-axis reactivity in humans and animals [R, R].

Aerobic exercise increased heart rate variability among individuals with chronic heart failure [R], and among 43 anxiety patients with low heart rate variability [R].

5) Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Training Reduces Anxiety

Heart rate variability measures how much your heart rate deviates compared to average.

A higher heart rate variability (more inconsistent, e.g. varying between 50 to 75 bpm while at rest) is desirable and indicates a dominance of the rest-and-digest nervous system.

A lower heart rate variability (e.g. staying between 65 and 70 bpm like a metronome) indicates a dominance of the fight-or-flight nervous system which is associated with stress and inflammation [R].

A higher heart rate variability is linked to good health [R].

Individuals with greater heart rate variability have better emotional control [R].

Most forms of anxiety are associated with low heart rate variability [R].

Heart rate variability biofeedback training involves breathing for a period of time (suggested 20 minutes twice per day) at the frequency at which maximum heart rate variability is generated voluntarily for each individual (usually this is between 4.5 and 6.5 breaths per minute) [R]. This breathing frequency is termed “resonance” breathing.

Heart rate variability biofeedback training lowered anxiety in studies of 26, 30, and 48 people [R, R, R].

Most recently, a meta-analysis showed that heart rate variability biofeedback training considerably reduces anxiety and perceived stress [R].

Mechanism

Heart rate variability is associated with the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex, which, together, are responsible for perceptions of threat and safety [R].

This type of training involves slow diaphragmatic breathing which stimulates the vagus nerve from the gut to the brain. Vagal pathways to the brain affect brain areas controlling mood (locus coeruleus, insula, hippocampus, and amygdala) [R].

Heart rate variability is also tied to the inflammatory system [R]. Increasing heart rate variability reduced inflammation in studies of 45 and 11 people [R, R]. Inflammation is often present in anxiety disorders [R, R].

How to Implement

Use biofeedback to find your resonance breathing frequency (which never changes) and spend 10-20 minutes per day breathing at this frequency.

One way to receive biofeedback on your heart rate is by using a heart rate monitor (chest strap or finger sensor) which syncs to a smartphone app.

The iThlete app has been validated for accuracy [R]. Other common apps include Bioforce, HeartRate+, and Sweet Beat/DailyBeat, but have not been validated.

The app HRV4Training does not require a heart rate monitor and has been validated [R].

Limitations

Biofeedback training requires equipment that may be costly.

6) Applied Relaxation Reduces Anxiety

Applied relaxation is the development of relaxation skills through diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques are applied in response to early signs of anxiety [R].

Applied relaxation reduced general anxiety, excessive worry, tension, and thought suppression in studies of 41, 26, and 18 adults with general anxiety [R, R, R]. In some cases, these improvements were maintained for one year.

Mechanism

In a case study, those who practiced applied relaxation became more accepting, mindful, and non-judgmental of their perceptions and thoughts [R]. Development of these characteristics were associated with lower anxiety.

There is also some evidence that applied relaxation improves anxiety by reducing muscle tension [R]. However, more research is needed to fully support this claim.

How to Implement

Computer-delivered applied relaxation was as effective as therapist-guided applied relaxation in reducing emotional stress and improving relaxation as shown by a study of 60 adults [R].

7) Cognitive Bias Modification Reduces Anxiety

Whereas cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches people to deal with thoughts as they arise, cognitive bias modification attacks thoughts earlier in the cognitive process. Biases toward a threat that are commonly found in anxious individuals include:

  • Attention bias: preferentially paying attention to threatening information.
  • Interpretation bias: comprehending emotionally ambiguous information as threatening rather than neutral.
  • Memory bias: storing and/or retrieving threatening information more often than neutral/positive information [R].

Cognitive bias modification is the practice of “re-training” the above biases using computerized tasks. Cognitive bias modification lowers anxious behavior at clinically-relevant levels [R].

Cognitive bias modification may be more effective than CBT in some cases. In one year following an intervention, cognitive bias modification showed a greater decrease in negative automatic thoughts than CBT and control groups in a 240-person study [R].

However, internet-based attention bias modification combined with internet-based CBT did not improve social anxiety more than internet-based CBT alone in a randomized controlled trial of 133 participants [R].

Mechanism

Electrode brain monitoring suggests cognitive bias modification improves top-down processes (via the prefrontal cortex) that control emotions [R].

How to Implement

Cognitive bias modification is best performed under the direction of a therapist. It is a relatively new technique and has not yet been shown effective in self-guided settings.

8) Healing your Gut Microbiome May Reduce Anxiety

There is a strong connection between gut microbiota and brain function [R].

People who have inflammatory diseases of the gut frequently also have anxiety [R], and those with anxiety have high rates of GI disorders [R]. In fact, GI disorders are the second most commonly-occurring health condition in individuals with anxiety, besides migraines [R].

When inflammatory/GI diseases are resolved, anxiety often subsides as well [R].

In mice, consumption of 50% lean beef compared to normal mice food improved the diversity of fecal bacteria and reduces anxiety-like behaviors [R].

In a case study, dietary changes and probiotics reduced an individual’s anxiety from moderate to very low, with favorable changes in gut microflora composition [R].

In a population-based study, 5,286 individuals took a food sensitivity blood test and were asked to make dietary changes based on foods that showed elevated antibody response. Among those who reported psychological issues and followed the dietary recommendations, 40% showed psychological improvement [R].

Specific probiotics will be discussed in the Supplements section of this article.

9) Sunlight May Reduce Anxiety

Anxiety demonstrates a clear seasonal pattern, as people with anxiety report worse symptoms in winter compared to any other time of year [R].

Individuals exposed to UVA radiation (wavelength of sunlight) showed elevated serotonin and reported feeling less nervous compared to those who did not receive UVA radiation in a 53-person study [R].

Interestingly, the first enzyme in serotonin production – tryptophan hydroxylase – is found in human skin [R].

Bright light exposure also produces neurogenesis in the adult rat brain and lowers anxiety and depression [R].

10) Sauna Use May Reduce Anxiety

Far-infrared sauna use lowered anxiety in a pilot study of 10 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome [R].

Far-infrared sauna therapy plus exercise improved emotional and psychological status in 45 patients with fibromyalgia [R].

Supplements That Reduce Anxiety

11) Cannabidiol (CBD) Reduces Anxiety

CBD is one of the most common chemicals in cannabis and hemp. It is non-psychoactive and most-commonly available for use as CBD oil.

Cannabidiol reduced anxiety in studies of 40 healthy individuals and 10 patients with social anxiety disorder [R, R].

CBD lowered anxiety and distress brought on by public speaking in a study of 24 individuals with social anxiety disorder [R].

CBD also reduced anxiety caused by the use of THC in 8 participants [R].

Mechanism

One way CBD may ease anxiety is by activating serotonin receptors [R, R, R].

CBD also binds to cannabinoid (CB1) receptors, which are frequently found in the hippocampus and amygdala, regions involved in emotional control [R].

CBD lowers activity in the amygdala and increases prefrontal cortex activation, two structures commonly involved in anxiety [R].

Activation of CB1 receptors also influences GABA and glutamate systems [R].

12) Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Reduces Anxiety

Ashwagandha is an Indian herb usually consumed as ashwagandha root extract.

Ashwagandha is considered an “adaptogen,” a nontoxic substance that corrects imbalances in the hormonal and immune systems to restore functions disturbed by chronic stress [R].

Ashwagandha reduced mood fluctuations and anxiety in 51 women with menopausal syndrome [R].

Extracts of ashwagandha may be useful in anxiety disorders for psychiatric practice [R].

Ashwagandha exerted anti-anxiety effects similar to lorazepam [R], acted as a mood stabilizer for anxiety and social isolation-induced behavior [R, R], and treated OCD in animals [R].

Mechanism

Ashwagandha decreased cortisol levels and perceived stress in a 64-person study (DB-RCT) [R], and exerted anti-stress activity [R] and improved stress tolerance [R] in rats.

13) Kava (Piper methysticum) Reduces Anxiety

Kava is a plant grown in South Pacific islands, generally consumed as tea or supplement.

Kava improved anxiety, insomnia, depression, sleep quality, cognitive function, tension, and restlessness in studies of 141, 20, and 101 participants [R, R, R].

In animals, Kava’s anti-anxiety effects are powerful and comparable to benzodiazepines [R].

A comparison of herbal anti-anxiety remedies shows that Kava is more effective than most herbal supplements in reducing anxiety [R].

Kava strengthens transmission of the GABAA receptor [R] and inhibits uptake of norepinephrine [R].

14) Probiotics Reduce Anxiety

The beneficial impact of probiotics on mental health is gaining prominence given the influence of gut microbiota. “Psychobiotics” describe a class of probiotics that benefit those with psychiatric illness by producing and transporting neurotransmitters [R].

Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are two types of bacteria that have been studied in the treatment of anxiety [R]. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium inhabit the gut and are involved in carbohydrate energy conversion [R, R].

Lactobacillus Plantarum

A probiotic supplement including L. plantarum lowered gut-related anxiety in a study (DB-RCT) of 84 IBS patients [R].

Chronic L. plantarum intake increased dopamine and serotonin levels, and reduced anxiety-like behaviors in mice. It also lowered inflammatory cytokines and increased anti-inflammatory cytokine levels of mice subjected to early life stress [R, R].

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

A probiotic capsule containing L. rhamnosus and other bacteria strains lowered anxiety in a study (DB-RCT) of 70 people [R].

Treatment with L. rhamnosus reduced anxiety-like behaviors in mice [R, R].

L. rhamnosus supplementation reduced anxiety and depressive behaviors, and altered brain GABA gene activity in mice [R].

Lactobacillus Helveticus

L. helveticus supplementation decreased anxiety in rats [R, R].

L. helveticus protected against the negative effect of a Western-style diet on anxious behavior in mice [R].

Lactobacillus Fermentum

L. fermentum reduced anxiety-like behavior brought on by antibiotics in mice [R].

Bifidobacterium Longum

B. longum lessened anxiety-like behavior in mice with infectious colitis [R]. These effects appear to be mediated by the vagus pathway [R].

L. helveticus and B. longum taken daily for 30 days decreased anxiety, hostility, and cortisol in 25 individuals [R].

15) Lemon Balm Reduces Anxiety

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is traditionally consumed as a tea and is known for its calming properties. It contains many psychoactive chemicals [R], with rosmarinic acid as its most psychoactive compound [R].

Supplementation ranging from 300-1,600 mg of lemon balm extract improved anxiety, stress, insomnia, memory, mood, and mental processing in human studies of 20, 18, 20, and 20 participants [R, R, R, R].

Rosmarinic acid increases GABA by blocking an enzyme that is a common target for anxiety treatment, which converts GABA to L-glutamate [R, R].

16) Lavender Reduces Anxiety

Lavender (Lavendula) improved anxiety and sleep quality in studies of 221, 77, 47, and 10 participants [R, R, R, R].

In animals, lavender essential oil components (linalool and borneol) slightly increase GABA activity [R, R, R].

17) 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) Reduces Anxiety

5-HTP is a naturally-occurring amino acid and precursor of serotonin. It is available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement.

Six weeks of 5-HTP supplementation decreased anxiety by increasing blood BDNF and serotonin in 15 young adults with anxiety due to unreciprocated romanticism [R].

A single 200-mg dose of 5-HTP alleviated panic attacks in a study of 24 patients with panic disorder [R].

5-HTP exerts its beneficial effects primarily by raising brain serotonin levels [R].

18) Apigenin Reduces Anxiety

Apigenin is a flavonoid present in chamomile, celery, cilantro, licorice, ginkgo biloba, and passion flower [R]. Chamomile has the highest apigenin levels [R, R, R].

Chamomile extract lowered mild to moderate levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in 57 and 61 participants [R, R].

Apigenin enhances GABA communication by binding the benzodiazepine receptor. It also inhibits NMDA receptors of the glutamate family [R, R].

Apigenin reduces anxiety without sedation when normal amounts are taken [R].

19) Inositol Reduces Anxiety

Inositol is a sugar alcohol structurally similar to glucose. It can be synthesized in a lab but is also found naturally in many foods [R].

Inositol has 50% of the sweetness of table sugar and can be used as a sweetener as a powder or taken as a supplement in capsules.

Daily inositol supplementation reduced panic disorder, anxiety, and OCD symptoms in children and adults [R, R, R].

Supplementation with 18 grams/day of inositol reduced anxiety and panic attack symptoms in 20 patients [R] and lowered anxiety and depression in people with binge eating disorder or bulimia [R].

20) Theanine And Green Tea Reduce Anxiety

Autophagy is Increased by Green Tea

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green, black, and white tea, and is known for its calming effects [R].

L-Theanine taken after the performance of mental tasks lowered stress symptoms, heart rate, and blood pressure in studies of 12 and 14 participants [R, R].

Daily L-theanine supplementation reduced anxiety in a study (DB-RCT) of 20 schizophrenic patients [R], and helped relaxation in 20 healthy individuals [R].

L-theanine increases brain GABA, dopamine, and serotonin in animals [R].

21) Purple Passion Flower Reduces Anxiety

Purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnate) is a flowering vine native to the southeast United States.

Purple passion flower reduced anxiety similar to a benzodiazepine in 18 patients with generalized anxiety disorder [R].

Purple passion flower supplementation before surgery lowered anxiety in 30 surgery patients in a study (DB-RCT) [R].

A single 5000-mg dose of purple passion flower reduced heart rate after public speaking, while 500 mg for 6 days lowered blood pressure during the public speaking exercise in a 30-person study (DB-RCT) [R].

Purple passion flower contains high amounts of GABA [R], and influenced hippocampal GABAA and GABAC pathways in mice [R].

22) Black Seed (Black Cumin) Reduces Anxiety

Black seed (Black Cumin, Nigella sativa) is a flowering plant native to south and southwest Asia.

Black seed stabilized mood, decreased anxiety, and improved cognitive function in 24 adolescent males [R].

Black seed oil improves inflammation, blood pressure, and anxiety without notable side effects, as shown by multiple animal and human studies [R, R, R, R].

Thymoquinone, a major component of Nigella sativa, increased GABA activity in mice [R].

23) Bacopa Monnieri Reduces Anxiety

Bacopa monnieri is an herb generally taken in capsule or powder form. It should be taken with a meal because it is fat soluble.

Supplementation with 300 mg bacopa monniera for 12 weeks improved state anxiety compared to placebo in a human study (DB-RCT) [R].

Bacopa supplementation reduced cortisol and stress in 17 healthy humans [R].

Bacopa also reduced mixed anxiety-depressive disorder in mice [R].

Bacopa increased norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in rat brains, and normalized blood corticosterone previously compromised by stress [R].

24) Magnesium Reduces Anxiety

Magnesium supplementation improves anxiety and anxiety-related disorders when taken with other vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts [R].

Case studies show improvements in depression, anxiety, and sleep within one week of magnesium supplementation [R].

Magnesium’s anti-anxiety effects are likely due to its capacity to subdue the HPA axis [R] and inhibit NMDA receptors [R].

25) Fish Oil/Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce Anxiety

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids were associated with social anxiety in a 49-person study [R].

Omega-3 supplementation of 2.5 grams/day reduced anxiety symptoms and interleukin-6 in 34 healthy participants in a study (DB-RCT) [R].

Supplementation with 3 grams omega-3 lowered anxiety in 11 substance abusers in a study (DB-RCT) [R].

DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) lowered TNF-a, IL-6, and nitric oxide synthase in rats [R].

EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid) increased hippocampal neurogenesis in animals [R].

26) Gotu Kola Reduces Anxiety

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a plant found in South Asian wetlands used as a culinary vegetable and medicinal herb.

Compared to placebo, Gotu kola prevented people from being easily startled in a study of 40 adults [R].

Gotu kola and its main component asiatic acid lowered anxiety-like behavior in rats [R, R].

In rat brain, Gotu kola activated glutamic acid carboxylase, an enzyme that increases GABA levels [R].

27) Ginkgo Biloba Reduces Anxiety

Ginkgo biloba is a medicinal plant widely used in Chinese medicine to counter cognitive decline [R].

Supplementation of 240 or 480 mg Ginkgo biloba daily for 4 weeks lowered anxiety symptoms compared to placebo in a 107-person study [R].

Ginkgo biloba extract reduced anxiety, depression, and dementia in elderly patients [R].

Ginkgo biloba also showed anti-anxiety properties in rats [R, R].

28) Skullcap Herbs Reduce Anxiety

Skullcap herbs include American (Scutellaria lateriflora) and Chinese (Scutellaria baicalensis) skullcap herbs. They contain bioactive flavonoids, which act as potent antioxidants with numerous health benefits [R].

American skullcap decreased anxiety in 19 adults compared to placebo [R].

Chinese skullcap supplementation reduced stress-induced anxious behaviors and blood corticosterone in animals [R].

Wogonin, the primary active flavonoid in Chinese skullcap, reduced anxiety-like behavior and enhances GABAA receptor activity in mice [R].

29) Magnolia Bark Reduces Anxiety

Magnolia bark (Magnolia officinalis) is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its active compounds include honokiol and magnolol, located in the bark of the tree [R].

Honokiol and magnolol lowered depression and anxiety in animals [R, R, R], which may be due to activation of GABAA receptors [R, R].

30) Hops Reduce Anxiety

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are a flavoring and preserving ingredient of beer that have sedative properties.

Non-alcoholic beer containing hops consumed with dinner for 14 days lowered anxiety and improved sleep in studies of 17 and 16 participants [R, R]. In the 16-person study, overnight serotonin levels were also reduced in the treatment group, suggesting a possible role of hops in the serotonin-melatonin pathway vital to circadian rhythm [R].

Adding a small amount of beer to frog egg cells elicited a strong GABAA response, and adding a small amount of hops strengthened GABAA receptor transmission [R].

31) Valerian Reduces Anxiety

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a flowering plant, previously used in perfumes, that is usually supplemented as a tea or an extract of the root.

Valerian supplementation of 500 mg twice daily for 60 days reduced anxiety, stress, and depression in a study of 33 individuals [R].

Valerian also lowered anxiety-like behaviors in animal studies [R, R].

The anti-anxiety effects of valerian appear due to its ability to increase the strength of GABAA signaling [R].

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6 COMMENTS

  • Roz

    I am also surprised that Holy Basil was not mentioned, as I find it quite helpful.

  • Valerie A. Sheehan, LICSW

    There are 3 evidence-based treatments for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) endorsed by the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, and the equivalent type organizations around the globe. One of those is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization).

    PTSD is a specific type of anxiety disorder, but an anxiety disorder all the same, and presents with many of the typical symptoms of anxiety.

    I’m a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, and was trained in EMDR in 1996. I have used it as part of my everyday practice, treating nearly every type of case, with great and humbling success.

    I’m sure it was an oversight to leave EMDR out of this discussion. I hope that anyone looking for treatment for anxiety will do a little research, and find out a little about EMDR. They owe it to themselves before making a final decision.

    1. Nattha Wannissorn, PhD

      Thanks, Valerie. We talk about EMDR on our PTSD post. http://selfhacked.com/blog/ptsd-causes-treatments/

  • Eric

    Where is the study that says CBD oil binds to the CB1 receptor? As I understand it, CBD does not bind to that receptor but THC does…

    1. Nattha Wannissorn, PhD
  • Ahmad

    I’m surprised Tulsi Holy Basil was not mentioned in this list.

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