We have all been under tremendous stress over the last two months, with even the happiest of souls struggling to stay positive in this pandemic. Lots of customers have been asking about natural ways to cope with anxiety, so we have put together a summary of the latest findings on what works and what to avoid.
Studies say Lavender oil may modestly reduce anxiety when used in aromatherapy. The essential oil is usually added to a diffuser, or diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin. Supplements containing lavender oil might also help when taken by mouth, although this is supported by only low-quality evidence. For anyone considering lavender oil aromatherapy, inhale the scent of lavender oil for 15-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week. For anyone wanting to try oral formulations, the best evidence is for doses of 80-160 mg daily for up to 10 weeks. It may take up to 2 weeks to work. There aren’t any major safety concerns for patients taking lavender supplements or lavender oil aromatherapy for a short time. But note, parents shouldn’t use topical lavender oil on young boys – it seems to have estrogen effects that could disrupt normal hormones in a boy’s body. Also, make sure to keep essential oil products out of the reach of children – they can be toxic when taken orally. Only products intended for oral use should be taken by mouth.
Valerian extract might help people fall asleep slightly faster. The best evidence is for doses of 400-900 mg up to 2 hours before bedtime. But it’s unclear if valerian extract improves anxiety.
While passionflower extracts might reduce anxiety and improve sleep in some patients, there’s not enough data to know which specific products or doses work best.
German chamomile extract might help reduce anxiety, but it’s unclear which product or dose works best. And there’s no great evidence German chamomile extract improves sleep. In general, trying any of these products short-term shouldn’t pose any major safety concerns.
Teas that contain the above ingredients are readily available. Be aware that there are very few studies evaluating these teas for anxiety or sleep, but there’s also no reason to expect any safety concerns. Teas usually contain a lower amount of active constituents than extracts. So if you want to give them a try, risks are unlikely.
Kava is another popular natural medicine for anxiety. Most research shows that taking kava extract can lower anxiety. It might work as well as some prescription anti-anxiety medications. But there are concerns about liver injury. Some people, including those drinking alcohol, and those with a history of liver disease, shouldn’t use kava. If other people would like to try it, the recommended dose is 50-100 mg three times daily of products standardized to 70% kavalactones. This dose seems to be the most effective and is rarely linked with liver injury.
Keep in mind that some natural medicines can actually make anxiety worse. Limit caffeine intake, particularly coffee. Regular coffee drinkers might benefit from switching to tea to reduce overall caffeine intake. And make sure to take breaks from watching news stories and reading about the pandemic – focus on eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting proper sleep. Also note that many mind-body practices, such as mantra meditation and music therapy, might be useful tools for anyone struggling during this stressful time.
Adapted from The Natural Database Newsletter May 2020