Complementary and alternative medicines have progressively merged with standard care in the past few decades. Patients are increasingly turning to herbal and other natural therapies for the management and treatment of psychiatric problems due to the rising costs of pharmaceutical medications and the unintended side effects they might cause. Around the world, millions of people suffer from mental illnesses.2
Definition of generalised anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health disorders and impact up to 20% of adults annually. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition where the person is constantly anxious or overwhelmed or constantly under fear or worried by a wide range of situations in their everyday life.1
Overview of natural remedies for anxiety
In recent years, Western nations have seen a rise in the use of natural or herbal remedies as a method of self-treatment for a variety of ailments.3
Some small lifestyle changes that can help tackle GAD are
Regular physical activity might assist in reducing anxiety. It increases endorphin production, which naturally elevates mood. Yoga, cycling, swimming, and other such activities can be healthy for the body and the mind.
Stimulants like caffeine can make you feel more anxious. It is recommended to limit your consumption of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks and choose decaffeinated alternatives or herbal teas.
A healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet might improve your mental health. Including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, oily salmon, and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids provides vital nutrients that promote general health and cognitive function.
Insomnia can make the symptoms of anxiety worse. Setting up a regular sleep schedule with a goal of 7-9 hours of good sleep each night, making your bedroom cosy, refraining from using technology just before bed, and trying some relaxing activities like reading or light stretching can improve sleep hygiene.
Stress management techniques
A conscious effort is often necessary to lessen the impact of stress triggers in your life. It is helpful to learn effective coping strategies, such as journaling, listening to music, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, and putting self-care first.
- Deep breathing: It can help you relax and lessen tension by calming your nervous system. Pick a comfortable spot, take a few deep breaths through your nose, and gently exhale through your mouth. Keep your attention on your breathing and repeat.
- Aromatherapy: Some fragrances can help to soothe the mind. Many essential oils, including frankincense, bergamot, and lavender, are well renowned for their ability to calm anxiety. You can carry a tiny bottle of them around for inhalation, use them in a diffuser, or add a few drops to a bath.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids may be implicated in psychophysiology, according to some animal studies, and may thus be used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders.3
Magnesium, a positively charged cation involved in numerous crucial biochemical processes in the body, has been connected to diseases related to anxiety. Three human trials testing the anti-anxiety effects of magnesium consumption in combination have provided favourable results.2
Dietary supplements containing lysine and magnesium have also shown some promising results.
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera (WS), is an Ayurvedic herb that has just recently become popular as a cure for anxiety and stress. WS has only lately been studied in scientific settings, despite being used as a general treatment in India for generations. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of WS have led to the extensive use of WS in Ayurvedic medicine, and it has been investigated for the treatment of a number of medical issues.6
There are numerous species of the perennial, 3-5 ft tall valerian root plant that thrive in temperate and temperate-to-warm temperatures all over the world, which have been used to reduce anxiety and for their sedative-hypnotic effects.
Depending on the species, the plant's chemical composition can change. However, arginine, glutamine, alanine, and GABA are present in all species. There have been several proposed methods of action, including the improvement of GABA transmission and effects on serotonin via 5-HT5a receptors.3
Some herbal remedies used to manage GAD are:
Some herbal teas contain relaxing effects that can aid with anxiety reduction. The calming properties of chamomile tea, lavender tea, and lemon balm tea are well known.
Lavender essential oil (EO; Lavandula angustifolia) is said to have favourable immunomodulatory effects on wound healing in addition to being antibacterial, antifungal, anxiolytic, antidepressant, analgesic, and carminative (smooth-muscle relaxant).
Historically, EOs have been applied topically or inhaled as aromatherapy due to limbic inputs in the olfactory bulb that are linked to emotion and memory in the amygdala and hippocampus. Essential oils administered via inhalation may have psychological effects.7
A native of the south-eastern United States, Argentina, and Brazil, the passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a woody vine with blooms that have long been used as a sedative and anxiolytic. It is advertised as a treatment for sleep disorders, nervous tension, and anxiety and is available as a powder, pill, tablet or liquid.3
Pacific Island civilizations have long employed the rhizome of the kava plant (Piper methysticum Forst. f.) to make a calming beverage known as kava. Due to its sedative and calming effects, kava has recently become more well-liked in Western nations.3
Using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale total score as a common end measure, a meta-analysis of six placebo-controlled studies found that patients using kava extract experienced lesser anxiety than those taking a placebo.5
Regular meditation can lower anxiety by encouraging calm and mindfulness. Find a serene area, settle into a comfortable chair, and concentrate on your breathing or a relaxing thought.
The natural treatment for GAD may include yoga. It incorporates controlled breathing, stretching, and gentle movements to calm the mind and body. An easy-to-understand explanation is provided below:
Yoga is an activity that incorporates breathing techniques, physical postures, and mindfulness. In order to manage anxiety, it can be helpful to relax the body and mind. Yoga's gentle stretches and moves help to physically relax the body and relieve stress. Yoga involves deep breathing exercises that lower heart rate and trigger the body's relaxation response. This can help relax the mind and lessen anxiety-related sensations. Yoga can help manage GAD and enhance overall well-being when practised regularly.3
Since the 12th century, tai chi, a type of mindfulness-based exercise, has been utilised in China for a variety of illnesses. The therapeutic effects of tai chi have been linked to improvements in blood pressure, depression, anxiety, cancer, and arthritis.
Tai chi helps ease anxiety using a combination of deep breathing and awareness, paired with gentle, flowing motions to encourage both physical relaxation and mental clarity. The practice also lowers stress levels and improves the quality of sleep. It also improves physical health by promoting better balance, flexibility, and strength. A sense of belonging and social support can be fostered by joining a supportive Tai Chi community. While tai chi has its advantages, getting personalised advice from a healthcare provider is crucial.8
Anxiety can be lessened by the use of acupuncture as therapy. It entails inserting tiny needles into predetermined bodily locations.
Acupuncture stimulates the body's natural healing mechanisms. The needles stimulate the nervous system, causing chemicals to be released that can lessen stress and anxiety, thus restoring equilibrium to the body's Qi energy flow, which can become disturbed when anxiety is present. It may also result in better sleep and a more positive outlook on life. A licensed acupuncturist should be consulted for personalised care.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) management can be aided by natural therapies. Symptoms can be reduced with the aid of herbal supplements like chamomile and lavender, frequent exercise, deep breathing, meditation, and aromatherapy using essential oils. A balanced diet, putting an emphasis on getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine are all helpful habits. Along with medication, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and developing a good support system are often recommended GAD management strategies. For effective management of GAD, it's critical to work with a healthcare professional to create a specialised treatment plan that includes natural therapies in addition to conventional interventions.
- Munir S, Takov V. Generalized anxiety disorder. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Jun 21]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441870/.
- Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J [Internet]. 2010 Oct 7 [cited 2023 Jun 26];9:42. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2959081/.
- Kinrys G, Coleman E, Rothstein E. Natural remedies for anxiety disorders: potential use and clinical applications. Depress Anxiety [Internet]. 2009 Mar [cited 2023 Jun 26];26(3):259–65. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.20460
- Dhawan K, Kumar S, Sharma A. Anti-anxiety studies on extracts of Passiflora incarnata Linneaus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology [Internet]. 2001 Dec [cited 2023 Jun 26];78(2–3):165–70. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0378874101003397.
- Pittler MH, Ernst E. Kava extract versus placebo for treating anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. 2003 [cited 2023 Nov 30];(1). Available from: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003383/full
- Pratte MA, Nanavati KB, Young V, Morley CP. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the ayurvedic herb ashwagandha(Withania somnifera). J Altern Complement Med [Internet]. 2014 Dec 1 [cited 2023 Jun 27];20(12):901–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270108/.
- Malcolm BJ, Tallian K. Essential oil of lavender in anxiety disorders: Ready for prime time? Ment Health Clin [Internet]. 2018 Mar 26 [cited 2023 Jun 27];7(4):147–55. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007527/.
- Sharma M, Haider T. Tai chi as an alternative and complimentary therapy for anxiety: a systematic review. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med [Internet]. 2015 Apr [cited 2023 Jun 27];20(2):143–53. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2156587214561327.