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January 5, 2012

Do Alternative Anxiety Treatments Really Work?

Prescription medication and psychotherapy are proven to help treat anxiety disorders. But what about other alternative therapies? Complementary and alternative medicines refer to a range of treatment options that are less Western in their approach as compared to the mainstream medical community. One such anxiety treatment is the use of herbal supplements like St. John's wort, valerian, and chamomile. The yellow-flowering plant known as St. John's wort is the most popular herb believed to combat anxiety and depression symptoms. St. John's Wort has been used in traditional medicine practices of many cultures for hundreds of years. Recently, the plant has attracted attention as an alternative, more natural medicine for depression and anxiety. The exact method of action and active compounds are not fully known, and various studies differ in terms of proving efficacy beyond placebo effect. St. John's Wort can interact negatively with other prescriptions you may be taking, so check with your health provider before using. Valerian is a hardy, pink-flowering plant, which is another herbal option for treating anxiety, more specifically, acute anxiety. It's a mild sedative thought to affect the same brain pathways as anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax. Evidence of valerian's effectiveness and mode of action have not yet been truly established, though many report positive results. Talk to your healthcare provider for more information. Lastly, chamomile is used for a variety of purposes, like as a sleep aid, for digestive upset and for helping with anxiety. The chamomile plant bears daisy-like flowers, from which a tea is often made. It's been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years as a calming and soothing herb. It's the most gentle-acting of the herbs mentioned in this video. While some people swear by chamomile, valerian, or St. John's wort, none are FDA approved, and studies have shown conflicting information. People seeking natural anxiety relief may look to another alternative cure, like acupuncture. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese healing practice, which involves placing thin needles in specific points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. According to the Chinese philosophy, acupuncture points are situated on meridians along which qi, or life energy, flows. Pain, disease and mental illness are thought to be related to energy blockage and/or imbalances in the body. Acupuncture needles are used to both regulate and balance the flow of Qi, blood and other body fluids, in turn restoring the body and mind to health. The World Health Organization or W.H.O., published a review of controlled studies using acupuncture and concluded it was effective for the treatment of 28 conditions, and possibly more, among them anxiety and depression. But acupuncture is not the only healing technique used to treat anxiety disorders. Massage is another therapy used to help allay the symptoms of anxiety. During a massage, a therapist manipulates your body's soft tissues - muscles, skin and tendons - using fingertips, hands, fists and elbows. Massage can release tension in muscles, and is used for relaxation and relief of stress and anxiety. It's generally used as an adjunct to other therapies. Many people find that the deep, focused thought known as meditation can dramatically reduce physical and mental symptoms of anxiety. And studies, like a recent one at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, have shown that meditation has a clear effect in emotion centers of the brain. If you're interested in exploring non-western techniques for managing your anxiety, talk to your doctor to get some good resources for alternative therapies. Some insurance companies will pay, so it pays to do your research!


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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012