5 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

When anxiety is the problem, medication and psychotherapy are the solutions you hear most about. But natural remedies have a role in managing anxiety, too.

Here’s a look at five approaches that may help you cope with everyday nerves or make the most of treatment for an anxiety disorder.

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Exercise

Regular exercise can reduce anxiety in both healthy individuals and medical patients with a wide range of diseases to worry about. In fact, when scientists from the University of Georgia reviewed 40 rigorous studies, they found that medical patients who exercised regularly decreased their anxiety symptoms by about 20 percent, on average.

The studies looked at activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, and weight training. Workouts lasting longer than 30 minutes were better at calming anxiety than shorter bouts.

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Yoga

One form of exercise that seems to be particularly soothing for many people is yoga. In a study from Boston University School of Medicine, yoga worked even better than walking for improving mood and lessening anxiety in healthy volunteers. That may be because yoga increased a brain chemical called GABA. In people with anxiety disorders, GABA activity tends to be reduced, and some anti-anxiety drugs are thought to work by boosting GABA function.

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves intentionally focusing awareness on here-and-now experience, and noticing and accepting it without judging it. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress. Now a brain imaging study led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital helps explain why.

In the study, MRI scans showed changes in certain areas of the brain after an eight-week mindfulness meditation program. Among the changes was a decrease in gray matter density of the amygdala, part of the brain that plays a key role in emotional processing and the fear response.

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Music

Listening to relaxing music is another proven way to ease an anxious mind, and it seems to work well even for people who are under considerable stress. For example, in one study of 30 women undergoing mastectomy for breast cancer, half were randomly chosen to listen to music before, during, and after surgery. Women in this group had a greater post-op decrease in anxiety compared to a no-music control group, and they also reported less pain.

Chamomile

Grandma may have been onto something with her soothing cup of chamomile tea. A study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at the effects of chamomile supplements in 57 people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition that leads to excessive, uncontrollable worry over a variety of things.

Participants who took the supplements had a greater decrease in anxiety than those who got a placebo. But because this was the first controlled study of chamomile for anxiety, more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

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