Herbs for anxiety

I do respect the great work this company does. I think they are successful in helping those needing help. However...

This page lists 10 herbs that are recommended and backed by scientific studies. Following is a much longer list that is claimed to either have no studies done or insufficient to prove they help (Probably KP Kalsa would site studies and explain how these herbs are still effective in spite of their place on this list). I don’t know if they bothered contacting the American Botanical Council or other herbal authorities to learn more, but wonder if they are even aware that they exist and could have assisted in finding studies. I think often, English speakers also stop at studies done in the western world and don't think to or don't bother to look any further.

Considering, they are still recommending 10 top herbs. At least they haven't dismissed them completely.

We know that not all herbs have the money support behind them to study their effectiveness, and it depends on the plant & the person, dose, strength of the herb, ways to make them more efficient at what they do, etc. Then, after an expensive study, the findings need to be published, peer reviewed and so on.

Anyway, I am still posting this because it gives a list of herbs that are known to help and a further list of those which have traditionally used for anxiety.

It's up to you to do the research.

@torey @judsoncarroll4 @sarah121 What are your favorites to use for anxiety? Out of curiosity, can you list studies to back up your case?



  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    First, I'd like to mention the herbs in the Top 10 list.

    Saffron links with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body producing similar anxiolytic effects as CBD. I've mentioned reactions to kava in another discussion. Not really what I would consider an anti-depressant. More mind altering; anxiolytic perhaps, but I don't know about its effects on depression. Judson says it is a muscle relaxant for him. However, it is also able to link with the endocannabinoid receptors so has the likelihood of anxiolytic effects. I would put Ashwaghanda more in the preventative category as it helps modulate stress so we don't become anxious or depressed. I wasn't familiar with Centella's use for anxiety. I know it more for cognitive function but the two can be related. Lavender is a personal thing. For some it has calming effects but for others it is off-putting or even nauseating. I have found California poppy to be more of a sleep aid rather than useful for depression. I haven't tried it for anxiety. Not sure why they have Hawthorn on the list. It modulates blood pressure so does that help with anxiety? I have had good results with CBD.

    What do I use? I like motherwort. I use it for the type of anxiety that keeps me from falling back asleep if I wake during the night. The racing thoughts kind of anxiety that could bring on palpitations. That's what motherwort is best know for anxiety with palpitations. But I use it other times, too. When I typed in motherwort + anxiety into Google Scholar there were many studies and papers on the subject, even describing different types of anxiety. KP Khalsa says it is good for cases of anxiety and depression where St. John's wort is contraindicated.

    I have to go out for a bit so I will comment on others when I return.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,283 admin

    Well, I don't experience stress or anxiety.... I opt out. Of course sometimes emergencies happen, or my dog runs off. I might grab some valerian and ashwagandha... if I think about it.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    So back to the article and the list of herbs that it says have no research to back them up. They didn’t look very closely.

    Anywhere that I mention the Commission E monographs, they are referring to a set of herbal monographs produced in Germany that are widely researched before being published; "The German Commission E Monographs; The Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines". They are all available online at the American Botanical Council website.

    I’ve already addressed motherwort. Lots of research on it.

    Bacopa. This herb is widely used in Ayurveda and has lots of research to back it up; alone and in combinations or formulae. Good for cognitive function as well as anxiety.

    Berroca. This is a commercial brand of a vitamin supplement so I won’t comment on it.

    Borage. Not sure why they have specified juice here. Borage has studies to back up anxiolytic properties but some of them are referring to borage seed oil which is an Omega 6 oil.

    Bugleweed (Lycopus). Not much on this herb as far as studies go. Strangely enough there seems to be more research into the homeopathic indications rather than from a herbal perspective.

    Catnip. Several studies showing both anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects of catnip. This is a mild herb and safe for children when they are anxious.

    Chamomile. Many studies using different species of chamomile, all showing good to excellent results on generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia and depression. Some studies were using tea, some using extracts and others were on EOs. All preparations were effective. Another very safe herb for anxiety in children. Particularly if anxiety causes irritability or restlessness. I will suggest catnip & chamomile in combination for young children that are irritable and won’t settle at bedtime or for naps. But it shouldn’t be thought of as just a children’s herb, it can have very good results in adults, too. Chamomile is a mild bitter so will help with digestive issues as well. Anxiety that is felt in the digestive tract. Upset stomach from anxiety.

    Damiana. I found a couple of studies for this herb as an anxiolytic and nervine. It seems to have more research into its aphrodisiac properties.

    Fennel. There is some research on fennel’s anti-anxiety properties but mostly associated with menopausal anxiety.

    Feverfew. Most of the research on feverfew is related to migraines.

    Ginkgo. Most info is on cognitive function as part of age related studies but there are anxiolytic effects as well. This would be a good herb for cognitive related anxiety; people who get anxious when they have memory lapses.

    Ginseng. While ginseng is most often thought of as an adaptogenic tonic, it has been shown in several studies to modulate anxiety and stress-related depression.

    Hops. I think of hops more as a sedative rather than an anxiolytic. However, there are a couple of studies that show anti-anxiety effects. The Commission E monograph for hops list it as useful for restlessness, anxiety and sleep disorders.

    Lemon Balm. This is from an abstract that was doing a meta-analysis on a number of studies. “Based on meta-analysis results, lemon balm significantly improved mean anxiety and depression scores compared with the placebo”. I found several other studies; one using lemon balm in food (yogurt) and another on lemon balm EO for anxiety. So lots of research into this herb as well. I don’t use it very often for anxiety but other herbalists I have been in class with use it quite a bit in formulae for anxiety and overwhelm. Lemon balm is good for digestive issues as well so it would be another good herb for anxiety that is felt in the digestive tract. Lemon Balm is one of the herbs approved by the Commission E monographs.

    Lemongrass. I couldn’t find any positive research on the use of lemongrass as a herb for anxiety but there are studies showing good effects with lemongrass essential oil as an anxiolytic.

    Licorice. Lots of studies on licorice for anxiety and mild depression, including at least one using DGL. Keeping in mind that licorice should be avoided in cases of high blood pressure, advanced kidney disease or hormonal cancers.

    Meadowsweet. I always think of meadowsweet as a pain reliever but when I looked there are several studies showing anxiolytic effects, particularly when pain accompanies the anxiety.

    Mullein. This is a new property about mullein for me. I didn’t know that it had anxiolytic properties. But now that I think about it, mullein does seem to have a mildly calming effect when you have a cup of tea. I found several studies related to mullein and anxiety, including one that stated: “In conclusion can be state that extract of this medicinal plant has better sedation, pre-anesthetic, and anti-anxiety effects than diazepam”. Wow!

    Mulungu. This is a South American plant that I had never heard of. Its classed as a nervine and I found several studies related to anxiety.

    Noni. I found a few articles and at least 3 studies related to the anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects of noni.

    Peppermint. The studies on peppermint include ones on peppermint EO as well as the dried herb. Peppermint seems to be best suited to anxiety that is related to pain.

    Pine bark extract. This is being studied for a wide range of therapeutic properties. Great anti-inflammatory properties. Helpful with vasodilation. The anxiolytic properties have the most studies with regards to mood disorders (anxiety, depression and irritability) surrounding menopause.

    Reishi. Many studies related to anxiety for Reishi. So many health benefits.

    Relora. This is a commercial preparation of magnolia and phellodendron. I won’t comment on this one but there are studies produced by the company.

    Rhodiola. While it does have lots of anecdotal information about its effects on mood, there isn’t much research. I would probably use this for cases of anxiety where chronic joint/ligament injuries are causing issues. Cautions about using this herb in patients with bi-polar disorder.

    Schisandra. A great adaptogen. There are a few studies indicating improvements in anxiety levels and depression with Schisandra. Its also neuroprotective.

    Skullcap. This is a well known nervine. Lots of research. One study suggests that its anxiolytic effects is because of its ability to modulate the GABA pathways. But skullcap has also been found to contain melatonin and serotonin precursors.

    Valerian. Lots of studies on valerian as a nervine or sedative but less so for anxiolytic properties. One small study did a comparison of valerian and diazepam for pre-surgical anxiety. It found no difference between valerian and diazepam indicating that valerian is a very effective anxiolytic. I use valerian quite a bit but more as a nervine. For those jingle-jangle type nerves, where you just can’t settle down. Pacing.