Relaxing or anxiety herbs can be very helpful, when it comes to reducing stress. While adaptogens regulate hormonal producing glands and increase our resistance to stress, sedative herbs work in their own way.
They act in a similar way as beta blockers. However, herbs for anxiety don't block beta receptors, they relax stress receptors and modulate neurotransmitters thereby easing the tension. While adaptogens work better the longer you take them, relaxing herbs act quicker and better in short period of time.
If you need to reduce stress in your life, quickly, anxiety herbs would be more effective way to go. However, the longer you take them, the less effective they become, at least most of them.
TWO MOST EFFECTIVE HERBS FOR RELIEVING STRESS
Kava Kava is probably one of the best among them. It is so powerful that it was banned, for some time, because of the risk from liver damage. Kavalactones are responsible for kava kava benefits and possibly side effects.
Besides the risk of liver damage, the herb may also raise prolactin, cause sleepiness, numbness of the gums and tongue, skin rash, low blood pressure, kidney damage, blood abnormalities and interfere with blood clotting.
I personally didn't expirience any side efects. Maybe because the scientists presume that the leaves are actually toxic, not the root or at least not as much as the leaves or stems.
On the other hand, since kavalactones can help person relax without affecting mental clarity, they have shown to be very useful as depression herbs, too.
It seems that Kava-Kava acts on the limbic system by relaxing it, especially amygdala which is responsible for processing emotions, particularly fear.
It is one of few anxiety herbs which affects neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine and serotonin, to a certain point. Kava-Kava may improve your sense of well-being and clear thinking which is attributed to its ability to inhibit uptake of adrenaline and to reduce levels of cortisol, in the brain.
St.John's Wort is probably one of the best relaxing herbs for anxiety and mental disorders. Herbalists and even some doctors prescribe it for treating mild depression. It seems that it can raise dopamine and especially serotonin levels in the brain, while reducing adrenaline, another stress hormone.
Also, St.John's Wort can improve clearance and metabolic breakdown of drugs, supplements, chemicals and hormones from the body by affecting several enzymes. Due to this fact, it can help the liver detoxify excess estrogen which is known to cause depression, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability and fogy thinking.
It also seems that, when it comes to anxiety herbs, it can relax limbic system and amygdala to some degree but not as effectively as Kava-Kava.
These effects are mostly attributed to hypericin and hyperforin which are responsible for herb's beneficial effect. St.John's Wort even exhibits anti-bacterial effect which makes it useful in treating herpes outbreaks.
When it comes to herbs side effects, photosensitivity is the most obvious one. Because of this, avoid its use during summer, especially if there is a warning about dangerous UV exposure.
In my case, St.John's Wort was effective, especially the first few times I used it. It improved my mood and helped me fall a sleep, easier. Probably, because the herb contains high amounts of melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone.
OTHER ANXIETY HERBS AND THEIR EFFECTS
Valerian is well known and relativly safe herb, used through history for treating anxiety, sleep problems, headaches as well as heart palpitations caused by stress. It seems to be the most effective for people with irracional fears and for those who can't control themselves, due to overwhelming emotional reaction.
Valerian relaxes central nervous system thereby relieving muscle and joint pain. This makes it also useful in treating epilepsy, mild tremors and restlessness. Some studies reported that Valerian modulates GABA receptors, possibly by increasing their activity.
Although, the scientist say that its effect should be better the longer you take it, I beg to differ. When I first tried Valerian, it made me sleepy in about 15-20 minutes. It also improved my mood and alleviated stress, especially on days when I felt burned out.
However, if I took it every day, its effect became weaker. If you decide to take the herb, save it for the sleepless nights and for days when you are under a lot of stress. Combining it with other anxiety herbs may provide better results.
Passionflower works in very similar way as Valerian because of which these two relaxing herbs are often mixed together, when it comes to stress and depression herbs. It seems that it calms the nerves, by increasing the levels of gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA which can help you relax, ease the stress and fall a sleep.
Passionflower also contains various phytochemicals, including apigenin and chrysin. Although chrysin is mainly found in Blue Passionflower, it is suspected that other species of passionflower also contain it, including Passiflora incarnata or True Passionflower.
True Passionflower is mostly found in anti-stress formulas but whether it contains chrysin or not, is questionable. However, it contains benzoflavone which as well as chrysin exhibits anti-aromatase activity. Both chrysin and benzoflavone have anti-anxiety effect, by preventing aromatisation of androgens to estrogens.
This is important since high estrogen can cause depression, panic attack as well as anxiety and cancer.
Lemon Balm or Melissa is great nerve tonic which as well as few anxiety herbs, acts on the limic system. However, the herb also possess anti-bacterial and immune system stimulating properties, due to its rich phytochemical content because of which it is used as a natural treatment for herpes.
Although Lemon Balm can calm down nervous system, it is most effective for treating chronic stress. On the other hand, Melissa can inhibit TSH which makes it useful for treating hyperthyroidism. However, it can cause hypothyroidism, in otherwise healthy person.
So, don't make the Lemon Balm your first choice, while deciding to try some of these herbs for anxiety. If you choose to take it, watch out for your thyroid.
Simple way to keep thyroid in check, besides blood work, is to tilt your head back and swallow like you are swallowing food. This way you will notice, if thyroid gland becomes enlarged. Thyroid is located at the base of the neck, below adam's apple.
MILDER ANXIETY HERBS
Five depression herbs mentioned above are the most effective in relieving stress. However, there are few more relaxing herbs which although aren't effective as those five, can still help you relax.
Catnip is similar to Valerian but has weaker effect.
Skullcap can relax nervous system and it has anti-inflammatory properties because of which is often taken with Valerian.
Chamomile is often used to make tea which can help a person relax and fall a sleep, maybe due to chrysin which is found in the herb. However, some people can experience ragweed allergies, while taking it, so be careful.
Lavender oil has shown to be useful in managing anxiety and sleep problems but these effects are very weak. Also, lavander oil is somewhat toxic to humans and it can increase aromatisation of androgens to estrogens thereby leading to gynecomastia in men and potentially breast cancer in women.
Hops from which beer is made, are also one of the anxiety herbs for relieving stress and depression. They are often combined with Valerian and Passionflower. Also, Hops are estrogenic herbs, meaning that they can raise estrogen levels in the body. Good example are devoted beer drinkers with beer belly.
I am not saying not to drink beer but watch out how often and how much of it you drink.
California Poppy, Avena sativa, Vervain and Lobelia have very mild effect on the central nervous system. I wouldn't advise you to spend your money on them, if you are trying to ease the stress with sedative herbs.
If you decide to take any of these anxiety herbs, focus on the most effective ones. Also, you can consider adding adaptogens for stronger effect but consult with your doctor, before mixing these herbs.
Combining the most effective herbs for anxiety with the most effective adaptogens for stress may relieve stress quickly as well as in the long-term.
Although, anxiety herbs can relax central nervous system which makes them useful in treatment of stress, anxiety, sleep problems, high blood pressure, arrhythmia and depression, your own mind is your strongest cure.
The way you think and handle everyday problems, can have immense role in dealing with stress.
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