Anxiety can be a troublesome disorder often associated with both physiological and psychological changes in the body. The emotional and behavioral symptoms can be very unpleasant and typically include apprehension, excessive worry or a feeling of impending doom.
In most people, anxiety is a typical response to stress and helps one cope with a difficult situation. However, in some individuals the symptoms do become excessive and dictate behavior.
The majority of individuals who have chronic anxiety are referred to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The treatment for anxiety is often a combination of drug therapy and cognitive behavior counseling. However, a number of individuals do poor with conventional medical therapies and have started to seek alternative health care remedies. One of these therapies is the use of herbs.
Thereare a number of herbs which have been evaluated for their role in treating anxiety. The most common herbs used to treat anxiety are kava, passion flower, valerian and theanine.
Kava is the most studied and is probably the most sold in health food stores. Several short term studies have shown that it can reduce anxiety within a few days after starting the herb. The majority of individuals who take kava are now unwilling to take any conventional medications.
However, recently there have been reports of Kava and liver damage. There are reports in the literature that after short term use, Kava can induce a form of hepatitis and liver failure. In Europe, Kava has been banned from health food stores. In the USA, the FDA has issued warnings to health stores about this herb. Kava is currently widely available in the USA and the FDA is still deciding on its future.
Passion flower, valerian and theanine have also been shown to reduce anxiety and are considered safe. So far the side effects reported have been mild and of a short duration.
One of the major problem with herbs is the quality and quantity is variable in each formulation. Herbs are sold as dietary supplements and thus, often do not undergo the strict quality control required of a drug.