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5 herbs instead of anti-anxiety medications

  • Helen Barnett
    Helen Barnett

    Helen is a medical herbalist, Yoga therapist and Thai bodywork practitioner. Following graduating with a BSc Hons in Western Herbal Medicine from the University of Westminster in 2009, Helen practiced as a herbalist seeing clients in clinics in the UK for over 10 years, and also spent time working as a lecturer and clinical supervisor for the Betonica School of Herbal Medicine.

    Through her own health journey Helen has found the tools of Yoga and herbs, and a sense of connection to nature, to be beneficial in carving a way to a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, and her passion is sharing this to empower people with the skills, knowledge, and discernment to improve their health, wellbeing, and quality of life in ways which are sustainable to each individual.

    Helen facilitates herbal medicine courses and workshops which share the knowledge and wisdom of herbs, interwoven with Yoga practices and self-reflection to better understand our unique and ever-changing needs, and how to best support them.

    Helen also teaches therapeutic Yoga workshops, offers private Yoga therapy sessions and healing bodywork, and is a writer sharing the scientific knowledge and traditional wisdom of herbs, and insights on healthy living practices through her brand HB Healthy.

    The essence of what Helen offers is bringing people back to their essential nature, through re-connecting with their own bodies and the wider nature surrounding them, to re-establish a state of inner harmony and balance, from where they can live a healthy vibrant life, whatever it brings.

  • 11:07 reading time (ish)
  • Home Herbalism Mood & Mind Stress & Sleep Western Herbal Medicine

Written by Helen Barnett

Anxiety is prevalent amongst many people, especially after the rise of chronic stress. This article shares 5 herbs that can support you.

5 herbs instead of anti-anxiety medications

Anxiety is a common, if not a prolific issue in modern society.  Feelings of anxiety are in fact a normal response to certain situations.  This response can trigger physiological changes which can spur us on to get through these situations, such as activation of the ‘stress response’ via the HPA-axis which may give a short boost of adrenaline to power on and deal with a stressful event.  However, when anxiety lingers, recurs often, or begins to interfere with our day-to-day activities, it can become problematic, and we may wish to solutions to deal with it.

Anxiety disorders are defined as excess worry, hyperarousal, and fear that is counterproductive and debilitating. Affecting a large proportion of the population, anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions in the western world (1). In the European Union (EU), over 60 million people are affected by anxiety disorders in a given year, making them the most prevalent psychiatric conditions in the EU (2). The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study estimated that anxiety disorders contributed to 26.8 million disability adjusted life years in 2010. (3).

Anxiety disorders are a serious health issue which can be debilitating, impact on quality of life, as well as being costly to manage. In the UK conventional treatment approaches for generalised anxiety disorder recommend several measures prior to drug therapy, as follows (4):

  • Psychological Therapy (CBT)
  • Guided Self-help / CBT (workbook on a computer at home, workbook at home with therapist support every 1 – 2 weeks, or weekly group course).
  • Applied Relaxation

It is then suggested that if these psychological therapies either have not worked, or somebody doesn’t want to try them, then medication is an option.

Anti-anxiety medications are usually tried in the following order (4):

  • SSRI’s (such as sertraline, escitalopram, paroxetine)
  • SNRI’s (venlafaxine, duloxetine)
  • Pregabalin
  • Benzodiazepines (such as diazepam).

However, despite the psychological therapies and medications available, treatment of anxiety disorders remains challenging.  This is at least in part because the anti-anxiety medications available often come with a host of side effects which may also impair quality of life. In addition, these drug therapies are not always effective, and can lead to dependence, addiction, abuse, and tolerance (5).  If you take anti-anxiety medication, it is not recommended to suddenly stop taking them as this can exacerbate original symptoms. One must taper off gradually with the guidance of a health professional.

There are many herbs which can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, whilst also restoring the nervous system, and aiding better sleep, without the side effects often experienced with anti-anxiety medications.

Helen Barnett

Helen is a medical herbalist, Yoga therapist and Thai bodywork practitioner. Following graduating with a BSc Hons in Western Herbal Medicine from the University of Westminster in 2009, Helen... Read more

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