Anxiety is a normal reaction many people experience. In fact, it is a normal human emotion everyone experiences occasionally. It is very common to feel nervous or uptight before a certification exam or to have butterflies in your stomach before going on a job interview. It is very different from an anxiety disorder. Some define this type of condition as occasional anxiety, and it is not considered a neurological or mental illness. It is an emotion!
Being extremely anxious or worried on most days for 6 months or longer is not normal. This is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is just one of several anxiety disorders. There are many other types that include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety. Anxiety disorders can lead to distress that interferes with the personâ€™s ability to lead a normal life. It can, to some degree, result in a functional impairment of the personâ€™s daily living. This includes your family relationships, work and social interactions. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant, overwhelming and can be very crippling.
An anxiety disorder is classified as a serious mental illness, and it can occur in conjunction with other conditions, such as depression. You should consult a health care professional if you believe you are suffering from such a disorder. Keep in mind you are not alone, and it affects about 12% of all Canadians in any given year. These disorders are all treatable using pharmacological treatments and/ or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Each of these clinical therapies is also effective on its own. You can consult the website ofÂ the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada (www. anxietycanada.ca) if you want to learn more about these conditions and the treatments.
There are several herbal treatment options for people suffering from anxiety, stress, or nervousness. Herbs can, in some cases, be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs and can be combined with CBT for a more effective long term therapy. The practitioner may use the herbs to initially help manage the symptoms of anxiety while the patient learns to effectively use the CBT. Subsequently, the herbal remedies may be used occasionally as a rescue type therapy when the person cannot effectively use CBT.
The symptoms of anxiety can be reduced using anxiolytic or sedative herbs, such as Hops (Humulus lupulus), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata), Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Valerian (Valeriana spp.). These herbs are non-addictive and are the preferred choice of people concerned about drug dependence. Health Canada recognizes these herbs are effective at adequate doses to help relieve nervousness, restlessness, or mental stress. These herbs are all considered safe for use in adults. However, Health Canada only considers Hops, Lemon Balm, and Passion Flower safe for adolescents 13 years and older. Although the use of these herbs to treat anxiety or nervousness comes from its traditional use, the anxiety benefits have been demonstrated in well-controlled human clinical trials. The clinical research clearly showed these herbs can effectively reduce the symptoms of anxiety or stress.
The anxiolytic effect of herbal remedies is dependent on the dose. As a general rule, when using a high quality product, the anxiolytic benefit can last for several hours. The remedy is commonly taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Basically, if the dose is high enough, the product will provide a calmative effect over a period of 4 hours. The person is instructed to take another dose when they perceive the symptoms of anxiety are beginning, and this usually is 4 to 6 hours after the previous dose. It is important to take these sufficiently apart since decreasing the interval between doses will result in drowsiness
Being extremely anxious or worried on most days for 6 months or longer is not normal
Herbal remedies can be a good alternative to help manage the symptoms of anxiety in people with occasional anxiety (the emotion!). They can also be used to help manage symptoms in anxiety disorders, but this should be under the care of a health care practitioner. They can be effective in disorders that are mild to moderate. One of the disadvantages of these remedies is the time-to- onset. It usually takes about one hour for the active ingredients to reach their peak in the blood. Patients will begin to feel the calmative effects 30 to 60 minutes post ingestion. What this means is these remedies will not be effective if you are trying to rapidly reduce anxiety in a crisis, like a panic attack.Â Keep in mind the delay of at least 30 minutes before beginning to feel the onset, and the benefit will last about 4 hours. The benefit may only last 2 hours if the dose is too low.
Bottom line, herbal remedies can be effective alternatives for anxiety in adults and adolescents. If you believe you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, do not wait for the anxiety to affect your sleep and quality of life before consulting. Let your health professional know if you prefer a natural herbal remedy instead of a pharmaceutical drug. Several of these herbs are recognized as safe for adolescents by Health Canada and can be used to effectively manage anxiety or nervousness. It is advisable to consult a health care practitioner prior to use since these herbs are known to have additive effects, such as potentiating drowsiness, when taken with tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants, and some other drugs.