Having spent the last 30 years providing effective therapy for those with disabling diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain, I know how devastating severe anxiety can be. Unfortunately, all that most doctors have to offer are medications such as Valium and antidepressants. These are not just often ineffective, but they also rife with side effects. As a physician and researcher, my job is to find the best combination of natural and prescription therapies which can help patients who are currently being failed by "modern" medicine. As an aside, I will note that I do not take money from any companies—either natural or pharmaceutical—and 100% of the royalties for products that I make go to charity. I have this policy to make it easier for the public to separate what's real from hype.
I'm very excited to report on a new mix of natural therapies that I have found to be dramatically effective in addressing anxiety in my practice. Patients were amazed at how highly effective it is in restoring a naturally calm and peaceful state of mind. What was even more remarkable is that they found that it actually increased their energy and mental clarity!
Herbal Supplements that Decrease Anxiety
A mix of the following components is ideal as a natural therapy for anxiety. Starting with the basics, let's look at the B vitamins.
We will begin with what happens when you take very high doses of thiamine (vitamin B-1) of 500 mg 3 times a day. This was a wonderful tool that few physicians are aware of was given to me by Dr. Janet Travell at her 93rd birthday party. Dr. Travell was the White House physician for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and a professor of medicine At George Washington University Medical School. She was also the world's leading expert on pain management. Vitamin B1 is critical for proper brain function, mental clarity, and energy production as well as for preventing the production of excess lactic acid (lactate). A large body of research has shown that excess sensitivity to high levels of lactic acid is intimately involved in causing anxiety attacks in those that are prone to them. She noted that 500 mg of vitamin B-1 three times a day was highly effective in addressing anxiety. I was astounded at the effectiveness of this very simple and safe therapy when we started using it in our practice. It actually decreases anxiety and improves mental clarity by overcoming metabolic blocks and helping your body to work more effectively—instead of by numbing you!
Other B vitamins are also important although these very high doses are not needed. For example, B vitamin deficiencies have been found in anxiety and certain panic disorders, such as agoraphobia.
Niacin is known as a natural tranquilizer. In a study on rats, niacin had similar effects to valium on the turnover of serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine, and GABA in the areas of the brain that are thought to be affected by anxiety—without being addictive. Some experts go so far as to call niacin "Nature's Valium." Niacin also helps decrease excess lactic acid levels and episodes of low blood sugar/hypoglycemia (from adrenal fatigue) as well.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency is another common problem seen in our country. This can contribute to anxiety as this vitamin is critical in the production of two brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that prevent anxiety (GABA and serotonin). Low vitamin B-12 has also been shown to be associated with anxiety, and research has shown that many individuals require super high levels of B12 to get adequate levels into the brain where it is needed.
Pantothenic acid is another B vitamin which is critical for addressing adrenal fatigue. As noted above, adrenal fatigue is a very common trigger for hypoglycemia induced anxiety. If you get irritable when you're hungry, sugar crave, crash with stress, and/or have low blood pressure with dizziness on standing, you probably have adrenal fatigue. For more information on this and other causes of fatigue, I refer you to my best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic!
As you can see, optimal and often mega-dose levels of B vitamins create an important foundation for addressing anxiety. Other therapies, however, are also critical and highly effective.
Magnesium is critical for over 300 chemical reactions in the body and most Americans are deficient in this key mineral. I consider this to be the single most important nutritional deficiency in the United States. To give an idea of the scope of this problem, the average Chinese diet contains approximately 650 mg of magnesium a day while the average American diet contains only 250 mg after food processing. Study after study has shown that even the small amount of magnesium in drinking water has a major effect on preventing heart attack deaths. Books and entire medical journals are dedicated to this single mineral.
In fact, magnesium has been called the "anti-stress mineral." Magnesium relaxes muscles, helps sleep, and relieves tension. Clinically, we have seen that dropping magnesium levels can trigger hyperventilation/panic attacks (and even seizures if very severe) and that these are often relieved with magnesium therapy. Unfortunately, magnesium oxide and hydroxide are poorly absorbed and tend to be fairly ineffective. Nonetheless, many nutritional supplement manufacturers use this form because it is cheap. Sadly, using magnesium that doesn't work is a very expensive way to save money. Be sure to use absorbable forms such as magnesium citrate or glycinate.
Theanine, which comes from green tea, is another outstanding therapy for anxiety. In fact, it counters the anxiety caused by green tea's caffeine while contributing to mental alertness. One of the greatest benefits of L-theanine is that you can use it without becoming sedated in the process. Theanine is most effective in the range of 50-200 mg, with the effect being felt within 30 minutes and lasting for 8-10 hours. I recommend using the natural "Sun-theanine" product, which actually comes from green tea, as opposed to the synthetic forms which may not be as effective.
Research has shown that theanine works by two mechanisms. The first is that it increases alpha brainwave activity. Research has shown that L-theanine directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation. Second, L-theanine is involved in the formation of the calming neurotransmitter, gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). It also naturally stimulates the release of the "happiness molecules" serotonin and dopamine.
Passion Flower Extract
This is one of the best-known herbs for addressing anxiety. Passionflower was first cultivated by Native Americans. Spanish conquerors first learned of passionflower from the Aztecs of Mexico who used it as a sedative to address insomnia and nervousness. The plant was taken back to Europe where it became widely cultivated and introduced into European medicine. In fact, in South America when people are anxious, their friends often tell them to "go get a passion flower drinks.
Magnolia bark has a long history of use in traditional Chinese formulas that relieve anxiety without leaving you feeling like you've been drugged. Magnolia Extract is rich in two phytochemicals, honokiol, which exerts an anti-anxiety effect, and magnolol, which acts as an anti-depressant. Like many of the other components listed above, Magnolia has the ability to alleviate stress without sedating you. Dozens of animal studies have shown that it is a non-addictive, non-sedating stress buster—even at low doses.
The good news is that you can now be calm, energized, and have a clear mind—naturally! Although some effect is seen within a half-hour (so it can also be used on an "as needed" basis) the effects continue to powerfully increase over two weeks with continued use. Once your anxiety is under control, the dose can then be lowered, or it can be taken when needed.