More on natural treatments for anxiety

valerian for anxiety

What might my patient try for anxiety that’s not a medication or behavioral approach?  There are herbs, dietary supplements, homeopathy, and aromatherapy.

Remember that some of these can poison the user, cause dangerous medical effects such as liver or bleeding issues, drug interactions, or just not work. None clearly work…or are ineffective either, according to the subscription web site UpToDate.

Kava and chamomile might help generalized anxiety. Studies of valerian, passion flower, and St. John’s wort show no reliable benefit.

People with poor diets, including too much junk food, may be vitamin deficient. UpToDate connects these deficiencies with worsened anxiety:

  • Zinc (OCD, panic disorder)
  • B6 (anxiety)
  • B12 (OCD)

Homeopathy lacks proven benefits. Aromatherapy might help anxiety in patients with cancer or dementia. 

Some details:

  • Kava’s active ingredients, called kavalactones, might work on GABA, noradrenaline, and dopamine. That doesn’t mean they therefore work on anxiety or depression. Side effects: headaches, sedation, and severe liver damage. 
  • Valerian showed no improvement compared to Valium, the prescription anxiety med, or even compared to placebo. Side effects: drowsiness, dizziness, abdominal pain, respiratory depression. Valerian, may mix dangerously with alcohol. By the way Valerian smells like old socks to some people.
  • Passion flower showed mixed results, as did chamomile. Chamomile may increase bleeding, a special risk for people on anticoagulants.
  • Saffron offers is used for depression and anxiety, and some find it helps. 
  • St. John’s wort, used for depression and anxiety, hasn’t proven to help in anxiety, but is a hazard when mixed with SSRI antidepressants. 

Sorry to say, nothing stands out clearly here except risks. The usual disclaimer for anything in this blog: what I write here is not medical recommendation for you or anyone, so make your own decisions or ask a clinician. 

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