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*** Natural Supplements for Anxiety is part 5 in a series of posts. If you want to read part 1, click here. You don’t have to read the entire series to understand each individual post, but they are written to be complimentary to each other! ***
As usual: I am NOT a doctor, and I am not formally educated on mental illness. You should see a doctor to learn about your options. I am not suggesting you take any of the supplements I mention in the following post. I am suggesting you research them and decide with your doctor if they are a good idea for you.
This isn’t to fuel the fire in the “anti-medication debate“
Perhaps some people would call me a fence sitter, when it comes to the whole natural health vs modern medicine debate. Wait, don’t leave! If you are firmly in one camp or another, I’d say we can probably find common ground.
That’s the nice thing about fence sitting. I lean toward the natural, but I understand the place for medical intervention. If the only way you’re making it through the day is with your Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro or maybe Ativan, then who am I to tell you it’s not the right way?! It wasn’t the right way for me but that doesn’t mean it’s not working for you. (I do have a prescription for Ativan… but I only take it when it’s absolutely necessary. 50 pills can last me a year and a half or so.)
That said, I don’t want to live a life dependent on chemicals if I can avoid them. I really like the fact that most natural supplements come without a scary side effects warning label. I have tried so. very. many. natural supplements for anxiety, and some of them have really worked for me.
I can’t write this series without telling you about them, because I believe they have played a huge part in getting my anxiety under control.
(Further disclaimer: I’ve shown them to my medical doctor, who is absolutely awesome, and he says maybe they are working by placebo effect. But here’s the thing about that: working is working, regardless of why. Less anxiety (with no chemical side effects) = better life. And THAT’s what matters to me.)
But I don’t believe it’s just a placebo effect.
Natural Supplements for Anxiety
A quick google search will give you hundreds of suggestions for natural supplements claiming to help anxiety. (Check out this list from webmd.com.) Now, Web MD lists “insufficient evidence” for the effectiveness of most of those supplements, but don’t discount the fact that they list them at all. (Beer and wine are also on the list… ignore that. That’s a fail, web MD. Even if beer and wine might help your anxiety for the short term, it could magnify it in the long term as it’s alcohol (duh) and messes with your blood sugar.)
Some of the more prominent natural supplements for anxiety include Kava-Kava, St. John’s Wart, 5-HTP, Passionflower, Valerian, Melatonin, Lavender, Rhodiola, Ginseng and Magnesium. B Vitamins, while not on the Web MD list, are also often taken for anxiety. Maybe more so because it’s something that we are often deficient in, and any deficiency in our bodies can wreak havoc.
Supplementing with fish oils could benefit your anxiety. There is evidence to suggest that omega 3-6-9 (essential fatty acids) are SO important to brain function that being deficient in them could cause anxiety (as well as a host of other health issues). Livestrong.com writes “Fatty acids are important for proper mental functioning, and deficiencies have been linked to a variety of mental and emotional problems. Deficiencies can lead to attention problems such as distractibility, and individuals with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders commonly exhibit fatty acid deficiencies, according to Food and Behavior Research. Mood swings, anxiety and depression may also be due to essential fatty acid deficiencies.”
Interestingly, if you are really adventurous, Maria Treben (the Herbalist) recommended Swedish Bitters as a cure for depression and anxiety. My family first heard of Swedish Bitters when my grandparent’s neighbor went to Germany to stay with her sister after her husband passed away in the sixties or seventies. She was very very depressed, and while she was there her sister gave her Swedish Bitters and she was cured of her depression. She brought it back here with her, and when my mom was pregnant in the eighties and her stomach itched uncontrollably, this lady gave her the Swedish Bitters (to rub on, not to take internally while pregnant) and the itching stopped. (Ok, I got side tracked there.)
I have tried all of the above supplements with the exception of Kava-Kava, because it’s not safe for long term use and I want things I can take long term. St. John’s Wart was alright – it did make a difference for me – but it comes with a unique warning. It can make you photo sensitive, so if you spend lots of time outdoors it might not be for you. I never had a heat rash until I took St. John’s Wart in the summer.
The Supplements that I take; this is what works for me
It’s important to remember that not everything will work for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will work for you. I can not take melatonin, it makes me feel SO hungover in the morning. I almost can’t get out of bed. But as soon as I tell people I have some trouble getting to sleep, melatonin is the first thing they suggest – it works for lots of people! There is a really popular supplement out there called SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine), that I tried because it came so highly recommended, but I found it didn’t really help me at all.
If you try something and it doesn’t work – try something else.
A few years ago (actually closer to ten years ago) I started taking this stuff called Serenity Formula, and I still take it today because I believe it makes such a big difference for me. (The woman at the health food store tells me it’s one of their best selling supplements; I have since started buying online where I can get it a bit cheaper.) It’s made up of lots of those common anti-anxiety supplements with “insufficient evidence for their effectiveness”. Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Lavender and Rhodiola. I also take B Vitamins, Magnesium, Omega oils, and 5-HTP on a daily basis.
(I should mention that I take most of these things at bedtime, since lots of supplements that may reduce anxiety also may make you drowsy.)
I don’t know if it’s one of these things, or a combination of these things that helps me control my anxiety. But I know it’s not worth the pain of the “experiment” to stop taking them and find out. For me, supplements are a huge part of controlling my anxiety.
Just some encouragement
I remember so clearly being in the place where I was trying everything to “cure” my anxiety and nothing was working. If that’s you right now, I just wanna stop and say don’t give up. Keep reading, keep trying new things. There are lots of options, and you NEED to keep looking into them. This series will be continuing next week with the relationship between anxiety and exercise. If you are enjoying this series or have any questions about my experience with anxiety I would love to hear from you – feel free to contact me!
Read Part 1 of The Ultimate Guide to Living (Well) With Anxiety
Read Part 2 – Understanding Anxiety Disorders
Read Part 3 – Understanding Panic Attacks
Read Part 4 – Anxiety and Diet
Read Part 5 – Natural Supplements for Anxiety
Read Part 6 – What can Exercise do for Anxiety?
Read Part 7 – Do Not Feed The Fears
Read Part 8 – Talking About Anxiety
Read Part 9 – For the Christian with Anxiety
Read Part 10 – 3 Things to Remember When You’re Anxious
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