Here Are 20 Natural Anxiety Remedies (Who Knows? One Might Just Change Your Life)
According to the CDC, one out of every five Americans struggles with mental illness. But in reality, that number is likely much higher. Here at mindbodygreen, we know that a mental health struggle—whether it be anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic attacks, or a diagnosis like bipolar disorder—can teach us more about life, health, and ourselves than we ever thought possible. So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re sharing personal stories and lessons from those who have been there. Together, we’ll continue to add to the honest and open conversation about mental health.
Carrie’s anxiety was at an all-time high. "My jaw aches from constantly clenching my teeth, my boyfriend is on the verge of moving out, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve really slept," she shared on her first visit. She was desperate for support and was seeking natural treatment for eliminating her anxiety.
On top of being anxious, Carrie was depleted. Sleepless nights and constant fights with her boyfriend who just "didn’t get why she was so worried all the time" were only a few of the issues weighing her down. Her performance was starting to slip at work, only adding to her anxiety.
As a women’s health expert who helps women balance their hormones naturally, I see that mental health issues are common concerns among many of the patients who meet with me. In fact, women are twice as likely to suffer from depression when compared to men, and anxiety is common enough that odds are you know someone who has dealt with it or maybe is still dealing with it. And maybe that someone is you. If it is, know that you're not alone. It's estimated that anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the United States, making it the most commonly diagnosed mood disorder. Out of those 40 million, only about 36.9 percent receive treatment.
The symptoms of anxiety can uproot your life.
For those who have never experienced anxiety, like Carrie’s boyfriend, it can seem like anxiety is a minor inconvenience or a choice. But anxiety can be debilitating, as you’re filled with a sense of dread, worry, or terror. And it can present as physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations—which are all very real. Like Carrie, many patients come to me looking for alternatives to lifelong pharmaceutical drugs and seeking natural treatments to ease anxiety. "I want to know why I have anxiety and how to make it stop," she told me during her visit.
She had received a few prescriptions from her doctor, and she took them in hopes of eliminating her anxiety. But instead of finding relief, she was met with new symptoms. "I was forgetting everything and was repeating myself all the time," she shared. On top of memory loss, she explained that she could hardly get out of bed, let alone make it through the day while taking these medications. The worst of it? Her anxiety didn’t disappear, and instead she was feeling worse. When Carrie returned to her doctor, she was met with another prescription. "It just didn’t sit right with me, and I couldn’t gamble again with another drug," she said.
The symptoms of anxiety could be a sign of something bigger.
In my clinical experience, I have found that anxiety is one of the many ways your body clues you in to a deeper underlying issue. Anxiety has a root cause, and you deserve to have that investigated. Some of the common causes of anxiety include:
- Hormone imbalances like adrenal fatigue, low progesterone, and thyroid disease
- Metabolic issues, like blood sugar imbalance, diabetes, or inflammation
- Chronic disease like autoimmune disease and heart disease
- Nutrient deficiencies like B12, vitamin D, and magnesium
- Infections like viral illness, gut infections, parasites, and Lyme disease
- Medications like hormonal birth control, asthma inhalers, and over-the-counter cold symptom drugs
- Dietary triggers like excess caffeine, alcohol, sugar
After listening to Carrie’s story, I ordered labs to investigate her root cause, which included assessing hormones, gut health, and autoimmunity.
Natural treatments for anxiety.
Healing anxiety naturally means figuring out why you have the symptoms in the first place and addressing the underlying cause. But anxiety is more than just unpleasant; it can and does interfere with our lives. Using these strategies, you can manage your anxiety naturally, balance your hormones, and improve your overall health. If you’re looking for additional dietary and hormone strategies to reclaim your mood, then I invite you to grab my free guide to just that. I believe in offering patients symptom relief and tools to manage their anxiety while we investigate further. Here’s a list of the top anxiety relief tools my patients have reported success with:
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic. And even better, it helps maintain the reduction of symptoms. Aim for five minutes per day, and leverage some of the other recommendations to help you get into a state of calm a little bit quicker.
2. Get to know L-theanine.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and the physiological signs of stress, like high blood pressure. Aim for 200 milligrams once to twice daily for the most benefit.
3. Try lemon balm for anxious thoughts.
Lemon balm is a nervine (a plant remedy that has a beneficial effect upon the nervous system in some way) herb that can be consumed as a tea, taken as a tincture, or in a combination herbal supplement. A special bonus? It smells heavenly.
4. Get your yoga on.
Research studies have shown as little as one hour of hatha yoga per week can help promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
5. Start using vitamin C.
Vitamin C might seem like a surprising suggestion, as most people think it's only important when it comes to the immune system. But vitamin C supports progesterone production, which is a hormone that has a calming effect on the brain.
6. Use lavender to relieve anxiety.
Lavender can help promote a calm state, which makes it a great essential oil to keep on hand. Try smelling lavender before a stressful presentation, when you’re ready for bed, or just before meditation or yoga.
7. Try relaxation training.
Research has consistently shown relaxation training to be effective at reducing and managing anxiety. Find a health care practitioner who can teach you this technique and aim to practice daily.
8. Consider CBD or hemp oil for anxiety.
9. Cut out anxiety-inducing caffeine.
The only way to know if caffeine is a culprit in your anxiety is for you to cut it out. You can always reintroduce it after a couple of weeks to understand how it affects your mood. Try this instead: Swap for decaf green tea, which contains L-theanine.
10. Eliminate sugar.
Humans weren’t meant to eat 66 pounds of sugar a year. Sugar is inflammatory and can lead to blood sugar and hormone imbalance that ultimately drive anxiety.
11. Try doing a sober month.
Alcohol is often used to manage anxiety symptoms, but in reality, it can make them worse. If you’re serious about overcoming anxiety, then ditching alcohol is a crucial step toward your success. So why not try it for a month and see how you feel?
If your anxiety peaks after skipping a meal or going too long without eating, it may be that you are experiencing hypoglycemia. Try snacking on protein, and make sure each meal includes protein and fat for better blood sugar balance.
13. Check your B12 levels.
B12 is a common nutrient deficiency, especially if you’re adhering to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Consider adding a B-complex to your routine, and give your cells the vitamins they need to function optimally.
14. Try magnesium to calm anxiety in the evening.
This mineral is incredibly important to mental health and women’s health in general. In one study it was found that 250 milligrams of magnesium daily reduced PMS-related anxiety. This is also a common deficiency, which is why I’ve seen so many of my patients benefit from taking it.
15. Try kava root.
Research has shown a significant reduction in anxiety in those using kava. Kava can be taken as a pill or tincture or enjoyed in a tea.
16. Experiment with valerian root.
While the research is mixed regarding the effectiveness of valerian for anxiety, clinically I have found patients experience reduced anxiety and better sleep while taking this herb.
17. Try a passionflower herbal tincture for anxiety symptoms.
As an herbal tincture taken over a two-week period, passionflower has been shown to be as effective as anxiety medications—without the unwanted side effects. I generally recommend two droppers three to four times per day or as needed for anxiety.
18. Take a breath.
Pranayama breathwork can help tonify and strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a restful state.
19. Supplement with chamomile.
20. Try taurine.
Taurine is a precursor to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that most people with anxiety are low in. The general starting dose is about 500 milligrams daily. If you feel you need to go higher, then I recommend speaking with a doctor first.
Carrie began implementing a few of the tools recommended above. When her labs came back, she finally had the answer she was looking for. Elevated TPO antibodies and an elevated TSH pointed to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, a common root cause of anxiety. In fact, the odds of developing anxiety are two times higher in people with hypothyroidism. Women are five to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid condition, which means if you are a woman struggling with anxiety, then it warrants having your thyroid checked.
A lot of the time, anxiety isn't acting alone.
In addition to an autoimmune disease, Carrie was experiencing HPA dysregulation, as evidenced by her cortisol levels and signs of excess catecholamines, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These stress hormones are produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and contributed to her nervousness and inability to get a good night's sleep.
Upregulated stress hormones were in part driven by her autoimmunity, but Carrie’s tendency to skip meals wasn’t helping matters. Instead of a bagel with a black coffee, Carrie switched her morning routine to include a protein-packed smoothie with plenty of leafy greens.
And instead of "pushing through the day" as she referred to it, we got Carrie taking regular breaks at work to breathe deeply and move her body. She traded her afternoon jolt of caffeine for a walk on her lunch break in a nearby park. She also began to clue into the early signs of anxiety creeping in and disrupt the pattern by taking some passionflower and 10 deep breaths.
As I explained to Carrie, these stress hormones evolved to help us survive, but in a modern world where we are constantly in go mode and our brain is taking in a million sensations per minute, we can find ourselves in a state of chaos. In all reality, it is an evolutionary mismatch. That is, our body hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that while modern stressors are stressful, they won’t kill you. Remember this, and be gentle with yourself if you can’t quite break the anxiety cycle yet.
Don't underestimate the power our hormones have over our nervous system.
Carrie’s labs also showed signs of low progesterone, which is common when stress hormones are high and the thyroid isn’t doing its job. Progesterone stimulates GABA receptors in the brain to bring a sense of calm. When progesterone is low, anxiety can climb and is especially worse during the days leading up to your period. Supporting Carrie’s adrenal and thyroid health were step one, but she was also in need of some progesterone. Carrie opted to take Vitex during the second half of her cycle, and by period No. 2 on this protocol, her PMS symptoms were "hardly noticeable," as she explained it.
With the help of L-theanine, she was finding herself able to fall asleep more readily, and as her sleep improved, so did her mood and energy. After three months Carrie was feeling like a different woman. She was handling stress with less panic, her relationship was improving, and she felt more in control of her anxiety. It still crept in during these early months, but she felt much more equipped to handle it, and it no longer came with debilitating physical symptoms.
Work it out! Here are the best kinds of exercise to do if you have anxiety.
And are you 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.