The Herbs I Use To Manage Insomnia & Anxiety (After 12 Years On A Prescription Cocktail)
Nearly 7 in 10 (70 percent) of Americans are on some kind of prescription drug, and many are on two or more. This is the highest number in pharmaceutical history. Most of the drugs prescribed are for depression, pain, or anxiety.
The statistics on addiction, overdose and suicide rates linked to pharmaceutical drugs are eye-opening. But this is my story.
My grandparents took custody of me when I was 7 years old, and I was sent to talk therapy. By the age of 13, I was used to it. I'd been going for half my life. Even so, I didn't recognize that something was different the summer before high school started, when I went to see a new doctor. I later learned this person was a child psychiatrist.
I sat across from my new doctor for five minutes, answering five or ten questions.
Did I see or hear things that weren’t there? No.
Was I often troubled or worried? Yes.
Did I experience mood swings? Sometimes.
Did I purposely avoid situations or activities in which I might experience a panicked feeling? Um... yeah? Who wants a panicked feeling?
Did I have trouble sleeping? Oh, yes. Forever. Since I can remember, actually.
Did I distrust other people, including my peers? Um, most of the time. Yes. Didn’t I mention that I had practically raised myself?
The doctor told me, sternly, that I was bipolar.
I was shocked. My grandparents, who knew the psychiatrist was evaluating me for some potential diagnosis, were just as stunned.
I mean, sure, at 13 I was pretty hormonal. I definitely had mood swings. I had been through some traumatic family situations. I was definitely boy (and girl) crazy, a little precocious and pretty broody. I had my goth and punk phases.
But I wasn’t a bad kid. And in my opinion, I wasn't exhibiting any true bipolar behavior. I didn't drink or do drugs. I never had a suicidal or harmful thought. I wasn't rebelling.
My doctor told me that, luckily, he had a remedy for my condition. It was called Lithium, and I’d have to take it for the rest of my life.
He sent me home with an adult dosage.
By my 18th birthday, I was on three more drugs. At 21, I was on six. By the time I was 24, I was on a dozen medications (sometimes more) for everything from ADD to fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder, pain, arthritis, and even traumatic life events. Fear required drugs. Work required drugs. School required drugs. Relationships required drugs.
I was convinced that this would be my entire life.
This isn’t just my story. This is the story of millions of children, young adults, and grown men and women across this country who are diagnosed and overprescribed drugs for mental, physical, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual ailments.
Sadly, I was never offered alternative treatments by my doctor. I wasn’t given any other suggestions at all. When the pills didn’t work, I received different pills. No one ever asked me about my diet, fitness, friendships, support system, or physical therapy. This went on for years and years.
No one suggested any of the treatments that I now use to naturally cure everything from moodiness to low energy to insomnia. It's a shame, because truthfully, I have been medication-free for almost five years and have never ever been happier.
So what brought me here?
Like a lot of people who are overprescribed, eventually I got really sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was having daily blackouts and floating through various states of depression and exhaustion. Meanwhile, the pills I took were only treating the symptoms (not the causes), and I was living a life that seemed okay on the outside but was very messy, tumultuous, and disappointing for me.
Something had to change.
Almost five years ago, I came off my meds cold turkey (not a method I recommend). I got every form of withdrawal symptom you could name: nausea, aches, pains, sweats, and vomiting — just to paint a pretty picture. And although I had a fridge full of intuitive nausea cures, unfortunately I didn’t start researching or incorporating food or herbs into my daily healing routine until a few weeks after my detox began. I gave myself a list of excuses. I couldn’t justify purchasing them. I had never done this before. It wasn’t recommended to me. I didn’t know where to start.
After recovering from detox, I delved into my own healing journey and developed an amazing set of remedies that I can use to heal any ailment I could name. Any or all of these herbs can be taken as needed.
Now herbs are my solution instead of prescriptions. They work wonderfully, naturally, organically, and intuitively — and the herbs are almost entirely side-effect free.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D was the supplement that started it all for me, and it’s still my go-to. Vitamin D is sunshine in a bottle. It will naturally boost your mood, fight diabetes, and combat muscle and bone pain."A lack of vitamin D in the blood is linked with being depressed and makes it more likely an individual will develop depression. taking a vitamin D supplement can improve or prevent depression
Passionflower is one of my favorite herbs for depression, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. "Studies of people with generalized anxiety disorder show that passionflower is as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms. Passionflower didn't work as quickly as oxazepam (day 7 compared to day 4). However, it produced less impairment on job performance than oxazepam." Daytime drowsiness was less prevalent in patients who used passionflower over benzos (like Valium or Xanax).
Lavender is one of my favorite anti-anxiety warriors. Not only do I grow lavender plants for medicinal use in my tea, bath, and skin care, but I also use lavender oil for aromatherapy. Put 2 to 10 drops on your pillow at night for a restful sleep. Boil a pot of water, add organic lavender essential oil, and inhale deeply for an amazing relaxing at-home spa ritual.
Stressed? Anxious? Sluggish? Ashwagandha naturally lowers the stress hormone cortisol, providing anti-anxiety relief similar to that of lorazepam. It's lovely in a tincture or tea form daily, and an added benefit is that ashwagandha has been proven in lab experiences to fight cancer in animals.
Rhodiola is great for increasing energy, relieving stress, and enhancing memory. Rhodiola seems to enhance the transportation of important serotonin precursors (like 5-HTP) in the brain. It’s a potent adaptogen, meaning that it normalizes the functions of your body, like those that deal with stress, illness, and fear. It also increases anti-tumor activity by increasing your body’s resistance to toxins, making it a powerful cancer fighter.
Melatonin is most potent in our bodies when we are around 3 months old, and it steadily decreases as we age, so every single day it becomes more and more important to incorporate melatonin into your life. Not only does it help with anti-aging, melatonin regulates your circadian rhythms, naturally promoting restful sleep.
Want to soothe aches and pains right at the source? Chamomile is amazing for sleep patterns, immunity, and menstrual cramp relief — but my favorite use is for arthritis and osteoporosis. Chamomile goes straight to the bones, stimulating osteo-based cells, lubricating joints, and reducing inflammation from the inside out.
My only regret with herbs today is that I didn’t start taking them sooner.
You can find some of my other favorite herbs, mindful practices and healing techniques in my book, Cured by Nature.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.