Natural Remedies for Anxiety

These 11 research-backed options might help with your anxiety.

A woman sits with her eyes closed, holding a cup of tea
Getty Images

Whether you have occasional moments of anxiousness or a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to treating anxiety. In addition to the traditional therapy and medication, there are natural anxiety remedies available that may help ease certain symptoms.1

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

From herbal supplements to mindfulness techniques, experts have been researching the role that natural remedies can play in treating anxiety symptoms like tension, worry, and rapid heartbeat.2

Chamomile

Research suggests that regular use of chamomile is helpful for reducing symptoms of moderate-to-severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD may worry about everyday things to the degree that the worry interferes with their daily life. But participants of one study had an improvement in their GAD after taking three 500mg capsules of chamomile extract a day for several months.3

The long-term use of high-dose chamomile oral extract used in the study didn't seem to create safety concerns.3 While more research may be needed to know the exact quantity that is considered safe, it is generally believed that any amount used in tea, as well as any short-term oral supplementation, is safe.4

Negative side effects like nausea and dizziness are not common. But keep in mind that chamomile may interact with blood-thinning medications (warfarin) or drugs used to prevent organ transplant rejection (cyclosporine). Chamomile could also prompt an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to pollens like ragweed.4

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the practice of stimulating specific points on the body, usually by inserting thin needles into the skin. While it is not fully understood how acupuncture works, it has a history of being used to help with pain, headache, and side effects of cancer treatment.5,6 Researchers are looking into what other conditions the practice can benefit, including anxiety.7 

A review of 20 studies showed that acupuncture can reduce anxiety symptoms among those with generalized anxiety disorder. This is especially true in the first six weeks of treatment. During that time, acupuncture can work faster than other treatments, such as anti-anxiety drugs.8 

Since all the studies in the review only included people with generalized anxiety disorder, more research is needed to determine whether acupuncture would be helpful for other anxiety disorders.8 

Another review of studies suggests that acupuncture may ease anxiety symptoms among women receiving treatment for substance abuse as well as among women undergoing in vitro fertilization. While promising, more research is needed to say for certain what the effects would be on these populations.9

In both reviews, acupuncture was deemed safe. The key for safety is going to an experienced, trained practitioner who uses clean needles. If acupuncture is not performed correctly or dirty needles are used, there can be serious side effects.7 

Lavender

Research has pointed to an improvement in anxiety symptoms after consuming or smelling lavender—especially before surgery and before and after chemotherapy.10,11,12

Keep in mind that consuming lavender in tea or extract form could cause side effects like headache and constipation. It might also increase drowsiness when used with other sedative medications.13

Omega-3 fatty acids

Found in seafood, shellfish, and fish oil supplements, omega-3 fatty acids are needed to build brain cells and help with other basic functions.14,15

The fatty acids might also have a positive impact on anxiety.16 Research reveals that omega-3 supplementation may help significantly reduce and prevent anxiety symptoms.17,18 This is especially true for people who've been diagnosed with a specific disorder.17

Vitamin B

For decades, it's been understood that there's an association between vitamin B12 levels and anxiety symptoms. Newer research further suggests that it is not uncommon for people with anxiety to have low levels of vitamin B12. And so, it is believed that supplementation of vitamin B12 may help reduce or prevent anxiety symptoms.19

Vitamin B6 might ease anxiety as well. High-dose supplementation of the vitamin has been shown to reduce self-reported anxiety.20 More robust research is needed to say for certain, but some studies have also shown that daily intake of vitamin B6 helps reduce a range of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, particularly PMS-related anxiety.21

B vitamins are generally safe to use, but have the potential to interfere with some medications.22 Check with a healthcare professional to be certain before use.21

Movement

Exercise is beneficial for overall health, including mental health. The US Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans even acknowledges that a reduction in anxiety can be a benefit of regular exercise.23

While it’s recommended that people get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, research shows that anxiety can be temporarily reduced immediately after even one exercise session.23 In fact, just a five- to 10-minute session of aerobic exercise—like walking, cycling, or swimming—can begin to provide short-term anxiety symptom relief.24 With continued regular exercise, long-term anxiety symptoms may decrease as well.23

In addition, mindful movement practices, like yoga, are believed to have anti-anxiety effects.25

Meditation

Meditation is one of many relaxation techniques focused on intentional breathing and the mind-body connection. It's often recommended as an add-on to clinical anxiety treatment plans.26

By producing a deep state of relaxation, studies suggest that meditation may help reduce anxiety symptoms in people with diagnosed anxiety disorders.27,28 There's practically zero risk involved in trying out a meditation session, as long as you're in a safe environment to close your eyes and zone out.

Journaling

Getting your thoughts out on paper might help your mind work through anxious feelings and relieve related symptoms.

A study found that one month of "positive affect journaling"—writing down positive feelings or emotions—resulted in less anxiety in people who had various medical conditions and experienced heightened anxiety symptoms. Additional research on how different types of journaling could help anxiety is likely needed before it's broadly recommended by experts.29

L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea but that is also available in supplement form.

One review of already-published research concluded that taking 200-400mg of L-theanine supplements a day reduced anxiety levels in people going through stressful situations. However, it is unclear how the effectiveness of L-theanine would change when it is consumed as part of tea.30

Another study found one month's worth of L-theanine supplementation to be a solid natural anxiety remedy in healthy people.31

While these claims about L-theanine are acknowledged in guidance from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, the organization notes that current evidence on L-theanine's anti-anxiety effects is limited.32

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral found in foods like whole grains, leafy greens, and milk.33 It is believed that its role in brain function may have an effect on anxiety.34

One research review found initial evidence suggesting that magnesium supplementation could potentially reduce mild anxiety symptoms, generalized anxiety, and anxiety-related PMS symptoms. However, more studies are needed on the impact magnesium could have on anxiety symptoms more broadly.35

More research is also needed on what form of magnesium is best for anxiety management. Magnesium lactate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium glycinate are all examples of magnesium supplements, but it still needs to be determined which type is most effective for anxiety.36

Lemon balm

Lemon balm, an herb in the mint family, has long been considered to have calming properties.37

While current research is limited, there is some evidence showing its positive impact on anxiety and mood.38 For example, two separate studies found that consuming drinks infused with lemon balm had a positive anti-anxiety effect on people recovering from heart surgery and severe burns.39,40

Summary

Experiencing occasional symptoms of anxiety is common. But for the estimated 19% of adults in the US who have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, the symptoms pervade everyday life.41

Fortunately, there are plenty of treatment options out there to help in either situation. Several of those options are natural anxiety remedies. While research seems promising, most natural remedies—namely those that are considered complementary and alternative—are not included in treatment guidelines for generalized anxiety disorder.32 So as experts continue to study the safety and efficacy of these approaches, you should check with a healthcare professional before incorporating any new supplements or practices into your routine.

If your anxiety symptoms are affecting your day-to-day life, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support plus information on local resources and treatment facilities.

Sources:

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Anxiety at a glance.
  2. American Psychological Association. Anxiety.
  3. Mao JJ, Xie SX, Keefe JR, Soeller I, Li QS, Amsterdam J. Long-term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine. 2016;23(14):1735–1742. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2016.10.012
  4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Chamomile.
  5. MedlinePlus. Acupuncture.
  6. National Cancer Institute. Acupuncture (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version.
  7. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Acupuncture: In Depth.
  8. Yang X, Yang N, Huang F, Ren S, Li Z. Effectiveness of acupuncture on anxiety disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2021;20(9). doi:10.1186/s12991-021-00327-5
  9. Sniezek DP, Siddiqui IJ. Acupuncture for Treating Anxiety and Depression in Women: A Clinical Systematic Review. Med Acupunct. 2013;25(3):164-172. doi:10.1089/acu.2012.0900
  10. Donelli D, Antonelli M, Bellinazzi C, Gensini GF, Firenzuoli F. Effects of lavender on anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine. 2019 Dec;65:153099. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2019.153099.
  11. Wotman B, Levinger J, Leung L, Kallush A, Mauer E, Kacker A. The efficacy of lavender aromatherapy in reducing preoperative anxiety in ambulatory surgery patients undergoing procedures in general otolaryngology. Investig Otolaryngol. 2017 Nov 8;2(6):437-441. doi: 10.1002/lio2.121.
  12. Ozkaraman A, Dügüm Ö, Özen Yılmaz H, Usta Yesilbalkan Ö. Aromatherapy: The effect of lavender on anxiety and sleep quality in patients treated with chemotherapy. Clin J Oncol Nurs. 2018 Apr 1;22(2):203-210. doi: 10.1188/18.CJON.203-210.
  13. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Lavender.
  14. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 7 things to know about omega-3 fatty acids.
  15. MedlinePlus. Omega-3 fats - Good for your heart.
  16. American Psychiatric Association. How nutrition impacts mental health.
  17. Su K, Tseng P, Lin P, et al. Association of use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in severity of anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Netw Open.2018;1(5):e182327
  18. Larrieu T, Layé S. Food for mood: relevance of nutritional omega-3 fatty acids for depression and anxiety. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1047. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01047
  19. Todorov A, Chumpalova-Tumbeva P, Stoimenova-Popova M, et al. Correlation between depression and anxiety and the level of vitamin B12 in patients with depression and anxiety and healthy controls. J Biomed Res. 2017;10(2): 140-145. doi:10.1515/jbcr-2017-0023
  20. Field DT, Cracknell RO, Eastwood JR, et al. High-dose Vitamin B6 supplementation reduces anxiety and strengthens visual surround suppression. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2022;e2852. doi:10.1002/hup.2852
  21. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B6: Fact sheet for health professionals.
  22. Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068
  23. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans: 2nd edition.
  24. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Exercise for stress and anxiety.
  25. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga for health: What the science says.
  26. Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and anxiety disorders: Benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019;99(10):620-627.
  27. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Relaxation techniques: What you need to know.
  28. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation and mindfulness: What you need to know.
  29. Smyth JM, Johnson JA, Auer BJ, Lehman E, Talamo G, Sciamanna CN. Online positive affect journaling in the improvement of mental distress and well-being in general medical patients with elevated anxiety symptoms: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. JMIR Mental Health. 2018;5(4):e11290. doi:10.2196/11290
  30. Hidese S, Ogawa S, Ota M, et al. Effects of L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2362. doi:10.3390/nu11102362
  31. Williams JL, Everett JM, D'Cunha NM, et al. The effects of green tea amino acid L-theanine consumption on the ability to manage stress and anxiety levels: a systematic review. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020;75(1):12-23. doi:10.1007/s11130-019-00771-5
  32. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Clinical practice review for GAD.
  33. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium: Fact sheet for consumers.
  34. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress-A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
  35. Kirkland AE, Sarlo GL, Holton KF. The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders. Nutrients. 2018;10(6):730. doi:10.3390/nu10060730
  36. Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(5):429. doi:10.3390/nu9050429
  37. Scholey A, Gibbs A, Neale C, et al. Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods. Nutrients. 2014;6(11):4805-21. doi:10.3390/nu6114805
  38. Ghazizadeh J, Sadigh-Eteghad S, et al. The effects of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) on depression and anxiety in clinical trials: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytother Res. 2021;35(12):6690-6705. doi:10.1002/ptr.7252
  39. Soltanpour A, Alijaniha F, Naseri M, Kazemnejad A, Heidari MR. Effects of Melissa officinalis on anxiety and sleep quality in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery: A double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial. Eur J Integr Med. 2019;28:27-32. doi: 10.1016/j.eujim.2019.01.010
  40. Chehroudi S, Fatemi MJ, Isfeedvajani MS, Salehi SH, Akbari H, Samimi R. Effects of Melissa officinalis L. on reducing stress, alleviating anxiety disorders, depression, and insomnia, and increasing total antioxidants in burn patients. Trauma Monthly. 2017;4(22). doi: 10.5812/traumamon.33630
  41. National Institute of Mental Health. Any anxiety disorder.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles