Anxiolytic herbs are those that help reduce anxiety. These are very commonly compared to nervines, herbs that calm the nervous system. Anxiety for most individuals is a reaction to a stressful situation that encompasses the desire to avoid the situation in one way or another. Relaxing the nervous system is one way to relieve anxiety. A second way is to strengthen and encourage the individual experiencing anxiety. Each individual needs different support in situations leading to anxiety. For support in finding the herbs that are right for your challenges seek a professional herbalist.
There is a reason that hops are in beer and people often drink beer to calm their nerves. Hops are a really relaxing and calming herb. The part of the plant used is called the strobile, which may look a bit like a flower if you are not into botany. If you did not know, hops is in the same plant family as cannabis. It is especially good for anxiety where there is restlessness, the inability to sleep, and associated anxiety and nervous irritation. Do avoid hops in cases of depression however as it may make it worse.
St. John’s Wort
When taken, this herb is best known for it’s pain relieving and sedative effects making it great for anxiety. This herb has many safety challenges to consider when using it. This is primarily because it is thought to work as an MAO inhibitor. This class of antidepressant is dangerous because there are many foods, when taken with MAO inhibitors, that can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. Not all herbs work through this method for anxiety but it is the main reason to be cautious when using St. John’s Wort.
Lavender is a lovely calming herb and very little is needed for the light hearted effects to lift anxiety. Many people will commonly put lavender essential oil into an room diffuser. This is an excellent use of lavender to calm the nerves. Essential oils should never be used internally. Lavender flowers, however, can be used to make a tea. Due to the strong aromatic flavor of lavender, very small amounts are need and lavender is often mixed with other calming nervines in tea for anxiety and sleep support. It is particularly helpful when anxiety has led to exhaustion.
Motherwort is not the friendliest of herbs out there. My herbalist friends and I joke about motherwort kicking you into shape the way your mother would, in a bit of a bitter way. While motherwort is not primarily an anxiolytic herb, it can be really supportive for suppressed menstruation due to anxiety and can help strengthen the body to better combat anxiety. Most of it’s actions are on the cardiovascular system which can often go haywire with anxiety. Just think of how your heart beats when you get scared.
Many of the herbs listed here are known to interact with various medications. If you choose to use any of these herbs, be sure to consult with a professional herbalist to avoid safety hazards.