Natural Treatment Options for Anxiety

While millions of Americans suffer regularly from anxiety disorders, most of them do not seek or receive appropriate treatment. While prescription medications are available, they may come with undesirable side effects including a risk of dependency. There are many natural alternatives that may work for treating anxiety.

When considering supplemental support for anxiety, it is helpful to consider the specific circumstances that surround the primary symptom of concern. These include the age, gender and general health of the individual as well as the nature of any medications and supplements they are already taking.

We must also consider the timing, frequency, and severity of the symptoms. This information can be key to selecting the correct approach.

Nutrients – The Foundation of Health

Proper nutrition is paramount to a healthy life. There are several essential nutrients that are necessary to peace of mind.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 long-chain fatty acids are a critical component of brain tissue, as well as precursors to anti-inflammatory hormones. Inflammation in the brain is associated with attention deficit disorders, depression, and anxiety and may contribute to dementia.

Vitamin D3

Cholecalciferol is a pro-hormone that has profound regulatory effects on our bodies. It acts as a catalyst for the production of many chemistries which can affect our metabolism, mood and immune system.


Critical to over 300 processes in the body, magnesium has a calmative influence in the nervous system allowing the brain and the body to relax.

Herbs – Nature’s Little Helpers

Given the stresses of modern life, even the best diet may not be all that is necessary. There are numerous herbs that can be of assistance, each having unique benefits. Calmatives are gentle herbs that can subtly shift our mood towards a more centered, peaceful state. Adaptogens balance our stress response by acting on the nervous system to improve our reaction to stressors and may increase energy and improve mood.


  • Lemon balm
  • Chamomile
  • Holy basil
  • Lavender
  • Echinacea


  • Ashwagandha
  • Rhodiola
  • Siberian Eleuthero


There are several additional supplements that may support cognitive function and emotional wellness but are not considered “essential.”


An inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the mind and balances the stimulant effect of glutamate (the primary excitatory neurotransmitter).


An amino acid that promotes calm, focus and a meditative state and blocks expression of glutamate


Essential oils have been used for centuries to enhance mood. Diffusing oils into a room where one is working or sleeping may be a helpful step in coping with persistent anxiety. These oils tend to have clarifying/lightening citrus or warming notes.

  • Lavender
  • Grapefruit
  • Bergamot
  • Ylang ylang

Anxiety and Sleep

Sleep disorders are a common challenge, leading people to seek out strong sedatives as a remedy. While sedatives may act to induce sleep, they do not necessarily ensure truly restorative slumber. It may be more helpful to employ calmatives prior to bedtime in cases of chronic anxiety. By lowering levels of stress chemistry, we can allow physical fatigue to inspire restful sleep. Some useful items include l-theanine, l-glycine, magnesium and lemon balm.

Inflammation – a hidden source of anxiety?

One mechanism which may play a role in anxiety is chronic inflammation. When we experience tissue trauma, inflammation is a necessary first step in responding to the injury. However, if inflammation is not resolved in a timely manner, we can experience an elevated expression of glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. When glutamate levels increase, we tend to experience anxiety, restlessness or sleeplessness.

While it is possible to suppress glutamate directly by supplementing with l-theanine, it is ultimately in our best interest to resolve inflammation so that we can return to normal tissue tone and a better balance of neurotransmitters.

Turmeric can be quite helpful in this scenario, as it is a well-known anti-inflammatory and may have benefits for mood and cognition as well.

Special Considerations for Children

While there are many supplements marketed towards and dosed for adults, there exists a need to address childhood anxiety in a safe and effective manner. Fortunately, there are various options available, including liquids, chewables, and teas. Relevant supplements include l-theanine, chamomile, lemon balm, and GABA.

About the Author

Joel Hall

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

At Coastal, Joel is our go-to guy for anything related to supplementation and the complex role nutrients play in every bodily function. Although he may be reserved, helping people find their way to optimal health drives what he does. If you see him staring intently at his computer screen, he’s most likely researching something that most of us can only partly understand. He loves sharing his accumulated knowledge and spends as much time as necessary to explain things in a way to help you make good health decisions. He's been working in the wellness arena since the early 2000's and has been in the pursuit of nutritional knowledge since way before that. You can find him behind the wellness desk Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information read our profile on Joel.


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