Everybody experiences anxiety sometimes. Often people feel anxious, nervous or worried when faced with a problem or when considering an important decision.

But anxiety disorders are of an entirely other magnitude. These can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These various expressions of anxiety can interfere with one’s ability to lead a normal life.

Signs of anxiety can include feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness, nightmares, obsessive behaviors such as counting and repeated hand washing, flashbacks of traumatic experiences, uncontrollable repetitive thoughts, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, muscle tension and more. In the grips of anxiety, life is difficult and uncomfortable.

Many people who suffer from anxiety do not wish to use pharmaceutical drugs for treatment, due to their onerous effects, which can include greater anxiety, depression, digestive disturbances, sleep problems, loss of sex drive, nervousness and other effects that should not be a result of a health aid. For those who suffer from anxiety and wish to try a safer, healthier approach, the three following remedies may be exactly what you are seeking.

Kava root

Kava root from the South Pacific enjoys several human clinical studies demonstrating efficacy in treating mild to moderate anxiety. In human studies, kava has performed as well as the benzodiazepine class of drugs (Valium, Xanax), but without negative effects. Kava has attracted the attention of senior researchers at the National Institutes of mental health as a result.

In 2001, Duke University Medical Center doctors conducted two studies on kava extract. One study showed that kava is safe for the liver, causing no noticeable problems. The other study (A placebo-controlled study of Kava in generalized anxiety disorder.) showed that kava extract is as effective for the treatment of anxiety as the benzodiazepine class of drugs without the hazards caused by those drugs.

The best way to use kava is as a concentrated extract, either in capsule or tablet form. Liquid extracts are also available and work rapidly, for those who don’t mind kava’s challenging flavor.

Passionflower herb

Passionflower herb for nerve calming purposes consists of the fresh or dried above-ground parts of Passiflora incarnata and their preparations.  Passionflower is a protective antioxidant powerhouse. The plant contains the antioxidant compounds vitexin, isovitexin, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, apigenin and luteolin glycosides. The plant also contains indole alkaloids, fatty acids, gum, maltol, phytosterols, sugars and a trace of volatile oil. Purely from a protective standpoint, passionflower is quite extraordinary. The quercetin in passionflower is one of the most powerfully protective compounds known, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

But for a nervous, stressed-out society, passionflower offers even more than excellent cellular protection. The British Herbal Compendium describes the actions of passionflower as sedative, anxiolytic, and antispasmodic. Numerous studies support central nervous system sedative and anxiolytic effects. The British Herbal Compendium indicates its use for sleep disorders, restlessness, nervous stress and anxiety. Other uses include neuralgia and nervous tachycardia. Germany’s Commission E has approved the internal use of passionflower for nervous restlessness.

Passion flower supplements in capsules or tablets are readily available, as are fluid extracts. The fluids work faster, but any of these forms spell relief.

Lemon balm

As early as 300 BC, lemon balm was described in the Historia Plantarum of Theophrastus. Early Arab healers commented on the benefits of lemon balm. Eleventh century Arab physician Avicenna noted that "balm makes the heart merry and joyful, and strengthens the vital spirits." In ancient Greek and Roman medicines, lemon balm was used to treat poisonous bites and stings and as a dressing for wounds. In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was employed to relieve stress and anxiety, promote sleep, ease indigestion and lift the spirits.

In one study of healthy volunteers, a daily dose of 600 mgs of lemon balm for a week improved mood, and boosted both calmness and alertness.  Several studies show that lemon balm, in conjunction with other herbs such as valerian, hops and chamomile, enhances sleep. My favorite way to use lemon balm is as a calming, relaxing tea. It’s inexpensive, and imparts a tranquil feeling in minutes.

Some extreme cases of anxiety are non-responsive to either synthetic or natural remedies. But for many people who suffer from mild to moderate anxiety, these natural remedies can make a real difference. Before you escalate to drugs that may impart effects you don’t want, give these a try.