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Anxiety and stress are common and can be caused by many different things like a big life challenge, a buildup of smaller difficulties, or mental health conditions. It can be difficult to navigate all of the feelings associated with anxiety and stress, but one all-natural way to relieve symptoms may be to use herbs.

One way to consume or ingest anxiety-relieving herbs is through bitters.

Bitters are high-proof alcohol spirits infused with botanicals, like herbs, roots, fruit, flowers, spices, and bark. The calming ingredients can be an easy (and delicious) way to naturally destress. Bitters have been found to aid digestive health, curb sugar cravings, boost the immune system, and ease stress.

Bitters are usually made of three parts:

  • a neutral spirit
  • a bittering agent
  • aromatics

While you may have heard of using bitters to create elaborate cocktails, they have also been used as a remedy for common ailments such as digestion irregularities since the 1700s.

Bitters have several health benefits, such as:

  • digestion and gut health
  • immune function and inflammation
  • sugar and appetite control
  • liver health

How to consume bitters

Bitters can be ingested in a variety of ways. You can place a few drops on the tongue via a tincture, or dilute it with another liquid like sparkling water or in cocktails.

Bitters contain two things, bitter agents (like dandelion root, artichoke leaf, or wormwood) and a carrier, like alcohol, a nonalcoholic spirit, glycerin, or liquid sugar.

Stress-relieving aromatics can also be added to bitters, like:

  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • ginger
  • turmeric
  • mint

The most common herbs used to alleviate stress and anxiety include:

  • lavender
  • valerian root
  • kava
  • passionflower
  • turmeric
  • chamomile
  • ashwagandha
  • St. John’s wort
  • lemon balm

Research suggests that several herbal supplements may be helpful in treating stress, anxiety, depression, and more. In fact, people have been using herbs for thousands of years to address numerous physical and mental health conditions.

When deciding if this type of treatment is right for you, keep in mind that 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, and talk with your doctor before taking herbs. It’s also important to note that herbal treatments aren’t a substitute for seeking out the support of a mental health professional, along with prescription medications.

Herbal benefits

Lavender is one of the most popular anxiety herbs used to ease anxiety. You can combine it with valerian root and passionflower to make one serious, stress-fighting triple threat.

While these herbs are generally safe and well-tolerated, it’s important to do your research and to never combine them with other GABA-promoting drugs such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines.

Bitters recipe

  • 1 oz. dried lavender
  • 1 tsp. dried valerian root
  • 2 tsp. dried passionflower
  • 1 tsp. dried orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp. dried ginger
  • 6 oz. alcohol (recommended: 100 proof vodka or for nonalcoholic, try SEEDLIP’s Spice 94)

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar and pour alcohol on top.
  2. Seal tightly and store the bitters in a cool, dark place.
  3. Let the bitters infuse until the desired strength is reached, about 2 to 4 weeks. Shake the jars regularly (about once per day).
  4. When ready, strain the bitters through a muslin cheesecloth or coffee filter. Store the strained bitters in an airtight container at room temperature.

To use: Mix a few drops of the anxiety-fighting bitters into cold or hot tea, sparkling water, or take as a tincture before bed or during moments of increased stress and anxiety. If you want to add a sweet taste to the bitters, we recommend using pure vanilla bean, as sugar is shown to worsen anxiety symptoms.

Who shouldn’t use herbs for anxiety?

If you’re thinking about using herbs to alleviate anxiety, talk with your doctor first. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding, young children, those on prescription medication, and people whose medical conditions are at higher risk for safety concerns or undesirable side effects and should seek professional guidance.

Are there any safety considerations for using herbs for anxiety?

Remember that just because herbal treatments are deemed natural doesn’t mean that they’re always safe. It’s important to be mindful of potential drug interactions, along with side effects of herbs. Talk with your doctor to decide if herbs are right for you.

Can I use herbs along with my prescribed medications?

Herbal treatments shouldn’t be used in the place of prescription medication without the guidance of your healthcare professional. Herbal supplements may interact with certain prescription anxiety medications and there can be safety concerns when combining the two. If you’re currently taking a prescription for anxiety, talk with your doctor when considering herbal treatments.

Can herbs cure my anxiety?

While many people have found anxiety relief through herbs, they’re not intended to treat the underlying causes of anxiety, such as trauma, distorted thinking patterns, disruptive life events, or safety concerns. A mental health professional can help you to better understand the root of your anxiety and support you in alleviating the accompanying symptoms and underlying feelings.

What different ways can I introduce herbs into my routines?

There are a number of different ways to take herbal remedies for anxiety. Herbs can be taken as teas, tinctures, bitters, or supplements. You can also enjoy the benefits of herbs through essential oils, used in diffusers, or even added to baths.

One all-natural way to work to relieve anxiety is by using herbs such as lavender, passionflower, and lemon balm. You can consume herbs by adding them to bitters, a fun and easy drink that can be prepared from the comfort of your home.

Although there’s research surrounding the effectiveness of herbs and bitters for anxiety and stress, keep in mind that they don’t supplement the use of prescription medication (like anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications) or seeking help from a mental health professional.

Prior to deciding to implement herbs or bitters into your self-care routine, you should talk with a doctor to make sure they won’t interact with any other medications that you’re taking.