Top 5 Herbs for Stress and Anxiety
Our modern lives are inherently stressful, recognized by the fact that roughly 6.8 million adults in the United States alone struggle with an anxiety disorder. Dealing with anxiety is tough enough, but pharmaceutical medications for the disorder can be expensive, and in some cases, downright dangerous.
As a result, many people have turned to natural herbs and supplements to help combat the pressure of their everyday lives. These are the top 5 herbs for stress and anxiety and what you need to know about them.
Native to Asia and Africa, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a plant that has been historically used in an ancient Indian alternative medicine practice called Ayurveda. ashwagandha is often considered to be an adaptogenic herb, which helps our bodies regulate stress and fatigue responses, though this is an area of contention.
Though ashwagandha has been used for centuries, its applications are still modern. A 2019 study from Cureus medical magazine (via the National Library of Medicine) placed healthy adults on 600 milligrams of daily ashwagandha supplements over the course of 8 weeks. When compared to the placebo group, the subjects taking the daily ashwagandha supplements had lower reported lower stress, anxiety, and reduced cortisol levels, better known as the stress hormone.
Even more, the ashwagandha plant contains chemicals that can help lower blood pressure, calm the nerves, and ease insomnia.
Due to its many helpful properties, ashwagandha is one of the best herbs to take for stress and anxiety. Like many of the herbs on this list, the ashwagandha best supplements to take come in many forms, such as vitamins or tinctures.
The most cultivated type of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a flowering plant that produces purple buds that are just as beautiful as they are fragrant. Lavender has been used in health and beauty care since the medieval ages and can still be found in many of our soaps and perfumes.
There’s a reason why so many pillow sprays and sleep supplements contain lavender—it’s soothing! Lavender is one of the best herbs for stress and anxiety, as it has been found to influence the parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the body’s stress symptoms, such as your breathing and heart rate.
A 2018 study found that lavender is extremely calming, but does not have any sedating effects, making lavender supplements a great option for those who want to de-stress even while working.
Though you can take lavender supplements, the herb’s scent has been shown to have a greater effect on stress and anxiety.
A flowering plant that grows across North America, blue vervain (Verbena hastata) or vervain (Verbena officinalis) are not the most common herbs used for stress and anxiety relief, but have been gaining popularity due to their effectiveness.
Blue vervain contains both flavonoids and tannins, which are phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects on humans. Unfortunately, studies about blue vervain’s influence on the human nervous system are few and far between. That being said, one 2016 study conducted on rats found that vervain extract reduced anxiety in the animals, comparable to the levels of pharmaceutical anxiety drug diazepam.
In addition to reducing anxiety, there are a number of blue vervain health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It has even been suggested that vervain may reduce the size of cancerous tumors and helps manage epileptic seizures.
Due to all of these things, blue vervain is a fantastic choice for those who want natural herbs for stress and anxiety. We recommend taking blue vervain as a supplement in pill form, as it has an extremely bitter taste that is unpleasant as a tincture.
Like ashwagandha, brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is an herb that has been used across the decades in the traditional medicine practice Ayurveda. It is also considered to be an adaptogenic herb.
Due to its cortisol-reducing properties, brahmi has become a popular herb for stress and anxiety. One older study found that brahmi’s relaxing effects could be closely compared to lorazepam, another pharmaceutical drug used to treat anxiety. Another study from 2014 found that brahmi benefits children with ADHD, which often has similar symptoms that manifest in those suffering from severe anxiety.
Brahmi supplements come in many forms, from tinctures, to pills, to simple dried herbs. Users say that it tastes both bitter and sweet, but not unpleasant.
Not to be confused with an actual lemon, lemon balm (Melissa occinalis) is actually a member of the mint family. It gets its name from the faint lemon smell that emanates from the plant’s leaves.
A 2014 study found that foods containing lemon balm had a positive, anxiety-reducing effect on healthy participants, even finding that the herb may help boost memory and concentration. However, there are few—if any—studies conducted on how lemon balm may interact with those who suffer from severe anxiety disorders.
Lemon balm has become a popular herb for stress and anxiety for another reason—it tastes better than many supplements on the market. Lemon balm tinctures need little help in the taste department, as it has a naturally citrusy and minty flavor. As opposed to other herbs like blue vervain, lemon balm tastes like a treat!
Talk to your doctor before taking herbs for stress and anxiety.
Like any supplement, the herbs on this list may have unpleasant side effects. Others may negatively interact with any prescription medications you may be taking. To ensure your safety, discuss any herbs for stress or anxiety with your doctor before taking them.