Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/1/2021
Everyone feels anxious sometimes, whether it’s before a job interview, presentation or public performance or when you’re faced with a big, important decision.
However, if you feel anxious all the time, or if you have severe or chronic anxiety that gets in the way of your ability to function, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are very common. In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, more than 40 million American adults above the age of 18, or around 18 percent of the entire adult population, are affected by some type of anxiety disorder every year.
Anxiety disorders are often treated with prescription medication and therapy. However, it’s also possible to treat anxiety with natural methods, either on their own or combined with medication, therapy and more conventional forms of treatment.
Below, we’ve shared the best natural and herbal remedies for anxiety, from supplements to lifestyle changes and habits that you can use to control your symptoms.
We’ve also provided the latest research behind each natural remedy to help you make informed, effective decisions about what’s best for you.
While they may not be quite as effective as prescription anxiety medications or antidepressants, several herbs and natural supplements have calming and sleep-promoting properties that make them ideal for controlling anxiety.
Valerian is a flowering plant that’s native to Europe and Asia. The root of the valerian plant is a common herbal supplement ingredient, including supplements that are often used for sleep issues and anxiety.
Like many other herbal remedies, valerian has a long history. In fact, it’s been used as a herbal treatment for various ailments since the days of ancient Greece.
Although research on valerian and anxiety is mixed overall, some studies have found that it can promote relaxation and sleep, which are often difficult for people with anxiety.
You may want to consider valerian if you have sleep anxiety — anxiety that develops late at night and prevents you from falling asleep.
Chamomile is an herb that’s extracted from the Asteraceae plant family of daisy-like plants. It’s a popular ingredient in herbal chamomile tea designed to promote calmness, relaxation and deep, refreshing sleep.
Research has found that chamomile can help people with anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to control their symptoms.
In a clinical trial published in the journal Phytomedicine, researchers treated people with generalized anxiety disorder using chamomile or a non-therapeutic placebo.
They found that the people who received chamomile experienced a large reduction in the severity of their anxiety symptoms.
The chamomile users also showed better physical improvements in anxiety symptoms, such as a larger reduction in blood pressure.
Chamomile is available as a supplement in products like our Sleep Gummy Vitamins. It’s also a popular herbal tea that you can drink whenever you’re feeling worried, anxious or simply need a calming effect to help you relax.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a popular cannabinoid — a type of naturally-occurring chemical found in the cannabis plant.
While it’s similar in structure to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD doesn't cause the high that’s usually associated with cannabis use.
Instead, CBD has a range of effects on your moods, feelings and thoughts, including the ability to potentially reduce anxiety.
Although the FDA has yet to approve CBD as an anxiety treatment, several studies have found that it appears to treat certain forms of anxiety.
For example, in a 2011 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that people with social anxiety disorder who used CBD experienced less severe anxiety symptoms during a simulation public speaking test than people given a placebo.
A different study published in the Permanente Journal found that people with anxiety and sleep issues experienced a reduction in anxiety scores and improvements in sleep quality after using products containing CBD.
You can purchase CBD as an oil, capsules, gummies or in countless other products, including numerous CBD-infused foods.
Our full guide to CBD for anxiety goes into more detail on the latest scientific research on CBD as an anxiety treatment, as well as its potential risks and adverse effects.
If you’ve spent any time browsing natural health websites, you’ve probably seen essential oils promoted as a natural supplement for treating, well, just about everything.
While the science on most essential oils is mixed, there’s some evidence that lavender oil may help to reduce the severity of certain anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, mixed anxiety-depressive disorder (MADD) and anxiety-related sleep issues.
Lavender oil is available as an essential oil for use with a diffuser or in the form of lavender oil capsules, making it easy to add to your daily health routine.
Passionflower, or Passiflora incarnata, is a type of climbing vine that’s widely known for its white and purple tentacle-like petals.
Like many other plants, passionflower has a long history as a natural remedy for a wide range of different ailments, including anxiety and nervousness.
Research has found that passionflower is often effective at treating anxiety. For example, in one study, researchers found that Passiflora extract was equally as effective at treating generalized anxiety disorder symptoms as the benzodiazepine medication oxazepam.
The researchers also found that the passionflower supplement caused fewer problems relating to job performance than the oxazepam.
Sometimes, making changes to your habits and lifestyle can reduce the severity of your anxiety symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Try the following approaches to limit feelings of anxiety and gain more control over your moods, thoughts and feelings.
Stress is a major cause of anxiety. When you deal with chronic stress — a type of constant and persistent stress that continues for an extended period of time — you have an increased risk of developing anxiety or depression.
If you’re feeling stressed, using stress management techniques may help to take the pressure off and allow you to relax.
Common short-term stress management techniques include deep breathing, making soothing movements or using things that make you feel comfortable, such as music or a favorite photo, as a way to calm down and put stressful feelings behind you.
Over the long term, changing your lifestyle to include more leisure time, exercise and improved work-life balance can all help to get rid of stress and reduce your risk of developing anxiety.
We’re all familiar with the physical benefits of exercise, from a healthier cardiovascular system to a reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases.
However, far fewer people are aware that regular physical exercise can have real benefits for your mental health too.
In fact, research has found a clear link between physical activity and a reduced risk of developing certain forms of anxiety.
If you’re physically inactive, try adding a small amount of exercise to your daily routine to see if there’s any improvement in your moods, thoughts and feelings.
There’s no need to train like an athlete to get the mental health benefits of exercise. Instead, try to stick to the CDC’s recommendations and aim for 150+ minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, plus two or more strength-based workouts.
This can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood for 30 minutes per day during your workweek, then doing a couple of workouts at home on the weekend.
Meditation has long been promoted as a natural way to treat mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and for good reason.
Over the years, studies have found that practicing meditation might help to reduce feelings of anxiety, as well as depression and insomnia.
Meditation may also have benefits for physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and treating irritable bowel syndrome.
One advantage of meditation is that it’s something you can do at any time. If you live in a large or medium-sized city, you can meditate with other people by meeting up with a local meditation group.
If you often feel anxious or stressed, keeping a journal might help you to gain control over your feelings and pinpoint what’s contributing to your anxiety symptoms.
Research has found that people with anxiety symptoms who keep a journal tend to show mood improvements over time.
For example, in one study published in JMIR Mental Health, researchers found that adults with various medical conditions and anxiety symptoms who kept a web-based journal showed fewer depressive symptoms and anxiety after one month than adults who received normal care.
Journaling can involve writing about the specific things you worry about, or just freewriting about your thoughts and feelings.
Try putting a notebook on your desk and setting a timer for 15 to 20 minutes, then seeing what you can come up with.
Caffeine is a key part of many people’s lives, whether it’s delivered in the form of a morning cup of coffee or an energy drink to keep them alert and performing later in the day.
While consuming a small or moderate amount of caffeine doesn’t seem to have negative effects on your health, research shows that excessive caffeine consumption could increase your risk of feeling anxious or stressed throughout the day.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2015, researchers found that very high caffeine consumption appeared to be linked with anxiety in adolescents.
Other research has found that the targets of caffeine, the adenosine receptors, may cause sleep issues and anxiety in some people after caffeine is ingested.
If you’re a frequent coffee drinker, you may want to try reducing your caffeine consumption for a while to see if it has a positive impact on your mood.
This doesn’t mean quitting caffeine completely. Instead, aim to keep your caffeine consumption within the FDA’s recommendation of 400mg per day, which is the equivalent of about four cups of coffee.
Also, try to consume your caffeine in the morning. This helps to prevent caffeine from lingering in your bloodstream during the evening and affecting your sleep quality.
If you’re a smoker, you might feel calmer and more relaxed after a cigarette. However, research shows that over the long term, the nicotine in cigarettes has a negative effect on your mood and may make your anxiety symptoms worse.
When you smoke, you’re simply dulling the effects of nicotine cravings. However, this relief from anxiety and other mental effects is only temporary — as it wears off, you’ll need another cigarette to keep anxiety, irritability and other symptoms of nicotine withdrawal at bay.
A better long-term approach is to quit smoking. Not only does this offer mental benefits — it also reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease and other serious physical health issues.
Need help quitting? Our guide to quitting smoking goes into detail about the best science-based approaches to quitting, from designing a quit plan to using options such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or smoking cessation medication to kick the habit successfully.
While natural remedies can have a big impact on the way you think and feel, they aren’t always enough to treat anxiety on their own.
If you have severe or persistent anxiety, it’s always best to talk to a mental health provider about your symptoms.
You can seek help locally by searching for mental health providers in your area, or consult with a licensed provider online using our online psychiatry service.
If appropriate, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan and private, ongoing follow-ups and medication management using proven, FDA-approved anti-anxiety medication.
Anxiety can have a serious impact on your wellbeing and quality of life, but it’s almost always a treatable issue.
If you’ve recently experienced the symptoms of anxiety, you may want to consider the treatment options listed above.
If your anxiety is severe or persistent, it’s also important to reach out to an experienced mental health provider for an expert diagnosis and treatment.
You can also learn more about dealing with anxiety using our range of free online mental health resources.
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