Natural home remedies for anxiety
If it seems like the causes of your anxiety are all around you, take heart: so are the cures, like herbs and oils to boost the soothing powers of a warm bath, worry-taming teas, and even some classic comfort foods. For those times you’re feeling anxious, here are some forms of kindness you owe yourself.
Soak away your cares
- A warm bath is one of the most pleasant and reliable ways to soothe your senses. For an even better balm, add some lavender oil (or dried flowers if you have them) to the tub and soak to your heart’s content. Although no one knows what gives this wonderfully scented herb its calming effect, lavender has a 2,000-year-old reputation as a calmative that soothes the nerves. No time for a bath? Dab a bit of lavender oil on your temples and forehead and sit quietly for a few minutes.
Suck it in…deeply
- Regulating your breath can help bring your anxiety under quick control. To slow and deepen your breathing, sit down, put one hand over your abdomen, and slowly inhale so that your belly expands under your hand but your shoulders do not rise. Hold your breath for four or five seconds, then very slowly exhale. Repeat until you feel calmer.
Sip your way to serenity
- An old-time remedy for insomnia, drinking a glass of warm milk, can tame tension any time of day. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is needed for the production of the brain chemical serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being.
- Catnip, the dried herb that makes cats bizarrely hyperactive, has the opposite effect on humans. It contains chemicals that act as a mild sedative. Simply purchase catnip tea bags and enjoy a cup as often as you like.
- Hops, which give beer its distinctive bitter flavour, have a long history as a sedative. In fact, workers who picked hops in the fields were known to suffer from unexplained sleepiness known as hop-picker fatigue. Place 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of very hot water. Drink up to three cups of this “anti-anxiety tea” a day.
Don’t fuel the jitter bug
- Limit yourself to a single cup of coffee, tea or cola drink per day. Studies suggest that people with anxiety symptoms may be more sensitive to caffeine than most people.
- Watch your intake of wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks. While they seem to subdue anxiety at first, when the alcohol wears off, anxiety can actually heighten.
Speed up and slow down
- Aerobic exercise is a great anxiety reliever. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk spurs the release of endorphins, chemicals that block pain and improve your mood.
- Whether it’s meditating, praying, tending your flowers or watching your goldfish, do some sort of meditative activity for 15 minutes several times a day. Deeply focusing your attention on the moment at hand steers your mind away from anxious thoughts.
Try a tablet of tension tamer
- A pleasant smell isn’t something you can expect from the herb valerian, but if you want relief from anxiety, you might forgive the odour. Research suggests that the active ingredients in valerian attach to the same receptors in the brain that are affected by the anti-anxiety drug diazepam. Take 250 milligrams twice a day and 250 to 500 milligrams before bedtime.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can replenish your supply of serotonin, an anxiety-calming brain chemical. The 5-HTP in your body comes from the amino acid tryptophan, but small quantities are also found in the seeds of griffonia, a tree grown mostly in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Supplements of 5-HTP are made from extract of the Griffonia or produced synthetically. In Canada, 5-HTP is a drug and it has not been approved for sale, though Canadians may import it into the country for personal use (defined as a three-month supply). Take 50 milligrams three times daily with meals. But consult your doctor if you’re also taking an antidepressant such as Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft. These drugs also affect serotonin receptors, and the combined effect could be dangerous.
- Swallow a B-complex multivitamin each day. Studies show that the B’s are natural stress-reducers—the body requires vitamin B6 to make serotonin, for example—and not getting enough of them can contribute to anxiety.
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