Feeling anxious can be normal, especially before events like taking a test or having surgery. However, some feel anxious or tense nearly all the time. If these feelings interfere with daily life then they may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

In addition to feeling distressed, regular anxiety can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, or sleeping problems. Panic attacks are a type of anxiety disorder that cause sudden, strong physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat or a deep feeling of dread. Panic attacks can occur randomly or with stressful triggers.

Standard treatment for anxiety disorders include medications and counseling. Medications can have side effects that make it hard to continue with treatment. Alternative therapies may have similar benefits, but without the side effects. Some alternative therapies may be helpful on their own, but most are best when combined with standard treatment. It is always important to check with your doctor to make sure new therapy does not interfere with your current treatment.

Natural Therapies

Researchers have investigated the benefits of natural therapies for many different types of anxiety. Currently more evidence supports benefits of the therapies for anxiety because of stressful situations rather than anxiety disorders.

Likely Effective

  • Meditation —A relaxation therapy that helps manage the stress response. Mindfulness is a popular type of meditation. Meditation is likely to be effective for easing anxiety during stressful events. It appears less effective as a treatment for anxiety disorders.A1
  • Kava —An herb that is as likely as effective as standard medications in people with generalized anxiety disorder. B1-B5
    • Note: Kava has been linked to severe liver toxicity. However, this seems to be a rare problem. The risk of liver toxicity increase with higher doses, poor quality supplements, and long term use.

Possibly Effective

Herbs or supplements that may be as effective as standard medications for anxiety disorders:

Herbs or supplements that are possibly effective:

Therapies that may be effective:

  • Exercise N1,N2
  • Acupuncture O1-O4
  • Yoga —mindfulness is a part of yoga trainingP1-P7
  • Aromatherapy (in combination with other relaxation therapies, like massage)Q1,Q2
  • Music therapy R1,R2

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about all herbs or pills you are taking. Some may get in the way of your treatment or other health problems you may have. The following have known safety issues that you should be aware of:

  • Kava has been associated with liver toxicity. There is conflicting information about how dosing affects the liver. However, studies suggest that kava is generally safe when taken as directed. However, it should be avoided in those with liver conditions of any kind.B1,B3-B5
  • Valerian is generally considered safe. Taking higher doses than recommended has been associated with anxiety and confusion.D1

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