Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health issues, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone. While anti-anxiety medications can be helpful for some, many people prefer natural options to avoid side effects and potential dependency. The good news is numerous herbs, essential oils, supplements, and lifestyle changes may provide anxiety relief without a prescription. Here are some of the top scientifically-backed natural remedies for controlling anxiety symptoms.
Making time for regular exercise is one of the most effective natural anxiety remedies. Aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping releases feel-good endorphins and promotes better sleep – both crucial for balancing mood. Aim for 30-60 minutes per day of cardio like running, swimming, cycling, or dance classes 3-5 times per week. Weightlifting, yoga, and pilates can also strengthen your body and mind against the effects of stress. Even short walks outside can instantly boost your outlook.
Consistent meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety in numerous studies. Meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol. Just 10-15 minutes per day can impart significant benefits. Try a guided meditation app like Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer, or look up breathing exercises, mantras, and grounding techniques. The key is to clear your mind and focus on the present moment. Developing a regular meditation practice takes time but is well worth the effort.
Lemon balm is a calming herb in the mint family that has been used since ancient times to reduce anxiety, nervousness, and excitability. It contains volatile oils and antioxidants that help relax muscles, ease tension, and nourish the nervous system. Studies confirm lemon balm can significantly boost mood and mental wellbeing. Take 300-500 mg capsules up to three times daily, or drink organic lemon balm tea as needed. It may cause drowsiness, so avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after use.
Ashwagandha is a staple of Ayurvedic healing and one of the most powerful herbs for balancing anxiety. It helps lower cortisol levels and regulate the nervous system. Clinical trials support ashwagandha’s anti-anxiety benefits. Take 300-600 mg per day of a high-quality KSM-66 extract, the most validated form. Ashwagandha is generally safe but may interact with thyroid, immune suppressant, or sedative medications.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Getting sufficient omega-3 fatty acids is vital for proper brain health and mental wellbeing. Low levels of omega-3s are linked to increased anxiety and depression. Excellent sources include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Aim for 1-2 grams daily of combined EPA and DHA, or try an algae-based vegan omega-3 supplement. Walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds provide alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that the body converts to EPA and DHA.
Valerian is a flowering plant that has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. Studies confirm it increases GABA and serotonin to calm the nervous system. Take 300-600 mg before bedtime for anxiety relief and improved sleep quality. Valerian is available as a supplement, tea, or tincture. Avoid combining it with other sedative drugs or antidepressants, and don’t use it long-term.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in black and green tea leaves. It enhances alpha brain waves to create a state of relaxed focus and alertness. Studies show it increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels to control excitability. Take 200-400 mg daily for anxiety relief without drowsiness. Look for pharmaceutical-grade L-theanine capsules, or drink unsweetened green tea. L-theanine and caffeine work synergistically, so combining them is more effective than either alone.
Emerging studies show gut health significantly influences mental health. Stress can disrupt healthy gut flora, while optimizing your microbiome may alleviate anxiety. Take a high-quality broad spectrum probiotic supplement regularly, and consume probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Manage stress levels through yoga, meditation, and self-care to maintain a flourishing inner ecosystem.
Many people are deficient in magnesium, which can manifest as anxiety, irritability, nervousness, and problems sleeping. Excellent dietary sources include nuts, seeds, legumes, leafy greens, avocado, bananas, and yogurt. Supplementing with 200-400 mg daily of magnesium glycinate or citrate may help reduce anxiety levels. Don’t exceed the recommended upper limit based on your age and gender.
Native to the Americas, passionflower is used traditionally as a nerve tonic. It increases GABA in the brain to control excitability and worry. Studies confirm it can be as effective as prescription medications for generalized anxiety. Take 90 mg per day of passionflower extract standardized to 3.5% benzoflavones. Should not be combined with sedatives or MAO inhibitor drugs. May cause drowsiness.
Kava is a root from the South Pacific that offers potent anti-anxiety and sedative effects without impairment. Kavalactones are the active compounds that provide relief from anxious thoughts and muscle tension. Clinical reviews support kava as an effective therapy for anxiety disorders. Take 100-300 mg daily, but avoid using kava long-term or with other substances that depress the nervous system.
CBD, or cannabidiol, interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to help regulate mood and reduce anxiety. Unlike THC, CBD oil does not produce a psychoactive “high”. Look for a quality full spectrum hemp extract from a reputable company. Take 1-2 droppersful under the tongue 1-2 times per day. Slowly increase the dosage to find optimal relief. CBD may cause minor side effects like drowsiness or digestive issues.
Essential oils like lavender, frankincense, bergamot, and chamomile have natural sedative properties when inhaled or applied topically. Add a few drops to a warm bath, diffuse in the air, or apply diluted oil to the skin. Creating a regular aromatherapy practice can reduce stress and promote feelings of calm. Use 100% pure therapeutic grade oils and follow safe usage guidelines.
Self-Care & Lifestyle
Don’t underestimate the power of adequate rest, proper nutrition, and stress management. Make sleep a priority, eat a balanced diet, and take time to unwind fully each day. Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake which can aggravate anxiety. Spend more time outdoors, practice mind-body techniques like yoga or qigong, pursue hobbies, or cuddle a pet. Investing in your overall wellbeing bolsters resilience and peace of mind.
While medication is sometimes necessary, incorporating natural remedies should be the first line approach for mild to moderate anxiety. Herbs, essential oils, supplements and lifestyle changes often provide substantial relief with minimal side effects. Be patient and consistent, as natural therapies may take time to optimize results. With holistic strategies tailored to your needs, you can find natural ways to manage anxiety and restore a sense of calm.