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3 MD-Approved Natural Remedies for Anxiety That Really Work — No Side Effects

Finally! Relief for the "epidemic of worry" affecting many women

You don’t need a study to tell you what you feel every day, yet research confirms that anxiety levels are up 25% this year. And with all the pressure women are under, it’s no wonder we’re twice as likely as men to struggle with anxiety. But medications, like benzodiazepines, that many doctors prescribe to treat the condition may not be the answer. According to a new study in PLOS ONE, 90% of participants prescribed drugs for anxiety experienced side effects like lack of energy, sleep problems and, ironically, anxiety. The good news? There are natural remedies for anxiety that are proven to work and can give you lasting relief. Read on for the solutions that can work for you.

Woman pouring out pills from medicine bottle
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

The issue with prescription meds

Why do meds designed to treat anxiety often make it worse? “Benzodiazepines reduce blood flow to the brain, decreasing brain activity, which may make you feel better in the short-term but leads to long-term problems like memory issues and lack of motivation,” says psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, author of Change Your Brain Every Day.

He adds that these meds are addictive and can permanently alter brain chemistry, causing lingering effects, even after you stop taking them. Luckily, there are natural strategies that will help you reclaim calm without side effects. (Click through to learn why taming anxiety is an important fibromyalgia self-care remedy, too.)

Related: These Common Insomnia and Anxiety Drugs May Increase Your Dementia Risk, Study Shows

3 top natural remedies for anxiety

1. Best habit to help anxiety: ‘Golden moves’

Exercise alleviates depression and anxiety by triggering the release of neurotrophic factors, proteins that form a kind of support team for brain cells, lifting our mood, reveals psychiatrist Judson Brewer, MD, author of Unwinding Anxiety. In fact, a study in BJM Sports Medicine revealed that 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate exercise (that’s just 21 minutes a day!) is almost twice as effective at decreasing anxiety as medications.

To reap the most benefits, Dr. Brewer advises heading outdoors for a little “green” exercise — or more aptly for leaf-peeping season, “golden” and “red” activity. “Just the feeling of movement is good for anxiety, and adding nature to that compounds the stress-reducing benefits.” (Click through to learn how yoga for menopause eases anxiety as we age.)

2. Best soothing sip for anxiety: Lavender tea

Cup of lavender tea next to lavender plant

Next time your thoughts loop on an endless worry wheel, consider making yourself a cup of lavender tea, proven to reduce anxiety by curbing the stress hormone cortisol. “Lavender essential oil works phenomenally to boost GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter that decreases anxiety,” explains Valerie Cacho, MD, triple-board-­certified in internal, sleep and integrative medicine.

Research in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that people who drank about 1 cup of lavender tea while inhaling its relaxing aroma twice a day slashed their levels of anxiety and depression. Dr. Cacho adds that lavender also spurs the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which calms racing thoughts and helps you drift off.

Related: 7 Herbal Teas That Will Help You Get the Best Night’s Sleep

3. Best supplement for anxiety: This herb

Ashwagandha boasts an unusual superpower, reveals internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist Melina Jampolis, MD, author of Spice Up, Live Long. “It’s an adaptogen, meaning it adapts to your body. If you’re low, it energizes you — and vice versa, if you’re wired or anxious, it calms you. The herb is very interesting because it’s bidirectional this way.” In other words, it’s a mind reader (or body reader) that gives you what you need when you need it.

And a recent study in Medicine found that people who took 240 mg. of ashwagandha per day for 60 days saw their anxiety levels decrease dramatically. Dr. Jampolis recommends Goli Ashwagandha Gummies. “They are delicious!”

Related: Tossing and Turning at Night? Ashwagandha Is an Ancient Herb That Deepens Sleep Naturally

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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