Herbs for anxiety

Warming herbs. These are herbs that assist circulation or movement of energy as they calm the nerves. They are generally indicated, if used as single herbs, for those who need an energy/strength/stamina boost.

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France

Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France

Reishi/Ganoderma lucidum – Energy tonic used in TCM that is firstly sedative. But do not think you can take it at night time because of its sedative quality. It will wake you after a few hours with energy effects. Indicated for those with blood weakness, liver problems, weakened immunity. This is not the sedation of heavy drugs, but the useful calming sedation that allows one to function more smoothly with a more even disposition during the daytime. It seals in nerve energy so that the energy and blood being built up are not pissed way with unnecesary nerve/brain/body activity. A good liver tonic as well. Always cook it before consuming it. Raw mushrooms contain chemistry that is altered by cooking so that it can be safely consumed regularly by humans without toxicity. In its raw state, this one can quickly be overwhelming in its energy boost, and its effect upon the lungs, lacking calming benefits. Cook it or use a heated extract.

By English: Vladimir Kosolapov Русский: Владимир Косолапов (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Schisandra berry – Similar to Reishi, it has toning adaptogenic properties through its astringency, but is firstly sedative. In fact, take too much at once and you can induce depression for a few hours. So it is a seriously effective calmative in the right doses. Seems to work especially well for women, who often even say it can be aphrodisiac. A well balanced herb for both men and women when sagging tissues indicate an astringent. Its astringency effect is well balanced through the body. Take capsules or liquid extract. The berries are pretty tart so they aren’t especially palatable. Has very beneficial antioxidants that can protect the body from poisons.

Traditional Fijian bundle of Kava roots. Photo by Hsz282

Traditional Fijian bundle of Kava roots. Photo by Hsz282 – Own work (via wikimedia commons)

Kava root – Obtained from a reputable company with standards for organic growing and quality, Kava is a safe herb used for centuries in the South Sea islands for its anti-rheumatic benefits and for its relief of insomnia and nervousness. Don’t take too much at once or it will induce lethargy. Possibly the best herb for relief of back pain, a great anti-spasmodic. Can be rubbed onto the site of spasms and tight, cramped muscles for quick relief. You may have to rub on a lot, depending on how strong your extract/tea is.

Dong Quai roots (via wikimedia commons)

Dong Quai roots (via wikimedia commons)

Donq Quai root – Another blood toning herb popular in the west and in Asia. Short term use by men is okay, but only good long term for women. Promotes female hormones. If you are a male who eats soy often, choose another herb. It relieves stress while it builds the blood, which is part of why it is so favored. A reliable calming sedative for those who need to build their blood and boost female hormones.

Ashwagandha plant with roots - Piouswatson - Own work (via wikimedia commons)

Ashwagandha plant with roots – Piouswatson – Own work (via wikimedia commons)

Ashwagandha root – Anti-rheumatic like Kava, it will build strength and energy when taken daily over the course of weeks. Best indicated for those who have stiff achy joints/hips, and who need calming, since mild sedation is its first quality. Its secondary effects are relief of rheumatic/joint pains due to poor circulation or aging. Its tertiary effects are that it warms the body, builds libido and strength, as well as brain/nerves. A great herb far less expensive than Ginseng and usable with far fewer risks.

Valerian root – Good calming herb that warms up chilly nervous people. Can be used by those constitutional types to promote sleep in nighttime doses, but will stimulate the more fiery constitutional types. A brain stimulant. Don’t decoct or water extract it, since that will make everything in your house smell like cat poop for weeks. Take it in powder or capsules.

Polygala/Seneca “Snakeroot” – Calming herb used in both TCM and the west. This is a more versatile herb with seemingly contradictory uses between east and west, but could be calming for those who are struggling with illnesses of the lungs, since it is also considered an expectorant. Used as a heart/mind tonic in TCM.

Cooling herbs. These are herbs that tend to calm the liver and cool nerves, and are best for those who have rising energies that are a bit agitative, or at least show in irritability.

Passiflora incarnata - photo by H. Zell

Passiflora incarnata – photo by H. Zell (wikimedia commons)

Passion flower (leaf/aerial) – Effective calmer or sedative if taken in larger amounts. Can stop the overactive mind of the fiery constitutions. Very much an anti-anxiety agent.

Gotu Kola - photo by Mokkie

Gotu Kola – photo by Mokkie (wikimedia commons)

Gotu Kola (leaf/aerial) – Very anti-anxiety. Also good for itching, and an overactive mind. Can be taken in daytime or at night. Good for preventing febrile conditions when there is an inflammatory condition of the surface/nerves. More effective than St. Johnswort for most folks.

St. John's worth photo by Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA

St. John’s worth photo by Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA

St. John’s wort (leaf/aerial) – Not as great an herb as touted, but still an anti-anxiety agent, especially when nerve/spine pain or disorders are present. Anti-inflammatory.

Lemon balm Photo made by Georges Jansoone

Lemon balm Photo made by Georges Jansoone

Lemon Balm (leaf/aerial) – A great reliever of melancholic or agitated depression, or nervousness. Also relieves gas/indigestion as many mints do, so consider that in choosing it. Also useful where there are cramps/spams, and it can help clear mucus from the upper respiratory tract. A great herb as a single or as an assitant to other herbs. Safe for children in reduced doses.

Scutellaria laterifolia photo by Rolf Engstrand

Scutellaria laterifolia photo by Rolf Engstrand

Scullcap (leaf/aerial) – Can be used to relieve withdrawal from addiction, and can be quite tranquilizing if you get the genuine article, and if doses are taken consistently over day and night. There has been trouble in the last 20 years or so in getting the species identified correctly. This is Scutellaria laterifolia, and may work best in fluid extract or tea. Tranqulizes and overactive mind/nervous system.

Hops photo attributed to Hagen Graebner

Hops photo attributed to Hagen Graebner

Hops flower – Indicated for agitation anxiety where there are digestive and/or liver troubles. Qualifies as a bitter digestive tonic, so consider that in choosing it.

Wood betony photo attributed to Aroche

Wood betony photo attributed to Aroche

Wood Betony (leaf/aerial) – Similar in actions to other herbs in this category, but useful for all conditions of the head, chronic headaches, where there is anxiety or nervousness, and a bitter tonic digestive is also indicated. May be more useful long-term for ongoing headaches than Feverfew, but more nervine than anti-pyretic.

California poppy photo by Kaldari

California poppy photo by Kaldari

California Poppy (leaf/aerial) – Stands out a bit for its great ability with pain and headaches, as well as in fever reduction. Worth keeping for occasional needs like this. Can be used safely in larger doses contrary to morphine or other opiate drugs. Has some similar chemistry, but is not habit forming to any degree.

These two belong in this category even if they are not normally considered anti-anxiety agents:

Gardenia thunbergia drawing from Compton Herbarium, Kirstenbosch.  Author:	Edith Struben (1868-1936)

Gardenia thunbergia drawing from Compton Herbarium, Kirstenbosch. Author: Edith Struben (1868-1936)

Gardenia fruit
Bupleurum root
These herbs calm agitation, even anger and other difficult emotions by cooling and clearing the liver where many of these get stuck due to poor detoxiciation or circulation. Gardenia fruit is known as ‘the happiness herb’ in Asia. Bupleurum is just as effective, especially when taken with other herbs to help nearly any condition that may be present where there is sagging spirits or noticeable imbalance, which can often be traced back to liver function.

Neutral/uncertain. These herbs don’t cool or warm the body, or I am uncertain at this point which they do.

Amber powder – specific to dream disturbed sleep, particularly where anxiety or other nervous system problems show (seizures, palpitations, convulsions).
Ziziphus seed – Calms agitation and irritability, while feeding and restoring the nervous system. Used in TCM.
Dragon bone – Calcium content, very calming. Used in TCM.
Oyster shell – Calcium as well. Used in TCM.

Oat tops photo by Andreas Trepte

Oat tops photo by Andreas Trepte

Oat tops (not the straw, which is a kidney lithotropic) – I will be experimenting with it for myself since I have a tendency for nerve exhaustion, which is its prime indication. The homeopaths and eclectics of a century ago used Oat tops to counteract addiction, help withdrawal from morphine and alcohol. Its a very serious, strong herb that is capable of considerable support for the nervous system and brain, the prime targets of its action. I will report on how well my extractions work.

Cannabis indica top (image contributed by Selkem, wikimedia commons)

Cannabis indica top (image contributed by Selkem, wikimedia commons)

Cannabis indica/hybrids – Normally C. sativa is considered up-regulating of energy, even stimulating, whereas C. indica is more down-regulating of energy, sedating/calming, but with today’s hybrids there is an area of species overlap in which this is not stricly true. I list this herb last because it is best to go to it only in cases of more severe anxiety that have not been helped with honest efforts with at least a few of the above herbs. In smaller doses it can be warming, but with more significant doses tends to cool the body down. It is best indicated when there is more agitated or depressive anxiety in which person is far too serious, even failing to find humor in life, failing to feel sensual or grounded in the body.

Advertisements

About Kannon McAfee

Poet, healer, professional astrologer. I'm dedicated to advancing the science and art of astrology. My specialty is birth chart interpretation and rectification (for those with questionable charts or missing birth times). My focus is on helping people meet their purpose in life while understanding their options within that.
This entry was posted in Health, Herbal medicine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.