There are so many options to help you improve your mental health. You are a superorganism! Your mental health is influenced by your thoughts, your bacteria (yes, the bacteria that live inside you), what you eat, what you think, how you move your body, and much more. That is AMAZING. * You * are amazing. Don’t you forget it.
But, this post is about naturopathic supports, thus, that is what I’ll focus on.
Here are my Top 5 Herbs and Supplements
Passionflower (Latin Name: Passiflora incarnata)
In herbal medicine, Passion Flower, is known as a nervine, anxiolytic, sedative (mild), and spasmolytic. I’ll queue you into the nervine and anxiolytic actions here as they are the most telling of the herb in its use in anxiety. It’s known to help calm the central nervous system, relieve nervous tension, and even improve sleep quality. It is a very gentle herb and I use it often in clinical practice.
There is a good amount of research on Passion flower and its anxiolytic effects, thus, this is not an exhaustive overview. But, here are some resources if you’d like to delve into the scientific literature.
Here is a study on Passion flower effectively relieving anxiety prior to dental extractions and shown comparable to Midazolam (a sedative). It’s even been studied in effectively reducing anxiety before spinal surgery!
Some studies suggest that Passion flower works to decrease feelings of anxiety and tension by increasing levels of GABA in the central nervous system. This is a small rat study suggesting Passion flower increases GABA due to increased metabolites of glutamic acid and serotonin in rats given passiflora extract. And, here is another rat study suggesting Passion flower’s effect on GABA receptors.
This herb is available in tincture, glycerite (herb extracted in glycerine instead of alcohol), capsule, tea, and solid extract. All have slightly different potency and use.
Kava Kava (Latin Name: Piper methysticum)
Much like Passion flower, Kava Kava has similar botanical actions which include: anxiolytic, hypnotic, sedative, analgesic, spasmolytic, and anodyne. Yes, in addition to helping relieve stress it can also help certain conditions involving pain. One of the main active constituents is kavalactones, which also can cause a tingly sensation on the tongue if you take the herb in tincture form. Supposedly this speaks to the potency of the herbal tincture but I don’t have any research on that. :)
This is a placebo-controlled crossover trial with Kava Kave shown to effectively reduce anxiety, as well as, depression.
Like Passion flower, this herb is available in tincture, glycerite, capsule, tea, and solid extract. All have slightly different potency and use.
Be careful with this herb, as it can be strong and may interact with other medications that lower your central nervous system function. And, in rare cases, chronic overdoses can increase liver enzymes.
Glycine is an amino acid that has a variety of roles in the human body, despite being seen as ‘non-essential’ (source). It has been shown to improve tissue perfusion, gastrointestinal health, ligament strength, and lessen feelings of anxiety. Like GABA, glycine is inhibitory to the CNS which is likely why it improves mood and decreases anxiety.
It’s sweet tasting, thus, readily available in powder form. Some people like to put it in tea or coffee to make it a bit sweeter PLUS get their daily dose of glycine. :)
Inositol is a type of sugar that is abundant in the brain and heart. It has been linked to benefiting multiple aspects of health, including blood sugar metabolism, PCOS, anxiety, infertility, gestational diabetes, depression, and anxiety.
Here is a meta analysis of inositol showing improvement in depressed and anxious patients. And, here is a study showing it helpful in improving mental health and reducing signs of oxidative stress in PCOS patients.
Like glycine, this is also available in powder form. But also regularly found in capsules or combination products.
Theanine is another ‘non-essential’ amino acid, but has a great role in helping calm the central nervous system and decrease feelings of anxiety. It’s one of the active ingredients found in green tea! It helps create a relaxing effect without sedation and safe to take during the day.
In this randomized controlled trial, L-theanine was shown to decrease stress-related symptom scores and improve cognitive function after 4 weeks of use.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only. Discuss any changes to your healthcare plan with your licensed physician.