Everyone is familiar with feelings of anxiety – it’s only natural to feel anxious at certain times, when something less than ideal is happening in life that we cannot control, or when we are under a lot of stress. We can also feel anxious about less tangible things like our place in life or our self-worth, which is uncomfortable but not usually a source of chronic anxiety.
However, some folks suffer from anxiety in a much more profound way that can affect their entire life, as well as their physical health and well-being. People who have Generalised Anxiety Disorder may find it hard to leave the house, run errands, go to work, or do a lot of things that we take for granted. When we suffer with anxiety we may find that unhelpful, scary thoughts run through our mind at all times, leading to a constant state of fear and unrest.
Many of us with chronic anxiety are prescribed anti-anxiety medication by their doctor, which can be incredibly helpful for some people. However, these medications are not without potential side-effects. Benzodiazepines are minor tranquillisers such as diazepam which are often prescribed for anxiety, but these drugs can be addictive and are not advised for long-term use. Many people find that they cannot drive when taking these medications as it makes them drowsy and affects concentration, also if these medications are combined with alcohol it can have more serious outcomes. Regardless, many people find anti-anxiety medication to be invaluable for leading a normal life.
A lot of people who do not wish to take prescribed drugs may seek an alternative way of relieving their anxiety. There are many alternative remedies and supplements on the market which are based on traditional folk medicine and touted as natural remedies for anxiety. They may not be enough by themselves to treat clinical anxiety, but could be a helpful tool in a holistic regime to help manage anxiety. Folks who wish to supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle with natural remedies might find some of these to be helpful.
Of course, the body needs its nutrients to work – vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Most of these are provided by the food we eat, but a supplement can help bolster your intake of these essential nutrients.
- Long Chain Omega 3 Fatty Acids
We all know that fish is ‘brain food’, and it’s the omega fatty acids in fish known as EPA and DHA that are essential for brain development. Some experts even assert that access to seafood and fish during human evolution made our brains what they are today. It’s safe to say that these fatty acids are important for a healthy brain, but many people do not get enough of them as part of their regular diet. A study was conducted in which people with a history of substance abuse were given fish oil supplements, and the results indicated that supplementing with this fish oil reduced reported levels of anxiety in participants. It does then appear that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could help to reduce anxiety in some people.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is required for many bodily processes, including processing food into energy and supporting the health of bones, muscles and organs. An adult requires 320-460mg of magnesium a day, which we can get from green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, rice and grains. Many people do not get enough magnesium in their diet or cannot absorb enough from their food for various reasons, and magnesium deficiency has been shown to lead to anxiety.
Topping up magnesium levels in the body could help to reduce anxiety – but ensure that you supplement with a form of magnesium that is easily absorbed by the body e.g. magnesium L-threonate.
Zinc is another mineral that the body requires to run smoothly, and supports the immune system as well as supporting health metabolism. Zinc-rich foods include fish, and seafood, meat, soy, yoghurt and mushrooms. People with anxiety often have a zinc deficiency, and supplementing the diet with zinc can help to reduce anxiety levels.
4. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is used by the body for metabolising essential nutrients as well as supporting the health of the nerves, skin and brain. Foods rich in B6 include meat especially liver, nuts, and fish. Vitamin B6 also helps to regulate production of serotonin and GABA – these are neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness and controlling depression and anxiety. A study involving mice found that supplementing with vitamin B6 appeared to increase GABA production in stressful situations.
These are not essential nutrients for the body, but have been used for thousands of years in folk medicine for treating symptoms of anxiety.
Kanna is a plant that is native to South Africa that has long been used as a medicinal herb for pain relief, suppressing hunger, and to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Historically, visitors to South Africa noticed how calm and collected the tribes-people were when chewing on the leaves of this succulent plant. This could be due to their comparatively laid-back lifestyle, although later studies have revealed that kanna could be effective for managing anxiety and stress.
Theanine is an amino acid found in tea and also mushrooms, and appears to increase production of serotonin, GABA and dopamine in the brain. This could help to manage the symptoms of anxiety and when taken with caffeine, for example in tea, can help to ameliorate the ‘jitters’ and increased anxiety that some people experience from caffeine.
The roots of the Kava plant have been used in the South Pacific for hundreds of years as a medicinal herb for ceremonial purposes and at social gatherings. The roots are ground into a paste and mixed with water and used for a mild sedative effect. The active ingredients in known as kavalactones, which are now available in capsule form. Some studies suggest that kava has an affect on the neurotransmitter GABA, which means that kava could be helpful for managing anxiety.
8. Rhodiola Rosea
This is a plant which grows in the mountains of Europe and Asia, and the root has been used as a medicinal herb for hundreds of years. Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen, which means that it is thought to help the body manage the negative effects of stress and anxiety. Studies appear to show that rhodiola helps to improve mood and reduce anxiety, depression, stress and other mental health issues.
Lavender is a well-known natural plant which emits a pleasant scent and can be used to make lavender oil, which many people find to be relaxing and sleep-inducing. As well as having a nice smell, lavender has also been studied to see if taking capsules could have an anxiolytic effect. A study in which patients with major depressive disorders were given lavender capsules found that it decreased anxiety and improved sleep in participants. Another study found that the effects of lavender oil were comparable with benzodiazepines for treating Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
10. CBD Oil
CBD oil is extracted from cannabis, and is a non-psychoactive component of the plant. Many people are using CBD to treat or manage various ailments, including anxiety, depression and insomnia. A recent large case series looking at many studies of CBD noted that almost 80% of participants reported decreased anxiety and 66% had improved sleep. CBD may be a powerful tool in the fight against anxiety and comes without the unpleasant side effects of prescribed anti-anxiety drugs.