13 Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression

By Roy Krebs

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 Do you find that you’re regularly “triggered” by seemingly minor events or scenarios?

Or perhaps you regularly feel a sense of dread or fear, but you’re not even sure why?  

If you answered “yes,” you may be one of the 40 million Americans that have an anxiety disorder. [1]

Anxiety problems can wreak havoc on our day-to-day lives -- but less than half of the 40 million Americans who have anxiety disorders don’t get treatment.

What’s worse, those who do get treated are typically prescribed anti anxiety meds, which can cause intense side effects like sexual dysfunction, nausea, and weight gain.

I used to suffer from anxiety, too. But for the past few years, I’ve been incorporating some of the natural remedies listed below for years to help me cope.

The result? A calmer, clearer mind, better mental balance, and vastly improved wellbeing.

Keep reading to learn about some strategies I used to naturally clear my anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders Overview

If you’re reading this, it means you have experienced some type of anxiety. How do I know? It’s simple: all humans feel stress and anxiety sometimes!

The stress response -- more simply known as “fight, flight or freeze” -- is an evolutionary protection mechanism designed to save our lives.

We must experience some stress to keep us motivated, and to save us from danger.

But anxiety disorders fall into a different class of problems than just occasional or necessary stress or anxiety.

Here are a few of the more common types of anxiety disorders:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder

If you have anxiety often even when you’re not truly in danger, and this is affecting your life on a daily basis, you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

First and foremost, this requires medical attention. Your doctor will consider your medical history, use questionnaires, and give you a physical examination to determine your diagnosis. [2]

Once you’ve had an initial examination, you will then be able to work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.  

The type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend on the root cause(s) of your anxiety.   

Common Anxiety Causes

You and I both know what anxiety feels like: a flip-flopping of your tummy before a presentation, “butterflies” before a first date, or a rapid heartbeat before you step into a job interview.

We all feel anxiety differently and at different times, and it’s normal to feel some anxiety before stressful or exciting events.

But more severe and ongoing forms of anxiety can be triggered by:  

  • Circumstances: For instance, stress at work, family problems, or the death of a loved one.  
  • Poor nutrition: A diet containing high levels of sugar, caffeine or alcohol can cause or contribute to anxiety.    
  • Physical or mental health problems: Thyroid issues, a hormonal imbalance or an imbalance in serotonin levels.
  • Childhood trauma: Stressful events from our past have the potential to change our brain chemistry, leaving us less able to cope with stressful situations as adults.  

Common Anxiety Symptoms

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous or irritable
  • Having a sense of impending danger
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation, sweating, trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Having difficulty focusing
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal problems [3]

If you regularly feel these symptoms and have not yet been diagnosed, it’s important that you see a healthcare professional.

You may can also try some of the natural anxiety remedies below to help ease your symptoms.

13 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I’ve found that a combination of supplements, behavioural changes and diet and lifestyle adjustments has worked wonders when it comes to natural anxiety relief.

The 13 natural remedies below have been proven effective and safe, and may even help you reduce or eliminate the need for medication.

1. Eat Less Sugar

You probably already know that sugar is “bad” for you, but the truth is that eating even moderate amounts can aggravate many existing health problems, including anxiety and depression.

There are plenty of possible reasons for this. One interesting body of research points to a link between the production of a neurotrophin (a protein in our brains) called BDNF and anxiety levels.

Because people with anxiety tend to have chronically low levels of BDNF, scientists believe that its present helps our brains cope with stressful situations.

Since sugar appears to suppress our brains’ ability to produce BDNF, this is one way that a diet higher in sugar can directly affect our ability to cope with life stress. [4]

2. Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol

For many of us, a cup of coffee at the start of the day gets us going, and a glass of wine in the evening will help us relax.

But too much of either can seriously affect our bodies’ ability to manage anxiety.

Caffeine can trigger cortisol production, the hormone that triggers the “fight or flight” stress response. [5]  

And as for alcohol, drinking too much (or even drinking in moderation) will change your brain chemistry over time, thus lowering its ability to cope with stress.

3. Eat More Whole Foods, Less Processed Foods  

We all know that a balanced diet helps us feel better and can protect us from a huge array of diseases.

But if you feel like you need to “diet,” this can cause you more anxiety! Instead, experiment with nutrient-dense whole foods that you truly enjoy, and focus on eating those as often as possible.

Lean proteins such as fish, organic chicken, beans, and eggs provide fuel for your body and brain to keep your energy levels constant.

Asparagus, leafy greens, meat, and avocado contain nutrients that can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, as can omega-3-rich foods like fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. [6, 7]

Even when you’re eating a healthy diet, it can still be difficult to get all the nutrients you need, which is why it can be helpful to take natural supplements for anxiety.

4. GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid)

GABA is an amino acid that decreases anxiety in the nervous system and promotes relaxation. Anti-anxiety meds such as Valium work by boosting GABA levels in your brain.

GABA is also an effective sedative which can help you get a good night’s sleep.

5. Magnesium

Do you have a magnesium deficiency? A magnesium deficiency can cause severe anxiety as this mineral plays a crucial role in chemical reactions that are vital for good mental health.  

Magnesium has a profoundly relaxing effect on our nervous systems and is often taken to promote a more regular sleep cycle. [8]

Related: Magnesium: Which Type Should You Supplement For Maximum Benefits?

6. Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B6 and B12 have many benefits, including balancing blood sugar levels, supporting the nervous system, and promoting mental clarity.

Many studies suggest that a deficiency in vitamin B6 and B12 can cause or exacerbate anxiety and depression.

In one study, adults diagnosed with a depressive disorder showed significant improvement in the symptoms of anxiety and depression after taking vitamin B supplements. [9]

7. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, a powerful Ayurvedic herb, has been used for centuries to treat a range of conditions. It has the capacity to lower cortisol levels and generally has a calming effect.

Modern research shows that it can also be an extremely useful antidote to anxiety and depression. [10]

8. Kava Root

Kava root has been shown to ease the symptoms of anxiety by stimulating dopamine receptors.  

A recent study showed that taking an extract of Kava decreased the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. [11]

(Note: Anti-anxiety meds can interact with Kava Root, so consult your doctor if you are considering taking them simultaneously.)

9. 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)

5-HTP is a building block for serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for regulating mood and sleep patterns.

Studies show that taking a 5-HTP supplement can reduce anxiety symptoms like sleep problems and headaches. [12]

(Note: 5-HTP should not be taken with anti-anxiety meds. Consult your doctor if you already have anxiety and are starting a new supplement regime.)

Related: Could You Have A Serotonin Imbalance?

10. Chamomile

Have you ever had a cup of chamomile tea to help you sleep? This is one of many natural herbs for anxiety that has been proven completely effective and safe.

Chamomile essentially works by binding to your brain receptors in the same way as valium.

A small study of 57 people with depression showed improvements in the symptoms of depression and anxiety when given chamomile extract. [13]

11. L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid that is naturally found in green and black tea, but there’s not enough of it in one or two cups to offer definitive benefits.

Supplementing your diet with L-theanine can help to lower blood pressure, boost serotonin levels, as well as increase dopamine and GABA production.

12. Exercise

According to the ADAA, regular aerobic exercise can boost self-esteem, decrease tension, stabilize your mood and help you sleep.

Even 20 minutes of medium-intensity exercise a few times a week can work wonders for your well being.  

13. Meditation

Meditation has been scientifically proven to help lower blood pressure, improve mental clarity and help you feel more positive.  

Even doing a few minutes of meditation each day can change our brain circuitry in such a way that makes us more able to cope with stress.  

A recent study of 93 people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder found that mindfulness meditation helped reduce the symptoms of anxiety measured against an anxiety scale. [14]

Finding a Natural Balance  

For much of my life, I struggled trying to figure out how to get rid of my own anxiety.

Taking supplements like the Natural Stacks mood stack, a balanced serotonin supplement, changing my diet, and incorporating meditation has brought about huge changes.

Incorporating natural alternatives like exercise and meditation and supplementing my diet with herbs for natural anxiety relief brought me feeling of wellbeing I’d been seeking for years.  

I now find it much easier to control my moods, and tend to just be happier on a day-to-day basis.

In short: everything in life feels easier.

When it comes to natural anxiety help, do you have any strategies for easing your symptoms?
Let us know what works for you by commenting below!
  1. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20361045
  3. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/symptoms
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201309/4-ways-sugar-could-be-harming-your-mental-health
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2195579
  6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-well-to-help-manage-anxiety-your-questions-answered-2018031413460
  7. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19085527
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658370/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270108/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4630875/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3157732
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19593179
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772979/
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