Natural Alternatives to Combat Anxiety and Stress

It is startling to hear about the number of people who are taking anti-anxiety medication, and the numbers continue to grow. Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in North America, and it’s estimated that one-third of the North American adult population experiences anxiety unwellness issues. Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the U.S. Unfortunately, people are quick to turn to medications to relieve symptoms, and sadly……this comes with a number of negative side effects as well as dependency. Fortunately, there are some natural alternatives/options that could relieve numerous symptoms as well.

Kava…….also known as piper methysticum, kava kava, and ‘awa…..is a small shrub native to the islands in the South Pacific. The root/stems are made into a non-alcoholic, psychoactive beverage that has been used socially and ceremonially for hundreds of years in Hawaii, Fiji, and Tonga. Kava contains compounds known as kavalactones, which are responsible for its psychoactive qualities.

In the brain, they operate on non-opiate pathways to offer a natural and non-narcotic action against anxiety. Kava is known to produce pleasant sensations and have a calming effect on the individuals that use it. Some clinical research suggests that kava is as good, if not better than pharmaceutical drugs like benzodiazepines. Not only can kava help with anxiety and stress, but it may also offer therapeutic support for addiction. Kava contains compounds known as kava pyrones that bind to brain locations associated with addiction and cravings, thus reducing these desires. Be warned…..it should not be mixed with prescription drugs. Kava is available in tea, powder, capsule, and liquid form.

Another great natural alternative option is Ashwagandha. It is classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage/adapt to stress, and exerts a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. It has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration. Many of its health benefits are attributed to the high concentration of withanolides (naturally occurring steroids), which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth. Although it is best known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety disorders, it can also decrease blood sugar levels, cortisol levels, symptoms of depression, inflammation, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Studies have found that ashwagandha helps induce the apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells, and impedes the growth of new cancer cells. If this root doesn’t already sound amazing enough…..it has also been found to improve brain function/memory, increase muscle mass and strength, as well as boost testosterone/fertility in men.

And last but not least…..the valerian root. A native of Europe, this perennial plant grows wild in grasslands but is also used as a garden decoration. Valerian was once believed to have spiritual properties, being used as an ingredient in love spells to help bring fighting couples back together. Well……I don’t know about any love spells, but I do know it’s pretty useful in treating and preventing symptoms such as migraines, tension headaches, chronic anxiety, insomnia, OCD, depression, digestive problems, and hyperactivity in children. The root of the valerian plant has been used to ease insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness…..dating back to the second century.

It elevates levels of a chemical known as GABA, or gamma aminobutyric acid. GABA regulates the nerve cells and benefits those with nervous conditions by calming anxiety. Popular pharmaceutical drugs like Xanax and Valium work in exactly the same way by increasing GABA levels within the brain, but come with a number of nasty side effects, especially when used for a long period of time. Valerian is commonly found in sleep-promoting tea blends, because it not only improves sleep quality but it also decreases time to sleep onset. No complaints about that!

 

Thank you for reading!

 

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