Have you felt anxious about a job interview or exam? It’s completely normal. Anxiety is how our bodies naturally and temporarily respond to stress. However, anxiety disorders are different. They do not go away that easily and can even worsen over time.
There are 3 types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders. Although varying symptoms can differentiate them, all of them share a few common risk factors, including:
- Having a shy temperament or behavioral inhibition during childhood.
- Being exposed to stressful or negative life events during childhood or adulthood.
- A history of mental health problems like anxiety amongst relatives.
- Having a physical health problem.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), most anxiety disorders are caused by emotions, chronic illness, weak body constitution, fatigue, diet, and other factors.
“Irregular lifestyle habits, staying up late at night, an unhealthy diet, and frequent consumption of fried, pungent and spicy foods will cause yin–yang imbalances, qi stagnation, blood stasis and deficiencies in the body, all of which can contribute to anxiety,” says Eu Yan Sang TCM physician Ooi Yong Chin.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorders
A person who experiences anxiety disorders may display nervousness and frequently worry over a specific duration. However, many people suffer from anxiety that is triggered by concerns about their health and work performance. Additionally, some people also feel nervous during social interactions, or in their daily routine.
Some of the common symptoms associated with a generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Sudden fatigue
- Experiencing muscle tension
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Struggling to concentrate
- Struggling to suppress feelings of worry
Symptoms of a Panic Disorder
A person with a panic disorder is prone to frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Some can recognize panic attacks through a crippling, sudden wave of fear that strikes without warning. Some may experience an attack when triggered by fear of a particular object or situation, with symptoms that include:
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling as if they’re going to die
- Feeling like they’re losing control
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms of Phobia-Related Disorders
Sources define phobia as an intense fear of specific objects or situations. This fear is usually unwarranted and may cause a person to:
- Worry excessively about encountering a feared object or situation
- Take steps to prevent an encounter with said feared object or situation
- Experience an anxiety attack if they encounter the feared object or situation
It is important to note that there are a few different types of phobia-related disorders. Simple phobias refer to a fear of flying, heights, specific animals, injections, or blood. Agoraphobia is a fear of using public transport, being in open or closed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd, or being alone outside the house.
Separation anxiety refers to a fear of parting from a loved one, whereas social anxiety is a fear of social interactions or performing in front of people. The fear that causes social anxiety is often triggered by concerns about being negatively judged and can cause a person to avoid social situations.
Herbs that Can Help You Manage Anxiety Disorders More Effectively
Treatment of anxiety disorders usually consists of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. On the other hand, natural remedies have also become an alternative treatment for these mental health problems.
Clinically, Chinese physicians will use Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture as the preferred treatment options. These include herbs that you can use in different ways to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders. According to physician Ooi, a physician will use “syndrome differentiation and treatment to prescribe a suitable medication or treatment plan for the patient to regulate the physical body constitution,” as well as “acupoint stimulation to relieve the symptoms.”
Physician Ooi suggests avoiding mung beans and white radish while consuming TCM herbal medicine as the effects of the herbs may diminish.
“During the course of taking Chinese medicine, you should avoid cold, spicy, greasy, and seafood. Patients with autonomic disorders need to avoid irritating foods, such as curry, cola, spicy, energy drinks, caffeine, and so on.”
1. Ashwagandha for Anxiety Disorders
As a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic treatment, people use Aswagandha to help an array of health disorders. It is commonly available as a fine sieved butter known as churna, consumed with water, butter, or honey.
Meanwhile, like Lorazepam, a medicine under the benzodiazepine class of drugs, ashwagandha can also produce a calming effect in people who suffer from anxiety. It can also work as a mood stabilizer.
Lavender is traditionally used to induce relaxation and treat parasitic infections, burns, insect bites, and muscle spasms. In modern medicine, the oral administration of siloxane – an essential oil produced from lavender flowers by steam distillation – is found to be more effective than Lorazepam at inducing a calming effect in people with anxiety.
If you are constantly tense and stressed out, diffuse a few drops of lavender essential oil to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
Kava is a shrub that belongs to the pepper family. It grows throughout Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Kava is widely used for pain relief and muscle relaxation, as well as to manage disorders like anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia.
Kava contains kavalactones, a class of compounds that can induce a calming effect on people who suffer from anxiety disorders.
4. Lily Bulb Extract
Interestingly, the lily plant is a TCM ingredient that possesses many healing benefits. TCM practitioners use dried lily bulbs in herbal formulations to soothe a dry throat, coughs, or respiratory problems. Moreover, It is beneficial for alleviating restlessness as a result of anxiety disorders, as well as irritability.
Additionally, you can also combine it with longan fruit and lotus seed (lianzi) to relieve mild cases of insomnia and anxiety. You can consume a calming herbal drink, a nourishing beverage to calm your nervous system and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
5. Ginkgo Biloba for Anxiety Disorders
Studies show that Ginkgo Biloba extracts contain high levels of antioxidant and vasoactive properties, and can act as a cognitive enhancer for people with dementia. In fact, other studies have also found it to improve the psychopathological symptoms of anxiety disorders.
For instance, you can consume essence of chicken with an added boost of Ginkgo Biloba to help increase mental concentration and slow down the aging of the brain.
These herbal remedies are inexpensive, widely accessible, and may be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Therefore, it would be good to consider them as an alternative treatment for anxiety disorders.
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- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Individual research recommendation details. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2019. Panic Disorder: Current Research and Management Approaches. [Accessed 18 October 2021]
- US National Library of Medicine. 2021. Lotus seeds (Nelumbinis semen) as an emerging therapeutic seed: A comprehensive review. [Accessed 18 October 2021]