8 Home Remedies for Anxiety


These home remedies are simple things you can do at home to reduce your anxiety.
These home remedies are simple things you can do at home to reduce your anxiety.
A Chederros/Getty Images

Anxious behavior befalls us all at one time or another, yet it doesn't have to be an ongoing issue. Many stress-relievers exist to bring our nerves back into alignment again, so lets take a look at how our nervous system handles anxiety, and how we can use a few home remedies for anxiety to calm down a bit.

Quashing the Quivers

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives. Perhaps you're sitting in your doctor's waiting room, anticipating the horse-sized needle your doctor has waiting for you on the other side of the door. Or maybe you've spent all day cooking, but the look on your mother-in-law's face says your best efforts were wasted. Or maybe you really hate your job.

These very different experiences can bring on anxiety and its various symptoms:

  • heart palpitations
  • sense of impending doom
  • inability to concentrate
  • muscle tension
  • dry mouth
  • sweating
  • queasy, jittery feeling in the pit of the stomach
  • hyperventilation

Anxiety can be short- or long-lived, depending on its source. The more long lasting the anxiety, the more additional symptoms you will experience.

If your anxiety is a reaction to a single, isolated event -- the shot the doctor is about to give you, for example -- your anxiety level will decrease and your symptoms will disappear after the event. If your anxiety is caused by friction between you and your mother-in-law, you're likely to experience anxiety for a period of time before and after you see her. In this case, the symptom list may have grown to include diarrhea or constipation and irritability.

Then there's that job, a source of anxiety that never leaves you. You dread getting up in the morning because you have to go to work, dread going to bed at night because when you wake up you have to go to work, dread the weekend because when it's over you'll have to go to work. When the source of your anxiety is always present, you may also experience the following symptoms: chest pain, over- or under-eating, insomnia, loss of sex drive.

All three situations described above are types of everyday anxiety. But even though such anxiety may be common, it's taking its toll on you, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

What Causes Anxiety?

Essentially, anxiety is part of the "fight or flight" mechanism, a carryover from our ancient ancestors. They were hunters, but they also were the hunted; their instincts readied them to attack -- or run from an attack. Anxiety kept them alive, as it caused adrenaline to be released into the bloodstream. When that big ol' bear was breathing down our ancestor's neck, his adrenaline surged as a warning, causing his liver to release energy-stimulating sugars into his system to ready him for the fight.

That warning system is still necessary for today's emergencies. Trouble is, we experience the manifestations of the "fight or flight" mechanism even when it's not really appropriate to our modern stressors. You could run from your job or your doctor, and you could physically fight your mother-in-law, but the results would not be as helpful for you as they were when that ancestor outran a lion or knocked out a bear!

Certainly, your mother-in-law's visit may not be pleasant, but it's not life threatening either. You may feel your muscles knot up at the very mention of her name, but that, in itself, isn't a problem -- the problem is the body's response to such stress. When anxiety is severe or prolonged, the powerful "fight or flight" chemicals can damage your body's organs. Eventually, anxiety can cause a full-fledged illness, such as headaches and high blood pressure.

While stress is most often at the root of anxiety symptoms, they can be caused by physical problems as well. If your anxiety symptoms are persistent, get checked out by your doctor so that you can rule out the following:

  • Hyperthyroidism, which may produce symptoms that resemble those of anxiety
  • Heart disorders, which can cause rapid heartbeat, often associated with anxiety
  • Caffeine, which can produce nervous symptoms even in moderate amounts
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Diet pills
  • Anemia
  • Diabetes
  • Hypoglycemia

So now that you know what anxiety can do, it's time to learn what you can do to control it. Mild anxiety can be treated successfully at home with a little calming music, a little quiet time, and some soothing remedies from the kitchen. Take a look at the next page for a few home remedies you can implement to easily reduce your anxiety.

For more information about anxiety and other illnesses related to your nervous system, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Anxiety

Just the pleasant smell of an orange has been shown to reduce anxiety.
Just the pleasant smell of an orange has been shown to reduce anxiety.
©iStockphoto.com/Andrejs Pidjass

While a certain amount of anxiety will creep into everyone's life, there are some easy home remedies you can employ to help your body relax.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Almonds. Soak 10 raw almonds overnight in water to soften, then peel off the skins. Put almonds in blender with 1 cup warm milk, a pinch of ginger, and a pinch of nutmeg. Drink at night to help you relax before going to bed.

Baking soda. Add 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup ginger to a nice warm bath. Soak in the tub for 15 minutes to relieve tension and anxiety.

Oil. Sesame oil is great, but sunflower, coconut, or corn oil will work, too. For a wonderful, anxiety-busting massage, heat 6 ounces oil until warm, not hot. Rub over entire body, including your scalp and the bottoms of your feet. A small rolling pin feels marvelous! Use the oil as a massage before the morning bath to calm you down for the day's activities. If anxiety is keeping you awake, try using it before you go to bed, too.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Celery. Eat 2 cups celery, onions, or a mixture of the two, raw or cooked, with your meals for a week or two. Both vegetables contain large amounts of potassium and folic acid, deficiencies of which can cause nervousness.

Onion. See celery, above.

Orange. The aroma of an orange is known to reduce anxiety. All you have to do to get the benefits is peel an orange and inhale. You can also drop the peel into a small pan or potpourri burner. Cover with water and simmer. When heated, the orange peel will release its fragrant and calming oil.

Orange juice. For a racing heart rate associated with anxiety, stir 1 teaspoon honey and a pinch of nutmeg into 1 cup orange juice and drink.

Home Remedies From the Spice Rack

Rosemary. Used in the Middle Ages to ward off "evil spirits," rosemary has a calming effect on the nerves. Make a tea by adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb to 1 cup boiling water; steep for 10 minutes, then drink. Inhaling rosemary can be relaxing, too. Burn a sprig, or use rosemary incense to ease anxiety.

Do Remember

  • Keep a diary to track -- and then eliminate -- events that might trigger anxiety. Also make note of foods, as some of the things you eat may be responsible for the symptoms.
  • Indulge in noncompetitive exercising, such as walking, bicycling, or swimming. It's good for you, both physically and emotionally.
  • Meditate, pray, or indulge in a mental flight of fantasy. Do whatever it takes to give your mind a break.
  • Breathe in, breathe out. Slowly, deeply. This is relaxing.
  • Chat with a friend, a psychotherapist, a clergyman. Talking about your anxiety can relieve it.
  • Make a mental list and check it twice. It doesn't matter what's on the list. This is simply an exercise in repetitive thinking that can distract you from what's causing the anxiety.

In addition to these home remedies for anxiety, there are a number of herbs that can be helpful. Continue to the next page to learn more.

For more information about anxiety and other illnesses related to your nervous system, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Herbal Treatment for Anxiety

You don't have to tackle traffic in Manhattan to experience stress. It's everywhere, even in the relative paradise of Polynesia. Fortunately, there's an herbal treatment for anxiety that may help your condition.

To deal with stress, and just to boost their spirits, many islanders drink a beverage produced from the kava kava root. Because of its reported ability to banish anxiety and induce feelings of bliss, kava has been revered for centuries in certain South Pacific islands and Hawaii.

The kava beverage produced in the islands imparts a mild numbing sensation to your tongue. This is followed by a sociable feeling of relaxation and a marked reduction in fatigue and anxiety.

In Europe and the mainland United States, you aren't likely to ever encounter a cup of kava beverage. Instead, you can purchase capsules filled with powdered kava root. Kava has sedative, tonic, stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic, and -- reportedly -- aphrodisiac properties.

How Kava Works

Just how kava works is unclear. However, kava appears to work in part by activating GABA receptors in the brain. These receptors calm neurological activity, which reduces anxiety and seizures. Scientists have isolated several compounds from kava root that might be responsible for these effects. These so-called kava pyrones include kawain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and dihydroyangonon. Other constituents and actions are also likely part of the kava puzzle.

Small amounts of kava produce euphoria. If you take larger amounts, you may feel extreme relaxation, lethargy, and a sense of sleepiness.

You may not appreciate kava's effects the first few times you try it. Some people need to become used to the herb before it kicks in.

Kava Studies

In Germany, researchers conducted a double-blind study of 58 patients suffering from common anxiety syndromes. None of the patients was considered to be psychotic or to have a severe mental illness. Half of the patients received a placebo (a dummy pill). The other half took 100 milligrams of kava extract three times a day for four weeks.

The researchers then administered several tests to assess patients' anxiety levels. These included the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, a 60-item Adjectives Check List self-assessment scale, and the Clinical Global Impression scale (CGI). After just one week, patients who took kava demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms, compared with patients who took the placebo. What's more, the kava patients continued to improve throughout the 28-day study.

None of the patients who received kava complained of adverse reactions. Thus, researchers concluded, kava extract is "suitable for the general practitioner in treating states of anxiety, tension, and excitedness."

In another study of kava's effects, 101 patients suffering from a variety of conditions -- agoraphobia, specific phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, or adjustment disorder -- were examined for 25 weeks at various mental health clinics. Half of the patients received a placebo. The other half took a special kava extract known as WS 1490.

Researchers then rated the subjects' anxiety levels with the Hamilton Anxiety Scale. Patients who had been taking kava for eight weeks scored far better than patients who took the placebo. The researchers reported that adverse reactions during the study were rare and distributed evenly among both groups.

They concluded that kava is a good alternative to tricyclic antidepressants and benzodiazepines because of its "proven long-term efficacy and none of the tolerance problems associated with tricyclics and benzodiazepines."

German researchers also have found that kava produces deep muscle relaxation, modulates emotional processes, and promotes sleep as effectively as most tranquilizers.

Many other studies have confirmed that kava is useful for mild anxiety disorders. A review of all the kava research was published in 2005, and it concluded kava is safe and effective. In fact, some studies have shown kava to be as effective as buspirone and revealed that it can relieve worsening anxiety in people who are trying to stop taking benzodiazepines.

Kava Side Effects

The best news about kava is that it appears to be relatively free of side effects, at least in short-term use. Unlike benzodiazepines, kava reduces anxiety but does not affect motor control, physical performance, or reaction time. Moderate doses of kava have even been shown in some clinical trials to improve cognitive performance, presumably by stabilizing emotional distress. Kava does not appear to interact adversely with alcohol, but for safety's sake, it is probably advisable to avoid combining the two.

In other tests, kava has calmed subjects but has had no adverse effects on electroencephalograph (EEG) readings of brain-wave activity.

No toxicity has been observed in people who took a moderate dose of 200 milligrams of kava a day for eight weeks. In doses greater than 8 ounces, or 30 capsules, per day for months, kava may cause a rash and skin discoloration.

In 2002 and 2003, reports of kava causing liver damage began to appear, particularly in Germany. At first there appeared to be 30 cases of kava-caused liver damage in Europe, but further study made it clear that kava could not be conclusively proven as the cause in many of these cases. The people who had liver damage were drug users or drank excessive amounts of alcohol. They also consumed small amounts of kava or had only taken kava for a very short period of time.

According to Dieter Low, M.D., of Johann Wolfgang Goethe University and his colleagues, "There is only one single well-documented case report showing a clear association between kava intake and the development of hepatoxicity [liver damage]."

Despite this, most countries moved swiftly to ban kava, including the majority of Europe, Canada, and Australia. Among large Western nations, only the United States has kept kava legal. Although it hasn't been conclusively proven that kava can damage the liver, people with liver disease or those who take hepatoxic drugs should not use kava.

If you suffer from a serious anxiety disorder, you may need pharmaceutical medicines as well as psychotherapy for your condition. But if your symptoms are mild, an herbal treatment of kava may help you out of a tough time. Discuss the herb with a doctor experienced in natural remedies. Then the two of you can decide whether kava may help you to reduce the anxiety that all of us find overwhelming from time to time.

Anxiety is a serious condition that can quickly spiral out of control. If you feel that your anxiety might lead to panic attacks, it's time to visit your doctor. If you are only experiencing a mild unease, these home remedies can help you find your inner peace.

For more information about anxiety and other illnesses related to your nervous system, try the following links:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.