I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my adult life. For the most part, I try to avoid medication (every person is individual, and I find it’s not right for me), rather relying on meditation, yoga, social time, and a huge stash of calming teas. Whether you have anxiety regularly or you’re just dealing with the stress of everyday life, the simple action of sipping a warm cup of tea can be oh so comforting—and if that tea has additional herbs and ingredients meant to calm you, all the better. But which ones actually have a noticeable impact? I sipped my way through the world of anxiety teas. Here’s what happened.
Tip: To get the most benefits out of these teas (or any herbal tea that you’re drinking for therapeutic purposes), cover your mug while it steeps (I just use a jar lid or in a pinch, a bowl or plate placed gently on top). This prevents the volatile organic oils that give herbs their potency from evaporating in the steam, ensuring the resulting tea is maximally effective.
Allegro Relaxing Chamomile
This tea combines a chamomile base with hawthorne berry, eleuthero, and rose petals. Hawthorne berry lowers blood pressure, which may help to reduce the physical symptoms that lead to feelings of anxiety, while eleuthero root supports the adrenals, offering help with long-term stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, I didn't feel a huge difference with this one. I drank it every day for a week, and while I enjoyed the pleasant, mild flavor (chamomile with a hint of vanilla), it didn't significantly affect my stress levels. Eleuthero is meant to be supportive over time, however, so this might be a good one to test over a period of months or years as an extra adrenal support. ($5.41 for 20 tea bags)
Traditional Medicinals Cup of Calm
This tea is like Xanax in a cup—it's really that strong. I've actually had panic attacks where, instead of reaching for a pill, I hit up this guy (with a hefty dose of magnesium and some deep breathing, but that's a story for another day). I also always keep it in my bag when I travel (I'm a nervous flyer) and it makes the trip go far more smoothly. The secret in this one is passionflower, which has actually been shown in studies to be as effective as prescription anxiety pills. ($3.79 for 16 tea bags)
The Republic of Tea Get Relaxed
This one is all about those florals; it smells and tastes strongly of lavender and rose, so if you're not into that, this might not be the one for you. If you are, however, it offers potent aromatherapeutic benefits. "Lavender is like the OG of relaxation aromatherapy," says mbg beauty editor (and aromatherapy expert!) Kayla Jacobs. "Rose is a soothing, gentle flower; it opens the heart with literally one inhale." It also has rooibos, which adds a lovely sweetness, passionflower and chamomile. This one left me almost as calm as the Cup of Calm, but slightly less tranquilized—which was actually a good thing, depending on the circumstances. While I'd reach for Cup of Calm when I was having an acute panic episode, Get Relaxed was perfect for sipping throughout the workday to feel mellow and chill, no matter how much was on my plate. ($11 for 36 tea bags)
This one promises to provide a sense of quiet, "allowing you to still your mind and be present." The blend is based around bamboo leaves, lemongrass, spearmint, hawthorne berries, elderflower, schizandra berries, blueberry leaf, ginger, and lavender—an unusual mix, to be sure. It smells (and tastes, to a lesser extent) decidedly grassy (from the bamboo, maybe? I've never consumed bamboo before) but not unappealing, with a minty-lavender kick at the end. While I loved how different it tasted, it probably had the least noticeable effect on my stress levels. ($5.99 for 16 tea bags)
Pukka Relax Tea
This one was my favorite flavor, with a strong fennel note that soothed my stomach. Personally, I find the gut-brain connection all too real—when I get an upset stomach, I inevitably feel pangs of anxiety, and when those waves of anxiety come, I inevitably feel that churning in my stomach. The fennel really soothed that—in fact, this tea, as a whole, was super soothing. It didn't feel therapeutic but was a nice moment of ah, a spot of zen in a hectic day. The ingredients are pretty wow-worthy too: chamomile, licorice, sweet fennel seed, bitter fennel seed, oat flowering tops, cardamom pod (yum!), ginger root, and marshmallow root. ($5.75 for 20 tea bags)
Yogi Calming Tea
Another chamomile-based blend, this one jazzes up the classic herb with a few interesting additions, including gotu kola and licorice. While it says it has a "natural plum flavor," I tasted that not at all. The tea is fairly sweet (the effect of the licorice) and softly herby, with a floral undertone. Perhaps not surprisingly—it is called Yogi tea—this tea imparted the kind of calm that a good yoga session gives me, a kind of heady, full-body state of zen. Gotu kola has been proven to be incredibly effective on anxiety in a number of studies and has been used for thousands of years as a natural anxiety supplement. Yogi doesn't share the amount of each herb in its "proprietary blend," gotu kola is near the top of the list, which typically indicates a larger amount. ($3.99 for 16 tea bags)