Many of us have experienced it: that tight, gripping feeling deep in your stomach when something in life goes awry and paralyzing anxiety begins to creep in. Your heart is beating fast, your mouth is dry and you feel the walls closing in on you. Maybe you’ve tried deep breaths, a long walk or a yoga session; maybe you’ve meditated or journaled until your hands hurt. If your coping mechanisms thus far haven’t eased your mind, you might be searching for other answers.
If you're not suffering from clinical anxiety, or if you are and you’re not yet ready to try medication, there are natural options. Life can get messy, and when it does there are safe, non-drug supplements that have been known to help ease worries and apprehension. We should also note that we are big fans of therapy, and we recommend checking with your doctor before you start any supplement.
Lemon balm has been used since the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety and help with sleep. In one study, those who took lemon balm extracts were more calm and alert than those who took a placebo.
Compounds in chamomile tea might help calm you and take away your jitters. One study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center had patients with generalized anxiety disorder take chamomile supplements for eight weeks; they had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to patients taking placebo.
A study on fish oils and fatty acids' link to lessening depression and anxiety found students who took mixed omega-3 fatty acid supplements for 12 weeks had less anxiety before an exam than students taking placebo.
The aroma of lavender has been said to be an emotional anti-inflammatory. A study out of Germany found a specially formulated lavender pill (not available in the U.S.) was shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as effectively as lorazepam (brand name: Ativan), an anti-anxiety medication in the same class as Valium.
Passionflower has has historically been used in America and Europe to reduce symptoms of anxiety. It's seen by many as being as effective as certain prescription drugs, and scientists believe it works by reducing GABA in the brain, a chemical that lowers the activity of some brain cells. A word of warning, however: it’s a sedative and often used for insomnia, so don’t take it if you are also taking a prescription sedative.