With nearly 7 million American suffering from anxiety, many affected people are turning to natural remedies to relieve their symptoms. As the popularity of herbal supplements increases, hundreds of studies have been conducted to test their effectiveness, resulting in just as many conclusions. For this reason, researchers from the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation conducted a review of the 24 most credible studies to see if any firm conclusions could be reached from the larger pool of data. After this examination, they found one herbal supplement that is helpful to anxiety sufferers, another that looks promising, and a third natural remedy that doesn’t live up to its hype.
Kava is a sedative beverage especially popular in Pacific island nations. Often kava is used as an alternative to alcohol for its ability to relax the body without impairing the brain, thus keeping a clear mindset. Out of 11 studies that focused on kava, 63% found that kava reduces anxiety and related symptoms in many patients.
Although there is some concern about liver damage in relation to kava, this risk is rare, with none of the studies’ 435 subjects reporting liver problems. Since kava is otherwise free of side effects, it appears to be a great, natural choice in relieving anxiety according to the study.
Best known as the plant that produces passion fruit, passionflower grows all over the world and has long been cultivated to treat anxiety. Up until recently, however, its success has been largely anecdotal. While the researchers found only three studies that focused on the medicinal usage of passionflower, all three reported significant alleviation of anxiety symptoms.
Though one study reported mild side effects including tiredness, lightheadedness, and confusion, overall, passionflower appears to be a safe herbal remedy. As there are only three studies on the topic, the researchers stress that further investigation is necessary before elevating passionflower from promising to effective. Unfortunately, because passionflower is comprised of thousands of chemical properties, it is nearly impossible to determine which biochemicals are playing a pivotal role in reducing anxiety.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a yellow flowering commonly used as a herbal relief for depression. Since a lot of people are simultaneously diagnosed with depression and anxiety, most of the research focuses on the treatment of both disorders. Of the six studies that examined anxiety patients exclusively, the results are inconsistent. Though some found benefits to the plant, just as many determined that its effects were equal to a placebo. Moreover, the researchers noted that the most thorough of the studies declared St. John’s wort useless. For this reason, as well its tendency to provoke moderate upset stomachs and headaches, these experts do not recommend using St. John’s wort for the treatment of patients with anxiety but not depression.
If you are afflicted with chronic anxiety and want to try a natural approach, it may be time to speak to your doctor about exploring these herbal alternatives. Though some people are quick to dismiss herbal supplements as new-age silliness, the fact is that the majority of over-the-counter medicines contain ingredients cultivated from plants. So go ahead: sip some kava, try some passionflower, but skip the St. John’s wort.