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Anxiety disorders affect over 18 percent of people in the United States every year. Over the years, treatment options for anxiety disorders have widened to include both prescription medications and natural alternatives.

Research suggests that several herbal supplements may be helpful for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and more.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most popular research-backed herbs for anxiety, as well as other treatment options to consider.

Keep in mind

Herbs and supplements aren’t controlled for quality or safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Be sure to research the product you’re buying, as well as the manufacturer.

Below, you’ll find a rundown of some of the most commonly used herbs for anxiety, including what the research says about their effectiveness as a treatment option for this condition.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb with a long history of use as a treatment for anxiety. Many of the active compounds in ashwagandha have been shown to have anti-stress, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

In a 2014 review, researchers assessed the results of five human trials using ashwagandha for stress and anxiety. Four of the five trials reported decreased measures of anxiety amongst participants who supplemented with ashwagandha.

However, the authors of the review had some concerns about potential bias within the studies, so there’s still a need for additional research.

How to use: To help relieve anxiety, experts recommend taking 300 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha per day. Keep in mind that because studies are limited, it’s important to talk with your doctor before using this supplement.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Chamomile is a popular herb that’s most widely used as a caffeine-free tea. Although chamomile contains a wide range of beneficial compounds, it’s well known for promoting relaxation, especially in people with anxiety.

In a 2017 trial, researchers investigated the impact of supplementation with chamomile on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Study participants received 1,500 mg of pharmaceutical-grade chamomile extract a day for 8 weeks.

At the end of the study, the researchers found a significant decrease in anxiety scores and a notable increase in overall well-being.

How to use: Studies show that 1,500 mg of chamomile extract per day can be helpful in reducing anxiety.

Hops (Humulus lupulus)

Hops are a commercially grown herb commonly used in beer production. Like chamomile, certain compounds in hops are sedating, making them a useful option for people with anxiety.

A 2017 study analyzed the effects of a hops extract on people with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Study participants were randomized to receive either placebo or hops extract for 4 weeks. After a 2-week break, participants who had initially received the hops extract were switched to placebo, and those who had initially taken placebo now received the hops extract.

The study indicated that the hops extract, when compared with the placebo, contributed to a significant decrease in the participants’ depression and anxiety scores.

How to use: Studies show that 200 mg of Humulus lupulus daily can help lower or relieve anxiety over time.

Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava, also called kava kava, is a popular anxiolytic herb originating from the Pacific Islands. Several types of compounds, both sedating and nonsedating, contribute to the anti-anxiety properties of this herb.

In a 2018 review, researchers analyzed 12 studies on the effectiveness of kava as a treatment option for GAD. In three of the trials reviewed, kava was found to be effective in reducing GAD symptoms over the placebo.

However, analysis of the remaining trials didn’t show significant results, which indicates that more research would be beneficial.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the use of kava has been linked to serious health conditions, such as liver problems.

How to use: Studies show promising evidence that taking 120 to 280 mg can help ease anxiety. But keep in mind that more research is needed for this to be proven as medically accurate and safe.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is one of the most popular aromatherapeutic herbs for anxiety, sleep, and overall mood. It has a wide range of active compounds that offer a variety of benefits, including compounds that have sedative and anti-anxiety effects.

In a 2019 review, over 100 studies were analyzed to determine the effects of lavender on anxiety.

Many of the studies reported that various lavender administrations had a positive effect on anxiety levels, especially oral lavender supplementation. Lavender aromatherapy also showed promising results.

However, the review cautions that less biased and larger clinical trials are still needed.

How to use: Studies show that using between 80 to 160 mg of lavender can be helpful in reducing anxiety. But more research is still needed to prove this to be medically accurate.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm is another medicinal herb traditionally used to help improve anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Research from 2014 suggests that in addition to providing anti-anxiety benefits, lemon balm may also help improve cognition.

A 2018 study investigated the effectiveness of lemon balm and lavender on anxiety and depression in people with insomnia.

For the study, 67 participants were given either a lemon balm and lavender supplement or a placebo every night for 4 weeks. The results indicated a decrease in insomnia symptoms and anxiety and depression scores in people who used lemon balm and lavender.

How to use: Studies show that supplements containing 1,000 mg of lemon balm may be helpful for easing symptoms of anxiety.

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St. John’s wort is an herb with a long history of use in treating mood disorders. Although St. John’s wort is commonly used as a natural option for depression, research is currently exploring its effectiveness for anxiety as well.

Human studies using St. John’s wort for anxiety are limited, but a 2018 animal study explores the effects of this herb on anxiety in rats.

Various mixtures of St. John’s wort extracts were administered to the animals for a period of 21 days. Researchers found that supplementation with St. John’s wort contributed to a reduction in stress hormones and other inflammatory markers.

How to use: St. John’s wort supplements can vary from around 600 to 1,800 mg per serving. Experts recommend starting at the lowest dose for anxiety relief. Speak with your doctor before taking this supplement, as there is no hard evidence to prove that it helps treat anxiety.

St. John’s wort can interfere with other medications, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before trying it.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian is another herbal supplement that, along with chamomile, is often found in tea form. Active compounds in the valerian plant have sedative properties, making this herb another popular option for anxiety.

A 2019 study investigated the impact of valerian root extract on functional brain activity. In this 4-week study, participants supplemented with either valerian or a placebo three times a day.

Electroencephalography (EEG) results indicated that the valerian group experienced changes in the parts of the brain connected to stress and anxiety.

How to use: Studies show that 100 mg of valerian can help reduce anxiety by changing the brain’s chemistry and the way that it connects to anxiety.

Even with clinical treatment, many people with anxiety benefit from making lifestyle changes to help reduce stress. Here are some of the ways you can continue to reduce anxiety in your daily life:

  • Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques have been shown to reduce the symptoms and severity of anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep each night. Lack of sleep is often a trigger for people with anxiety, so getting the right amount of sleep each night is important.
  • Exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes. Exercise produces beneficial hormones, many of which have been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy fats are high in nutrients that help support brain health.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and other harmful substances. Although it can be tempting to use alcohol, nicotine, and other substances to reduce stress, these can often do more harm than good.

Traditional treatment options for anxiety include either psychotherapy, medication, or a mixture of both.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment options for anxiety disorders. CBT teaches people how to recognize and respond to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with these disorders.

Other forms of psychotherapy, such as psychodynamic therapies, may also be helpful in treating mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Medication

Medications are another effective treatment option for people with anxiety disorders, especially when combined with therapy. Antidepressants are commonly used as a long-term treatment option for anxiety.

Quick-acting medications like benzodiazepines can also be used to treat anxiety. However, they’re not prescribed long-term due to the risk of substance use.

It’s important to know that the FDA doesn’t review, approve, or monitor dietary supplements when they hit the market.

If you’re planning to buy herbal supplements for anxiety, make sure to research both the supplement and the company first.

Once you’re ready to move forward, talk with your doctor. This way, you can both keep track of potential side effects or problems.

It’s never too late to get help for anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition.

If anxiety symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, talk with your doctor. They can discuss treatment options with you and refer you to a therapist or psychiatrist for further treatment.

If you want to explore natural alternatives to anxiety medications, medicinal herbs are an option.

Even common herbs like chamomile and lavender may have anti-anxiety benefits, as indicated in some clinical trials. In addition, some research suggests that a handful of other herbal supplements may have anti-anxiety benefits.

Always speak with your doctor before starting any herbal supplements, and never take more than the recommended amount.