The Fundamentals

Anxiety is the normal reaction to anything that threatens one's body, lifestyle, values, or loved ones. It is characterized as a vague feeling of apprehension, worry, uneasiness, or dread. The source of these feelings are often unknown to the individual. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and stimulates the individual to purposeful action; however, excess anxiety may interfere with efficient functioning. Anxiety disorder is excessive anxiety and worry lasting for at least 6 months. Symptoms include restlessness, physical and emotional exhaustion, difficulty in concentrating or sleeping, muscle tension, and irritability. Adults with excessive anxiety often worry about normal, everyday circumstances such as job responsibilities, finances, the health of family members, and even minor matters such as being late or completing chores. They may even experience clammy hands, dry mouth, sweating, nausea or diarrhea, trouble swallowing or a "lump in the throat", exaggerated startle responses, or depressive symptoms. The intensity, duration, or frequency of the anxiety and worry is far out of proportion to the actual likelihood of the feared event.

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NIMH: Anxiety Disorders

illions of Americans are affected by some form of anxiety or anxiety disorder. Some anxiety is normal, and most people have experienced at least a "fight-or-flight" response in reaction to a perceived threat. The heart beats faster, palms sweat, and a feeling of nausea may occur. The body's nervous system is signaling the adrenal glands to prepare your body to run away or fight back. When this occurs, large amounts of stress hormones including epinephrine, are secreted into the bloodstream. Your heart rate increases, blood sugar spikes upward, blood is diverted from skin and internal organs to the muscles and brain. Breathing becomes faster and more sweat is produced. All of these changes occur so that the body is prepared and able to exert enough strength to fight back or flee.
While all of this is a normal response to a perceived threat, unfortunately it also occurs even when the source of anxiety will not require physical action. It may be related to specifics, called phobias, such as flying in an airplane, climbing a ladder, or seeing spiders. Some people feel anxious almost constantly because their nervous systems and adrenal glands are overactive. When chronic anxiety is experienced, a medical evaluation may be necessary as occasionally, anxiety can have a physical or biochemical basis.
There are many plant medicines which are known to alleviate anxiety. Chamomile, Wild Oat, St. John's Wort, and Hops Strobiles are some of the more potent herbs. Chamomile has been around for many years and has proven to be very effective in calming the nerves. It relaxes and tones the nervous system, relaxes muscles, and eases digestive complaints that may accompany the anxiety. Wild Oat is both soothing and nourishing. St. John's Wort has gained popularity in recent years as an overall tonic. It has often been used to treat depression, but is just as helpful in relaxing the nervous system. Hops Strobiles is a moderately strong central nervous system relaxer. Additionally, it has proven effective against insomnia and tension headaches, both of which may be symptoms of anxiety.
Other herbs which have proven to reduce stress and anxiety are Scullcap, which is an excellent remedy for irritability and anxiety, especially when associated with hormonal changes such as in PMS or menopause. Kava is another very effective anti-anxiety herb. It's primary active constituents are kavalactones which appear to modify certain receptors in the brain, the same receptors that allow prescription drugs such as Valium to work. Kava, however, is non-habit forming and it does not decrease mental functioning. In certain studies, Kava appeared to actually improve intellectual ability and memory. Valerian is a stronger anti-anxiety herb, and works in the same manner as Kava. It's active constituents, valepotriates, bind to the brain's receptor sites and is very beneficial to the central nervous system. It does not cause dependence or tolerance, and it has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. Other anti-anxiety herbs to try are Passion Flower, Siberian Ginseng, and Licorice. We also recommend AlphaOmega Labs' Anti-Stress, a combination of herbs made for relieving stress and anxiety.
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Note: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the use of a qualified health care professional. We strongly recommend the use of a physician for the diagnostic phase of any treatment. With an accurate diagnosis in hand, we believe the consumer, at that point, has a basic, unalienable right to seek out factual information on all therapeutic approaches, both orthodox and alternative, and choose those approach(es) that are right for them. Nonetheless, a "good doctor" should be considered a requisite starting point.

To U.S. Users: None of the products mentioned on this page have been evaluated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; therefore, they are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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