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3 Herbs That May Help Improve Stress

2014 February 25
by camillaellis

Herbal remedies for stress have existed throughout history, only relatively recently having been replaced by the generic, mass-marketed pharmaceuticals that are more familiar to us today. The appeal of a return to natural rather than chemically engineered medicine and a wish to minimize side effects has rekindled public interest in herbal remedies for stress and anxiety, including the three listed below: namely, kava, passionflower, and St. John’s wort.


Kava is an herbal supplement derived from the root of the kava plant, Piper methysticum. Kava roots contain the active ingredient kavalactone, which is reported to have sedative properties that, unlike many commercial anti-anxiety drugs, do not disrupt mental clarity. It has traditionally been used by Pacific Ocean cultures including those of Polynesia and Hawaii.

Kava should be taken in relatively small doses (250 mg of kavalactones per dose). In addition, while distilled Kava in liquid form often contains alcohol and can therefore be damaging to the liver, powdered Kava in the form of pills seems to mitigate the liver toxicity problem.

Passion Flower

Passion flower or Passiflora is an herb originally used by Indigenous Americans to relieve anxiety. The active ingredient in this supplement is a flavone called chrysin. Studies suggest that chrysin acts as a relaxant and sleep aid to a degree comparable to that of the commercial anti-anxiety medicine Xanax, while producing less drowsiness.

This supplement can be brewed into a soothing tea. One tablespoon of the herb should be allowed to steep for 10 minutes in a cup of hot water. The tea is best drunk in the evening or at night before bed to encourage more restful sleep.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) was perhaps first used by the Greeks and the Romans to relieve “melancholy” or “troubled spirits,” among a great many other mental and physical ailments. Christians later found religious symbolism in the flower’s appearance and suspected it could be used to ward off the “demons” thought to be responsible for mental disorders. Fortunately for the Greeks, Romans and later Christians, the herb happens to contains the active ingredient Hyperforin, which studies have suggested can function as a GABA reuptake inhibitor similar to various commercial anti-anxiety treatments.

The recommended dosage of St. John’s Wort is 300 mg at a time, up to 3 times daily. Because the active ingredient in St. John’s Wort can interact negatively with various commercial medicines, it is best to consult with your doctor before beginning treatment with it.

Tips on Taking Herbal Supplements for Anxiety

When taking herbal supplements as treatment for anxiety is important to remember not to mix medications, herbal supplements included. Though natural, herbal remedies have active constituents that can have very real effects on the brain and body and should not be allowed to interact with one another without the supervision of a medical health professional.

Though most doctors are more familiar with and will therefore recommend commercial drugs as alternatives to natural medicines, naturopaths and doctors who specialize in herbal medicines may be able to tell you more about which combinations are safe for your health, and which you should avoid.

About the Author: While Ryan Rivera does support modern medicine, herbal supplements often represent a safe and alternative solution to the anxiety medications that many people try to avoid. He writes about herbs, and other methods of overcoming stress and anxiety at

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