Anyone who has struggled with stress or anxiety issues understands that you can start to feel desperate for a bit of help. For some, quality natural supplements are just that.
Serious issues should always be discussed with a medical professional, but if you’re working with a doctor who has a holistic approach to your health through the lense of mind, body, and spirit, they might recommend trying herbs and minerals before heavy duty prescription drugs.
Below you’ll see an introduction to several of the most commonly used herbs and supplements for handling anxiety and their effects on your body.
What Are Adaptogens?
Phytotherapy refers to the use of plants for their healing abilities. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: They help balance, restore and protect the body. As naturopath Edward Wallace explains, an adaptogen doesn’t have a specific action: It helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions.
Top Adaptogen Herbs
Ginseng is the most well-known adaptogen, and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is considered the most potent. According to Wallace, research has validated Asian ginseng’s use for improving mental performance and your ability to withstand stress. This red ginseng also has antioxidant effects, antidepressant effects, and can help naturally lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Holy basil, also called tulsi, is known in India as the “elixir of anti-aging.” Preliminary studies suggest that holy basil benefits include helping you fight fatigue and stress; boost your immune system; and regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and hormone levels.
Ashwaganda is often referred to as Indian ginseng. Often used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwaganda regulates the immune system and eases anxiety. Ashwaganda has been used in eastern medicine for over 2,500 years and has immuno-modulating effects that boost your immune system and aid the body in lowering cortisol levels.
Licorice root can increase energy and endurance, boost the immune system, and protect the thymus from being damaged by cortisol, but its use requires professional supervision because of how it may affect blood pressure.
Rhodiola (rhodiola rosea), or golden root, is a potent adaptogen that has been the focus of much research. Rhodiola provides a buffer to stress-related mental and physical fatigue. According to Whiticomb, Rhodiola was used by Russian cosmonauts, athletes and military personnel, and years of study have begun to uncover the very mechanisms by which it acts as an adaptogen.
– via Dr. Axe
Alongside these adaptogens are some minerals and hormones to consider adding in to help you stay healthier and sleep better, no matter what stressors may come your way.
Supplements To Help Handle Stress
What is it? A hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland, melatonin helps control sleep cycles. Because sleep and mood are closely connected, supplementing with melatonin can alleviate stress. It’s considered safe, but can cause side effects like headaches, short-term feelings of depression, dizziness, and irritability.
How to take it: “I advise starting with 3 milligrams (mg) at bedtime. If 3 mg isn’t effective, bump it up to 6 mg,” Matluck says. “Usually if 6 mg is not effective, melatonin isn’t the right fit. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night, try the extended-release preparation.”
What is it? Magnesium is a mineral essential for nerve and muscle function. Although most people who eat a balanced diet get enough magnesium, an analysis of data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that a majority of Americans consume less than they should. The supplement is considered safe, but side effects can include stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Rarely, large doses can cause irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure.
How to take it: “I usually recommend 600 mg of magnesium citrate before bed,” Matluck says. “If 600 mg causes loose stools, taper to 300 mg, which is very well tolerated.”
What is it? The vitamin B-complex refers to all of the known essential water-soluble vitamins except for vitamin C: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, folic acid, and the cobalamins (B12). B vitamins are important for cell metabolism. Most people who eat a balanced diet should have adequate B vitamins, but a vegan diet or an immune disorder such as lupus can lead to B12 deficiencies.
How to take it: “I recommend a B-complex that contains at least 1 mcg B12 and 50 mg B6,” Matluck says. “B-complex is best taken in the morning because it may boost your energy.”
– via One Medical Group
Have you ever taken any of these supplements before to ease anxiety? If you think they might be helpful for you, consider talking to your doctor about the best way to bring them into your regimen.