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Valerian & St John's Wort for Anxiety

by
author image Charlotte Waterworth
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.
Valerian & St John's Wort for Anxiety
A bouquet of St. John's Wort on white linen. Photo Credit Heike Rau/iStock/Getty Images

Most people experience periods of anxiety and worry at some point in their lives, particularly when going through a difficult time or before an important event such as a job interview. However, if you feel anxious about everything and find it difficult to relax, you may have anxiety disorder. According to the NHS Choices website, the exact cause of anxiety disorder is unknown, but it may be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. If you suffer from anxiety, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety drugs or psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. St. John's wort and valerian are sometimes used to treat anxiety, although there is little scientific evidence to prove that they work.

History

St. John's wort, a yellow-flowered plant may treat a number or conditions, including anxiety and depression. Valerian, a plant native to Asia and Europe, treats a number of ailments including sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, notes the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM.

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Use

Both valerian and St. John't wort can be taken as tea, or in capsules or tablets. The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, website reports that valerian may be used alone or in combination with St. John's wort. Ask your health care provider how much of each herb you should take and how often you should take them.

Efficacy

According to NCCAM, while valerian may be an effective treatment for conditions such as insomnia, there is little scientific evidence to show this herb can effectively treat anxiety. In addition, an analysis of clinical trial data published in the October 2010 issue of the "Nutrition Journal" conclude no evidence supports the use of St. Johns wort as an anti-anxiety treatment.

Side Effects

NCCAM notes that short-term use of valerian is considered safe, but the effects of long-term use are unknown. It may cause side effects including dizziness, an upset stomach and fatigue. St. John's wort may increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Other side effects include fatigue, sexual dysfunction and a dry mouth.

Contraindications

St. John's wort interacts with number of prescription medicines including birth control pills, anti-seizure drugs, anticoagulants and some HIV treatments. Do not take this herb if you have a bleeding disorder as it may increase the risk of bleeding. Valerian may heighten the effects of drugs which have a sedative effect including muscle relaxants, anxiety medicines and sleeping tablets. Talk to your doctor before using either of these herbs.

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References

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