Take control of your anxiety using our in-depth review of proven natural remedies such as herbs, vitamins, teas, homeopathic remedies, and essential oils.
Every year, millions of prescriptions are written for anti-anxiety medications, making them among the most commonly prescribed drugs. (1)
But these medications don’t always work, can’t be used by everyone, and have many unacceptable side effects (including being highly addictive).
For reasons like these, more people are turning instead to natural remedies to control their anxiety.
Natural, traditional remedies have long histories of safe and effective use.
But science has shown that many of them work even better than anti-anxiety drugs.
How to Get the Most From This Guide
In this guide, we cover 25 of the best natural anti-anxiety remedies.
We explain how each of them works, the symptoms it treats best, and much more.
Pay close attention so that you match the best remedy to your particular situation.
8 Herbal Remedies for Anxiety
Plants parts — seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, and flowers — have historically been used as medicine by every culture.
Archaeologists have found evidence that we’ve been using plants medicinally for at least 60,000 years! (2)
Eighty percent of the world’s population still rely on herbal remedies as part of their primary health care. (3)
There’s been a resurgence in the use of herbs for anxiety in recent years. (4)
This interest has been fueled by the rising costs of prescriptions plus the awareness that anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Ativan have serious side effects, including being some of the most addictive substances known. (5)
These are our favorite herbal remedies for anxiety that have been proven both safe and effective.
1. Arctic Root (Rhodiola rosea)
Arctic root, as the name suggests, is found mainly in cold regions of the world like the Arctic and mountains of central China.
It is used in both Scandinavian and Chinese traditional medicine.
This makes Arctic root particularly useful for anxiety accompanied by fatigue.
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Other uses for this traditional herb include depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and memory loss.
It’s been shown to work faster for depression than antidepressant medications. (7)
One of the ways it works is by increasing activity of the major feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. (8)
If you have brain fog, trouble concentrating, depression, or low energy along with your anxiety, Arctic root is an excellent herb to consider.
2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in the 3,000-year-old Ayurvedic Hindu system of medicine.
Its name literally means “smell of the horse” because the root smells a little horsey.
But don’t let that put you off since it’s also believed to bestow the strength and stamina of a horse on those who take it.
Ashwagandha’s main use now is as a stress-relieving adaptogen.
It has a significant effect on the stress hormone cortisol, reducing it by 28%. (9)
It is very helpful at calming anxiety of all kinds, especially agoraphobia (fear of open or crowded places). (10)
Try ashwagandha if you feel depressed, fatigued, and lack motivation.
3. Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)
Bacopa monnieri, sometimes called brahmi (from the word brahman meaning “the energy of universal consciousness”), is another important adaptogenic herb in Ayurvedic medicine.
Bacopa has a long history of use for increasing longevity and enhancing mental performance.
It reduces anxiety while also improving memory and attention. (11)
This makes it an excellent choice for anyone who has anxiety with memory loss.
If you try bacopa, be patient.
It can take a few months to experience its full benefits.
4. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Ginkgo biloba is one of the world’s oldest and most impressive plants.
Ginkgo fossils date back 270 million years. (12)
Ginkgo trees literally grew when dinosaurs roamed the planet.
A handful of ginkgo trees were at the epicenter of the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast.
Amazingly, these trees are so hardy that they survived and are still alive today. (13)
Ginkgo leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
Now ginkgo is one of the most widely used herbal remedies in the world with annual sales topping $250 million. (14)
While it’s thought of as mainly a memory enhancer, ginkgo also reduces the release of the stress hormone cortisol, making it effective for anxiety and stress reduction as well. (15)
Ginkgo raises levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine which are essential for a positive mood. (16)
5. Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng is one of the most ancient, popular, and widely studied herbs.
The Chinese believe it to be the “elixir of life” and have used it to promote strength, stamina, and physical performance for over 5,000 years.
It is typically labeled as Asian, Chinese, or Korean ginseng, depending on where it is grown.
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Ginseng creates a relaxed but alert state.
It calms you down and boosts your energy without being over-stimulating.
It’s useful for treating stress, anxiety, and depression. (17)
Other reported benefits of ginseng include better energy, sleep, libido, and overall well-being. (18)
6. Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava (or kava kava) is a medicinal plant that originates in the South Pacific and is one of the most potent natural remedies for anxiety. (21)
People throughout this region make a traditional kava tea that’s valued for its ability to induce a state of relaxation and mental clarity.
Numerous studies consistently find kava effective at treating anxiety.
It’s been found to work as well as prescription medications for generalized anxiety disorder by increasing the level of the brain chemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). (22)
GABA is a relaxing neurotransmitter that calms the mind and slows brain activity when needed.
Kava should not be taken with many drugs and does not mix well with other natural remedies that can cause drowsiness such as 5-HTP, melatonin, gotu kola, valerian, and St. John’s wort. (25)
It should never be taken with anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or sleeping pills.
You can see the full list of substances to avoid when taking kava at Drugs.com.
You may have heard that kava is linked to liver damage, but this concern has been debunked and is largely unfounded.
In the US, kava is available in the form of capsules or liquid tincture, and, less commonly, as a tea.
7. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Passionflower is the only herbal remedy on this list native to North America.
This beautiful flowering vine was used traditionally by Native Americans to treat anxiety and insomnia. (26)
It was brought to Europe and is now widely grown and used medicinally there too.
Studies have found it to be as good for treating generalized anxiety disorder as the prescription sedative Serax (oxazepam). (27)
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It’s believed to work by increasing brain levels of GABA.
8. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian has been called “nature’s Valium” and is used mainly to relieve anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Its documented use in Europe goes back more than 2,000 years — valerian’s properties were first described by Hippocrates. (28)
It’s another one of the several herbs on this list thought to work by increasing GABA levels in the brain.
Valerian is generally considered safe, but can definitely make you drowsy, so use it just before bedtime.
This makes it the herbal remedy of choice if you struggle with anxiety associated with insomnia. (29)
Valerian can be consumed as a tea or as a supplement, but most people stick with the supplement since valerian tea tastes and smells rather awful.
A Warning About Buying Herbal Supplements
A few years ago, it was discovered that herbal supplements sold under brand name labels from Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and GNC contained little-to-none of what was listed on the label. (30)
Even worse, 80% of the products tested contain NONE of the herbs listed on the label.
Herbs tested included valerian and ginkgo.
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What they did contain was cheap fillers, including houseplants.
Obviously these herbal supplements would not have been helpful and were potentially dangerous.
Whenever you buy herbs, always buy from a reputable company that specializes in herbal remedies, not a big box store.
3 Vitamins for Anxiety
While it’s important for general health and mental well-being to meet all your basic vitamin needs, there are a few vitamins you should pay particular attention to if you have anxiety.
Being low in certain vitamins can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, and the right vitamin supplements can help.
9. B Complex Vitamins
B complex vitamins are sometimes referred to as “happy vitamins” or “anti-stress vitamins” since they can elevate your mood and increase your tolerance to stress.
Anxiety, depression, fatigue, and poor concentration are signs of B vitamin deficiency.
B vitamins are needed to provide energy to brain cells and to create neurotransmitters.
B vitamins can address imbalances of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine that contribute to anxiety. (31)
A word of caution: Some people report getting too energized when taking B vitamin supplements and find that they make them more anxious.
Inositol was formerly known as vitamin B8 until it was discovered that the body could make its own.
Now it’s categorized as a pseudovitamin.
Inositol is found in high concentrations in the brain where it facilitates communication between brain cells.
One study found that inositol worked as well as Luvox (fluvoxamine), a popular antidepressant, for treating panic disorder, but without any side effects. (33)
Inositol diminishes the mood swings, depression, and anxiety of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). (34)
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It is very safe and there are no known interactions with medications or other supplements. (35)
However, you need to take quite a lot of inositol for therapeutic value, usually 12 to 18 grams daily. (36)
That’s not as daunting as it sounds since it’s available as an inexpensive, tasteless powder that you can add to water or other drinks.
11. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” since your skin creates it when exposed to the sun.
Between spending most of our time indoors and wearing sunscreen when we are outside, vitamin D deficiency is rampant, affecting one billion people worldwide. (37)
Vitamin D can help with anxiety and depression associated with fibromyalgia. (38)
A low vitamin D level may, in part, be responsible for the anxiety and depression that people experience with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Unless you live in a year-round warm and sunny climate, you can almost certainly benefit from vitamin D supplements.
This is particularly true if your anxiety gets worse during the winter.
5 Other Supplements for Anxiety
Not all natural remedies for anxiety fall neatly into the herb or vitamin categories.
There are natural substances like amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients with anti-anxiety properties as well.
Here are some notable supplements in this “best of the rest” category.
Magnesium deficiency is rampant — it’s estimated that 75% of us don’t get enough. (39)
And this deficiency is a major contributor to anxiety.
There are many forms of magnesium supplements, but the best for anxiety is magnesium l-threonate.
This relatively new, lesser-known form of magnesium has the unique ability to permeate brain cell membranes and elevate magnesium concentrations in the brain. (42)
You may be familiar with taurine as an ingredient found in energy drinks.
Taurine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in the brain, where it acts very much like the neurotransmitter GABA.
It has a similar structure to GABA and binds to GABA receptors.
If you are looking for a remedy for low-GABA related symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and an overstimulated mind, taurine is an excellent substitute for GABA supplements which don’t work well for everyone.
A major problem with taking GABA directly is that it is structurally too large a compound to pass through the brain’s filtering system to get into the brain.
There are several theories as to why GABA supplements work some of the time in spite of this.
A widely accepted explanation is that GABA supplements work only for those who have a leaky blood-brain barrier. (50)
Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how and if GABA supplements work.
You can give a GABA supplement a try to see if it helps you, but we recommend taurine which is more reliably effective.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s an essential building block of the mood-elevating brain chemical serotonin.
Tryptophan is readily found in protein-rich foods, but due to a biological quirk, very little dietary tryptophan is available for serotonin synthesis in the brain — only about 1%. (51)
For this reason, taking supplemental tryptophan works better for raising serotonin than relying on food.
Tryptophan has been found useful for reducing general anxiety, social anxiety disorder, and panic attacks. (52)
Studies have found it to be as effective for depression as antidepressant drugs. (53)
Insomnia is a common problem for anyone with anxiety.
Tryptophan is also a building block of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Thus, tryptophan can help you fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and awake less often in the night.
15. Fish Oil
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are an integral structural component of brain cell membranes and nerve cells.
And healthy brain cells are your first line of defense against anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
The most popular omega-3 supplements are in the form of fish oil.
The omega-3s in fish oil supplements can ease anxiety and depression. (54)
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and this helps to reduce chronic inflammation in the brain.
Brain inflammation contributes to depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (55)
Until recently, it was thought that human intestines housed only several hundred different species of bacteria.
But scientists have just discovered an additional 2,000 species! (56)
These bacteria are referred to collectively as your intestinal flora, microbiome, or microbiota, and they have a profound impact on your brain and mood.
They are responsible for making over 30 neurotransmitters, including mood-boosting serotonin and relaxing GABA. (57)
Practicing neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, reveals in his book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain — for Life how a dysfunctional microbiome can be the root cause of anxiety, depression, and other brain-related disorders.
Research shows that as little as 30 days of probiotic supplementation can diminish anxiety and stress-related depression. (58)
To make sure that the new bacteria from your probiotic supplement flourish, eat plenty of prebiotic foods such as asparagus, bananas, barley, leeks, garlic, jicama, lentils, mustard greens, onions, and tomatoes. (59, 60)
Prebiotic foods give the good bacteria something to feed on and are essential for maintaining a healthy microbiome.
Prebiotic foods alone have been found to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (61)
5 Relaxing Teas for Anxiety
Before humans figured out how to stuff herbs into capsules or isolate active ingredients from plants, herbs and plants were often consumed as teas.
Most of the plants and herbs below are also available in the form of supplements.
But there are some good reasons to consider using them in the form of tea instead.
Unlike swallowing pills, sipping tea is enjoyable and the ritual of making and drinking tea can be very relaxing.
17. Chamomile Tea (Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile)
Chamomile tea has long been used to treat insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
You may recognize it as a main relaxing ingredient in the highly popular Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea.
Chamomile is particularly useful for those who suffer from depression along with anxiety. (62)
Chamomile is very safe — safe enough to give to children. (63)
There are many species of chamomile.
The two most popular are Matricaria recutita (German or wild chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman or English chamomile).
All species of chamomile belong to the same plant family (Asteraceae) as does the highly allergenic ragweed.
If you are one of the millions of people allergic to ragweed, you might want to avoid chamomile since there’s a chance of allergic cross-reactivity.
18. Lemon Balm Tea (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm has been used as a calming herb since the Middle Ages. (64)
Since it’s a member of the mint family, it has a pleasant minty taste with a hint of lemon.
It reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the relaxing neurotransmitter GABA. (65)
Lemon balm is good for treating insomnia and improving memory.
It works synergistically with other herbs for anxiety like valerian, hops, and chamomile.
19. Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
It might be a surprise to see green tea on this list since it contains a small amount of caffeine (25 mg per cup).
But, in fact, green tea is more calming than stimulating.
Its caffeine is offset by two unique anti-anxiety compounds, l-theanine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). (66)
L-theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that has a relaxing, but not sedating, effect.
It increases brain levels of GABA as well. (71)
EGCG is the most bioactive compound in green tea. (72)
It exhibits effects similar to the prescription anti-anxiety drug chlordiazepoxide. (73)
Like l-theanine, it normalizes the activity of GABA.
If you are concerned about the stimulating effects of caffeine, give decaffeinated green tea a try.
It retains most of the benefits of regular green tea.
Or, if you prefer, you can take an l-theanine supplement as a safe and effective way to relax.
EGCG supplements are not recommended since they are very poorly absorbed. (74)
But avoid green tea extract.
These extracts are usually sold as a weight loss aid and contain large amounts of caffeine.
20. Gotu Kola Tea (Centella asiatica)
Gotu kola’s health benefits are legendary.
It is an important natural remedy in Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
Traditionally, it was used to treat disorders of the mind including anxiety, mental fatigue, depression, memory loss, and insomnia.
Its Chinese name means “fountain of youth.”
Unfortunately, the name gotu kola sounds like it contains caffeine (as in cola drinks), but it does not.
In spite of its name, it’s a natural relaxant.
In studies, gotu kola increased calmness, contentedness, and alertness by 100% and significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. (75)
It can lower symptoms of anxiety and stress in persons with generalized anxiety disorder. (76)
Gotu kola is also taken as a cognitive enhancer to halt memory loss.
It contains compounds that inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, the brain chemical of learning and memory. (77)
Gotu kola is extremely safe.
It’s been consumed both as a food and a tea by millions of people for thousands of years.
Give gotu kola tea (or supplements) a try if you are looking for anti-anxiety relief along with cognitive enhancement.
21. Holy Basil Tea (Ocimum sanctum)
Holy basil (or tulsi) is yet another herb used in the Ayurvedic healing tradition.
It’s one of the most revered plants in India as its name attests — tulsi means “the incomparable one.”
It is thought to bestow upon its users a long and healthy life.
Holy basil alleviates stress and anxiety by decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (78)
It provides significant relief to those with generalized anxiety disorder. (79)
It can also help with other brain-related disorders such as depression, memory loss, insomnia, and migraine headaches.
Holy basil can be consumed either as a supplement or as a tea known as tulsi tea.
3 Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety
The 200-year-old healing practice of homeopathy has millions of followers worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, homeopathy is one of the most widely used medical systems in the world. (80)
Americans spend nearly 3 billion dollars each year on homeopathic remedies.
Homeopathy is undoubtedly popular, but has many detractors.
Homeopathic remedies are made from extremely dilute concentrations of therapeutic substances, usually plants and sometimes minerals.
Skeptics claim that there is no way homeopathy can work since an almost unmeasurable amount of the original substance remains.
But the scientific evidence paints a different picture.
A meta analysis of 118 homeopathic trials concluded that homeopathic remedies are more effective than a placebo. (81)
One study done in conjunction with Duke University Medical Center found that 58% of those using homeopathy for mild to severe anxiety cited improvement. (82)
This number looks even more impressive when you realize that roughly half of anxiety patients do not respond to the medications prescribed by their doctor. (83)
Another common sentiment among detractors is that we shouldn’t use homeopathy since we don’t understand how it works.
But if we were to follow this logic, we should stop using many commonly used drugs, including antidepressants, lithium (for bipolar disorder), Mucinex (for coughs), Metformin (for type 2 diabetes), and Modafinil (off-label cognitive enhancer), since it’s not fully understood how they work either. (84, 85)
Advantages of Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety
Homeopathy offers many advantages, especially when compared to anti-anxiety medications.
Homeopathic remedies have been found to be effective and extremely safe.
According to the British Homeopathic Association, they can be used by virtually everyone, including children and pregnant women.
They have virtually no side effects and there is no problem mixing them with medications or herbs.
They aren’t sedating and won’t make you drowsy.
And lastly, they are extremely economical, usually costing only pennies per dose.
We think that this makes homeopathy worth a try.
Choosing the Right Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic remedies are very specific in their effects, so, for best results, you must choose your remedy carefully.
Choosing the wrong remedy won’t do you any harm, but it won’t do you any good either.
Homeopathic displays at health food stores usually have an overwhelming number of remedies to choose from.
We’ve narrowed the list down to the two best homeopathic remedies for anxiety — one for chronic or generalized anxiety disorder and another for anxiety that appears suddenly and acutely and can result in panic attacks.
22. Argentum Nitricum: For Chronic or General Anxiety
Argentum nitricum is an excellent all-purpose remedy for chronic anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder.
It is derived from the mineral silver nitrate.
This is an appropriate remedy if you are a constant worrier who’s always thinking about the ways things could possibly go wrong.
Argentum is also good for anticipatory anxiety such as that experienced before public speaking or taking an exam.
It’s also recommended if you suffer from anxiety brought on by a phobia, such as claustrophobia or fear of heights.
If your life is driven by “what ifs,” argentum might be an ideal remedy for you.
23. Aconitum Napellus: For Sudden Anxiety and Panic Attacks
A top remedy for acute anxiety is Aconitum napellus.
Aconitum is a beautiful but poisonous flowering plant found throughout temperate parts of the world that goes by the common names of monkshood or wolf’s bane.
It is one of the oldest homeopathic remedies and also goes by the name Aconite.
It’s specifically helpful if your anxiety symptoms are acute and come out of the blue with no obvious trigger.
Aconitum is recommended for anyone who experiences panic attacks.
It’s appropriate if you are plagued with an unreasonable fear of dying.
Vikas Sharma, MD, is a fourth-generation homeopathic physician who specializes in autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
For anxiety attacks, he recommends taking a low-potency dose (30c) every few minutes until your feelings of panic have subsided.
24. Homeopathic Anxiety Remedies Worthy of Consideration
Aconitum and argentum can provide relief for the majority of people with anxiety.
But if neither of these is a good match for your set of symptoms, or you have tried them without success, here are some other notable homeopathic remedies to keep in mind. (86)
Pick a homeopathic anxiety remedy that most closely matches your set of symptoms:
- Arsenicum album — for those deeply worried about their health
- Calcarea carbonica — for feeling overwhelmed by illness or obligations
- Gelsemium — for performance anxiety, stage fright, or fear of going to the doctor or dentist
- Ignatia amara — for profound loss, or for sensitive persons who are anxious due to loss or disappointment
- Kali phosphoricum — for those easily startled, with a sense of dread and inability to cope
- Lycopodium — for anxiety caused by too many responsibilities and fear of failure
- Natrum muriaticum — for anxiety in social situations, or for insomnia caused by anxiety that gets worse at night
- Phosphorous — for anxiety brought on by lack of confidence
- Pulsatilla — for anxiety caused by hormonal changes or emotional neediness
- Silica — for stress brought on by perfectionism
Seeking Professional Homeopathic Advice
If your anxiety is severe, you may want to seek the guidance of a homeopathic professional.
The US, UK, Canada, and Australia all have homeopathic organizations that will help you find one in your area.
Essential Oils For Anxiety
Aromatherapy is a healing system based on the use of essential oils — concentrated, fragrant extracts taken from the roots, leaves, seeds, or flowers of medicinal plants.
Essential oils been used for over 6,000 years in Egypt, Greece, China, India, and the Roman Empire and are frequently mentioned in the Bible.
They may sound like lightweight, rather than serious, remedies for anxiety, but their use is recommended by such prestigious organizations as the Mayo Clinic and the National Cancer Institute. (87, 88)
The US National Library of Medicine, a database of scientific research, lists thousands of research studies performed on essential oils. (89)
It’s not completely understood how essential oils work, but they seem to work by tapping into the powerful relationship between our sense of smell and the brain.
Scent receptors in the nose send chemical messages by way of the olfactory nerve to the limbic system, a primitive area of the brain that deals with basic emotions (like anger and fear) and memories. (90)
While herbs used for anxiety are usually taken internally, essential oils to reduce stress and heal emotional issues are generally used externally.
Essential oil vapors are inhaled or the oil itself diluted and massaged into the skin.
25. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
If you are new to aromatherapy, you can’t go wrong starting with lavender essential oil.
Lavender is the most studied and widely used essential oil.
It is the most versatile of essential oils, a veritable “Swiss army knife” of aromatherapy remedies.
Besides its calming, relaxing, and anti-stress qualities, lavender has been proven to do everything from healing burns to improving concentration.
One study found that, compared to prescription tranquilizers, oral lavender oil capsules worked just as well to relieve generalized anxiety disorder, but without the side effects and risk of addiction. (91)
A meta analysis of lavender studies found it to be safe, inexpensive, accessible, and effective. (92)
However, there is some concern that lavender may not be ideal for boys or men since there’s suspicion that it may be an endocrine disrupter.
An alternative to lavender is bergamot, another standout for anxiety.
This essential oil is derived from a fragrant fruit (Citrus Bergamia), which is the size of an orange and the color of a lemon.
You may be familiar with it as the flavoring ingredient in Earl Grey tea.
Bergamot essential oil has been shown to be similarly effective for anxiety as the anti-anxiety drug Valium. (93)
Other essential oils to consider for anxiety include rose, neroli, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, geranium, and jasmine.
Important: If you currently take an anti-anxiety medication like Xanax and Ativan, talk to your doctor before making any change to your drug or supplement regimen.
Natural Remedies for Anxiety: Take the Next Step
For natural anxiety relief, there are plenty of remedies to choose from among herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, teas, homeopathic remedies, and essential oils.
The best of these have withstood the test of time and have held up to scientific scrutiny.
Each remedy has a slightly different set of properties and benefits, so choose the ones that best match your set of symptoms.