This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Approximately 25 % of the population have an anxiety disorder that warrants treatment at some time in their life.
Anxiety can range from mild to severe. Experiencing mild anxiety at some point in your life can be a natural response to stressful situations. However, when anxiety increases it can significantly affect one’s quality of life.
Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Spending a lot of time and energy thinking about “worst case scenarios”
Changes in appetite
Moving around a lot more than usual (fidgeting a lot)
Cold or sweaty hands or feet
Shortness of breath
Not being able to be still and calm
Wanting to use alcohol or other substances to decrease symptoms of worrying (ie. self-medicating)
Medically, anxiety is treated in a variety of different ways. The exact treatment approach often depends on the type of anxiety disorder and often multiple types of treatment provide the best outcome.
Anxiety Treatment Options
Drugs that are often prescribed to relieve symptoms of anxiety include antidepressants, benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants and low-dose antipsychotics. For some, these medications can be extremely helpful to reduce symptoms. For others, medication may sedate them too much, causing them to feel groggy, dizzy, tired and confused.
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy is an excellent adjunct to anxiety treatment. CBT is usually taught by a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in an organized way, attending a certain number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. This is ideal as the more mindful we are of our thoughts, the better we become at controlling our responses to our thoughts- over time this can significantly improve our mood.
Relaxation therapy, such as deep breathing and yoga can be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Find our downloadable e-book here for instructions on how to use relaxation therapy for anxiety
Herbal Remedies. Certain herbs, such as Kava-Kava have been used for years to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and calm the mind.
Kava is a beverage or extract prepared from Piper methysticum, a plant that is native to western Pacific Islands. The name “kava” is derived from the Polynesian word “awa” which means bitter.
Pacific Islanders consume a kava-kava drink at social, ritual and ceremonial functions to increase feelings of relaxation and euphoria, as well as to commemorate marriages, births, and deaths. In fact, kava bars are a social staple of many Pacific islands, and they’ve been popping up in the U.S. as well!
Orally, kava is used to treat anxiety disorders, stress, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insomnia, and restlessness. Kava is found in liquid formulations, tablets, capsules and tea.
The main active ingredients in kava root are called kavalactones (kavapyrones). These chemicals (including kawain, dihydrokavain, and methysticum) have been extensively studied in a laboratory and animal studies. The studies have found that kava can help to promote sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Kava interacts with CNS depressants (alcohol, benzodiazepenes, and other medications/drugs). Additionally, US FDA advises that a potential risk of rare, but severe, liver injury may be associated with kava-containing dietary supplements. Kava should not be taken during pregnancy or lactation. It is very important that you seek the advice of a medical care practitioner before using Kava-Kava.
Kava Tea for Anxiety Disorders
Kava is commonly found in packaged tea, dry powder or dried root at local health food stores. Kava is usually made into a drink that’s prepared by grinding, grating or pounding the roots of the plant, then soaking the pulp in cold water coconut milk.
Traditionally, the root was chewed, spit into a bowl and mixed with coconut milk or water. That practice is no longer the standard, probably for health reasons!! As Kava root can be slightly bitter, adding honey or coconut cream to the tea can make the taste more enjoyable.
Remember to speak to your health care professional before using Kava.
Yours in Vitality,
Anxiety and Depression Associated of America, 2016
National Institute of Health, 2016
Natural Medicines Database, 2016
Boerner RJ, Sommer H, Berger W, et al. Kava-Kava extract LI 150 is as effective as Opipramol and Buspirone in Generalised Anxiety Disorder–an 8-week randomized, double-blind multi-centre clinical trial in 129 out-patients. Phytomedicine. 2003;10 Suppl 4:38-49.
Cagnacci A, Arangino S, Renzi A, et al. Kava-Kava administration reduces anxiety in perimenopausal women. Maturitas. 2003;44(2):103-109
Ernst E. Safety concerns about kava. Lancet 2002;359(9320):1865.