Managing stress and anxiety with herbs during and post-CoVid-19
Even if you have not had Covid-19 yourself, or if you have and you are in recovery, your life will have been touched in some way by the pandemic. Some of us find it harder than others, and may experience anxiety as a result of the stress. And anxiety in itself can be stressful!
Herbal remedies have had a long history of being used to offset anxiety and help us cope with stressful situations.
Here are a few herbs which have been shown to provide some relief.
A systemic review was conducted of single-herb randomised controlled trials (RCTS) from 1996 to 2016. With 100 articles involving 38 botanicals meeting their criteria, researchers found the herbs most studied were lavender, passionflower, and saffron, which demonstrated benefits comparable to standard anxiolytic and antidepressant medication.1
- Yeung KS, Hernandez M, Mao JJ, Haviland I, Gubili J. Herbal medicine for depression and anxiety: A systematic review with assessment of potential psycho‐oncologic relevance. Phytother Res. 2018 May;32(5):865-91.
California poppy and valerian have been used traditionally for the management of sleep disorders and anxiety. In a recent study, adults experiencing insomnia took a standardised combination of California poppy and valerian, nightly for four weeks. Results showed improved sleep quality and duration. Participants woke 25% less frequently, and when they did wake, were able to fall asleep faster, with the total duration of wakeful episodes dropping considerably by 25 minutes. Importantly, anxiety scores significantly decreased by 50%.2 These results indicate this herbal combination is a beneficial tool in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety.
- Abdellah SA, Berlin A, Blondeau C, Guinobert I, Guilbot A, Beck M, et al. A combination of Eschscholtzia californica Cham. and Valeriana officinalis L. extracts for adjustment insomnia: A prospective observational study. J Tradit Complement Med [Internet]. 2019 Feb
Traditionally used to manage mental stress, current research is now substantiating the use of herbs such as passionflower and magnolia, showing anxiolytic and sedative actions. Passionflower was trialled on 154 subjects experiencing insomnia and nervous tension for 12 weeks, using on average 1,020 mg/d of dried extract. Results achieved an improvement in sleep disturbances, indicating positive effects on sleep maintenance and quality, as well as reductions in restlessness and nervous tension.3 Research has also noted that passionflower extracts do not impair memory or motor skills.4, 5
- Gibbert J, Kreimendahl F, Lebert J, Rychlik R, Trompetter I. Improvement of stress resistance and quality of life of adults with nervous restlessness after treatment with a passionflower dry extract. Complement Med Res. 2017April 12;24:83-89. doi:10.1159/000464342.
- Passion flower. In: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database [database on the Internet]. Stockton (CA): Therapeutic Research Faculty; 1995-2008 [cited 2017 Feb 13]. Available from: http://www.naturaldatabase.com. subscription required to view.
- Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M. Passion flower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2001;26(5):363-7.
Magnolia contains biologically active compounds with neuroprotective properties which support healthy brain plasticity, and also aid muscle relaxation.6, 7
- Lee YJ, Lee YM, Lee CK, Jung JK, Han SB, Hong JT. Therapeutic applications of compounds in the Magnolia family. Pharmacol Ther. 2011;130(2):157-176.
- Han H, Ma Y, Eun JS, Li R, Hong JT, Lee MK, et al. Anxiolytic-like effects of 4-O-Methylhonokiol isolated from Magnolia officinalis through enhancement of GABAergic transmission and chloride influx. J Med Food. 2011;14(7):724 -731.
Saffron has had a long history for its use as an anti-depressant in mild to moderate depression; this has been supported by recent research.8
- Gohari, AR, Soodabeh, S, Mahdie, M. An overview on saffron, phytochemicals and medicinal properties. Pharmacogn Rev 2013 Jan-Jun; 7(13): 61-66
Zizyphus has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for the treatment of anxiety and related conditions.9 It is rich in active compounds which can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and nervous tension.10. 11
9 Chen CJ, Li M, Wang XL, Fang FF, Ling CQ. Effect of Sour Date (Semen ziziphi spinossae) seed extract on treating insomnia and anxiety. In: Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention. London, Academic Press. 2011. p. 1037-1041.
10 Han H, Ma Y, Eun JS et al. Anxiolytic-like effects of sanjoinine A isolated from Zizyphi Spinosi Semen: possible involvement of GABAergic transmission. Pharmacol Biochem Be. 2009;92(2):206-213.
11 Zhang M, Ning G, Shou C, Lu Y, Hong D, Zheng X. Inhibitory effect of jujuboside A on glutamate-mediated excitatory signal pathway in hippocampus. Planta Med. 2003;69(8):692-695.
Rhodiola has been applied during times of chronic or long term stress and depression.
- Palumbo DR. Phytother Res, 2012.
This evidence adds weight to the traditional understanding of these herbs which practitioners utilise to support their patients’ mental health and improve quality of life.
Your medical herbalist will be able to make herbal recommendations or formulate a herbal remedy which is specific for your needs.