I just recently finished my second semester in grad school. Yay! Getting one step closer to finishing is awesome but still daunting. This semester I was in an Integrative Nutrition course. Loved the concept, not so much the format of the course, but in the end I did learn a lot. (Besides the text book costing like 600 bucks, come on academic world not all of us a rich, so I rented it for like $260.) Rant aside, I wrote a paper on anxiety and alternative ways to treat it. That is what I really want to talk about.
My paper, Herbal Supplementation for Anxiety: Passionflower, Valerian Root, and Kava, was actually really fun to research and write. It also brought up some other questions that I would love to get to research in the future, such as is there a link between eating disorders and anxiety and would that be an avenue for treatment? Hum, I know. But herbal supplementation for anxiety treatment, the ultimate outcome was…. you guessed it more research is necessary to get a definitive answer. Oh the scientific world and your never definitive answers.
In my research I focused on just three herbs: passionflower, valerian root, and kava, while there are others out there that have been used for anxiety say St. John's Wort which in particular is more commonly used for mood disorders, and yes anxiety falls into this category but mood really encompasses so much more like depression, and that was not really my purpose for this research. So that was the reason for the three herbs I chose, they are more commonly used for anxiety treatment and the most commonly researched herbs. The big two are actually passionflower and kava, with a lot more research having been conducted for kava, and valerian root is kinda of side note because it really effects the calming aspects for sleep, but none the less has calming effects, something a person with anxiety needs.
Lets start with valerian root. The results of my research showed links towards reduction of anxiety but the sample sizes were small, it is really only meant for short period usage, and has only just started to be researched. The other reason valerian root is grouped into anxiety treatment is because it was found to effect the same pathways that the other herbs did, as well as typical medications prescribed for anxiety treatment. Passionflower, something that is often recommended for anxiety if you go into a health food store and ask what you should take, has been used for centuries to help with stress and anxiety. It is one of the few herbs that the pharmaceutical industry recognizes to be used for treatment as if it were an actual "drug" (meaning prescription worthy). There are many studies that show the positive results associated with passionflower treatment for anxiety with some side effects after using it but minimal like tiredness. Kava, another herb used for centuries in treating restlessness, insomnia, and stress, has a higher sedative effect then the other herbs, but in a good way. It doesn't give users many of the typical side effects like grogginess after use. One pretty bad thing is that it could highly damage your liver and has been banned by some countries (Canada and the United Kingdom) because of this, but you would need to take toxic amounts to get to that point (if you do not have any liver damage already). Studies show great reductions in anxiety scale measures after suing kava, but only in higher dosage amounts.
Now, with all that being said, please don't go off and take all of these things if you struggle with anxiety just because I said "Hey they are great to treat anxiety," no, please don't do that, I do not like to be sued. Thanks. What I am saying is have a conversation with your doctor, see if using an alternative treatment is right for you. There are risks still, but much less than using typical prescription medications, dependency and withdrawals being the big 2 from typical treatment and not with herbal supplementation. The area of research that still needs to be conducted is in dosage amounts and how long these supplements can be used for.
So if you are struggling with anxiety, don't worry you are not alone, and sometimes it is just a time and moment kind of struggle but sometimes it is a life long thing. Find the right options for you, listen to your body, and you will get better. Even if it is just better in handling it, you can do it!
I've noticed that only within the past 8 or so years is when anxiety really came into my life, but it also came with a few other issues or causes (thats for another post). I wasn't an anxious child, at least I don't remembering being that way, so anxiety can come at stressful times, but could also go, which gives us hope to fight the good fight and find a way to live a fulfilling life once again!!
If you are interested in talking more on what I found I would love to do so, if you want to read my paper, I could make that happen too (but no judging or proofreading it, it wouldn't do me any good cause I already handed it in!), but for real I would love to talk about this. And as I mentioned before, I really want to dive into the question of eating disorders and anxiety have something in common because I know depression ties into it as well.
Thanks for reading even though it wasn't about food but it was about health!!