Alternative Solutions: to Pharmaceutical
Drugs for Anxiety
Jul 02, 2013 11:43AM
By Rose Kalajian-Herbalist
On April 1, Dr. Oz spoke of the dangers of antidepressant drugs (Wellbutrin, Zyban, Cymbalta, Lexapro, Cipralex, Paxil, Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft), and how these pharmaceuticals produce unwanted adverse effects and dependence, and do not cure anxiety. Being the great Oz that he is, he made a suggestion to his viewers: remove yourself from these drugs and seek a natural and herbal approach.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state ranging from mild unease to intense fear. Anxiety differs from fear in that fear can be a rational response to a real danger, while anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause. Anxiety is often accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms relating to the chest, including heart palpitations (more forceful or faster heartbeat), throbbing or stabbing pains, a feeling of tightness and inability to take in enough air, and a tendency to sigh or hyperventilate.
As the body prepares to deal with a threat, blood pressure, heart rate, perspiration, and blood flow to the major muscle groups increase, while immune and digestive functions become inhibited (fight or flight response).
Occasional anxiety is normal, such as feeling anxious about a job interview, public speaking, or a first date. However, chronic anxiety, like depression, can be a learned behavior. Growing up in a household with an anxious parent increases the chances for an anxious child (there may be genetic components as well).
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in America; approximately 40 million adults are affected by it, and it has been found to be more common in females. There are three diagnostic categories for anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) — characterized by chronic anxiety, constant worry, muscle tension, irritability, and in some cases insomnia, sweating, headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue.
Panic Disorder (anxiety attacks) — intense, almost paralyzing episodes that can occur without warning. Anxiety attack symptoms often include sweating, intense fear, difficulty breathing, fainting, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, racing heart, hyperventilation, chest pain, and headaches. A person experiencing a panic attack will often feel as if he or she is about to die or lose consciousness.
Between panic attacks, people with panic disorder tend to suffer from anticipated anxiety. Fear of having a panic attack may lead to the development of phobias. One such phobia is called agoraphobia—the fear of having a panic attack in a public place or new environment, and experiencing judgment from strangers for failing to obtain help.
PTSD, Social Anxiety — extreme shyness and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Anxiety can also be the result of both physical and psychological factors. For example, extreme stress can definitely trigger anxiety, but so can certain foods. There are at least seven nutritional factors that may be responsible for triggering anxiety: caffeine; sugar; deficiency of B vitamins; deficiency of calcium; deficiency of magnesium; alcohol; food allergies. Simply avoiding these triggers and boosting B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium can go a long way in relieving anxiety. In fact, cutting out caffeine alone often results in the complete elimination of symptoms. In addition, the diet should be rich in foods that have higher levels of B vitamins, such as leafy vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Foods high in calcium and magnesium include sea vegetables, sesame, yoghurt and leafy green vegetables.
Inositol is part of the vitamin B complex and is an intracellular second messenger. It appears to have a positive effect on people with panic disorder. Sometimes known colloquially as Vitamin B-8, inositol is a beneficial nutrient that has been implicated in the treatment of some behavioral and emotional disorders. Consuming foods high in inositol can boost overall inositol intake, and include beans, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and whole grain breads.
More good news is there are many herbs which can address anxiety. These herbs are called nervines. They feed, rehabilitate, and strengthen the nerve tissue directly and are generally high in calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and protein. A few examples: Wood Betony (Betonica officinalis); Kava root (Piper methysticum) for anxiety with muscle tension; and Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) which contains polyphenolic compounds that have been shown to positively affect anxiety and enhance calmness.
Nerve sedative herbs directly relax the nervous system, reducing fear without deadening nerve endings. They soothe and nourish the nerves and muscle tissue. A few examples: Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnate); St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum); Valerian (Valeriana officinalis); Linden flowers; Hops (Humulus lupulus).
Nervine demulcent herbs are soothing to irritated nerve endings; they possess a gel-like consistency that coats and protects. Example: Milky Oat Seed (Avena sativa).
Nervine stimulant herbs spark the system. A few examples: Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis); Garden sage (Salvia officinalis); Ginkgo leaf (Ginkgo biloba); Gotu kola (Centella asiatica); Rosemary herb (Rosmarinus officinalis).
Mood enhancing herbs include Tiger Lily bulb and herb (Lilium lancifolium) for depression with anxiety; Mimosa flowers or bark (Albizzia julibrissin) for profound mood elevation; Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) for mild mood elevation.
Open yourself to Nature’s Wisdom. Herbs and foods are natural and they are far cheaper than most over-the-counter and prescription drugs. They are also much less likely to cause side effects.
Herbal therapy does not have to be mysterious or complicated. Visit an Herbalist to assist your journey as you address anxiety. You will discover that plants can bring more health and happiness into your life.
Rose Kalajian-Herbalist owns and operates the Natural Health Hut Herb Shop, Clinic and Educational Center located on a seven acre herb farm in Wesley Chapel.