Beta-adrenergic blockers, or beta blockers, are a class of drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension. Because these drugs work by blocking the nerves that cause the heart to beat fast, they are also used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety. Because beta blockers can have dangerous side effects, many people who suffer from anxiety prefer to use herbal treatments that mimic chemical beta blockers to treat their symptoms.
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St. John's Wort
St. John's wort is one of the top-selling herbal products in the U.S. according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Scientific evidence shows that the herb is an effective short-term treatment of anxiety based on its ability to boost your mood, but in a large-scale study by the NCCAM, it was not found to be any more effective than a placebo treatment. Although popular, long-term use of St. John's wort may cause a number of side effects including fatigue, dizziness and sexual dysfunction. Additionally, the herb can interfere with some traditional medicines including antidepressants, birth control pills and seizure-control drugs, therefore individuals should consult their doctors before adding the herb to their diets.
Kava, which is a native South Pacific plant, has been shown to be safe and effective in treating anxiety and improving mood, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Common names of the herb include kava, kava kava, kawa and ava pepper. Data from the "Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacy" shows that kava extract is more effective than placebo treatment. The herb was traditionally used as an intoxicant, but shows promise today as an alternative for beta blockers used to treat anxiety. In several studies on the long-term use of kava, the herb has been shown to cause liver damage, therefore individuals who are considering the herb should discuss it with their doctors.
The flowers of the chamomile plant have long been used to make teas, extracts and powder. Natural practitioners recommend chamomile for anxiety, sleep disorders and gastrointestinal problems. According to Dr. Armughan Riaz, chamomile is an effective substitute for chemical beta blockers because of its ability to promote relaxation. Dr. Riaz recommends using fresh, fragrant chamomile flowers for the best results. According to the NCCAM, the most common side effect of using chamomile to treat anxiety is an allergy to the plant. Individuals who have allergies to ragweed or other plants in the daisy family should use caution when experimenting with chamomile and discuss its use with a doctor.
According to Dr. Riaz, the chemicals found in passionflower have calming effects similar to chemical beta blockers. The plant is ground and made into teas, tinctures and tablets that can be found in most natural food stores. The plant is considered to have a tranquilizing effect on the brain, causing individuals suffering from anxiety to relax. Side effects can include dizziness and in large doses instances of confusion and altered consciousness have been reported. Discuss use with your physician.