Herbal remedies are extremely popular choices for controlling anxiety. They're generally available without a prescription, they are believed to provide nearly instant relief, they are more fun to take than modern medicines and less time consuming than therapy. There are many reasons that people turn to herbal teas and natural supplements to cure their anxiety.
But are there healing teas that actually help control anxiety? And if so, what are they? Below, we'll examine the most common healing teas for anxiety and whether or not you can expect to feel anxiety relief.
What is Your Anxiety Score?
All medicines - both natural and prescription - are only temporary fixes. You still need to learn more about your anxiety and have a strategy in place to address the symptoms. Our anxiety test can provide you with statistics about your anxiety, how it compares to others, and what natural treatments will help.
Tea As An Anxiety Strategy
Healing herbal teas are a fun place to start. But even in the best case scenario, they're just a Band Aid for your anxiety. You'll get some relief, but that relief will be temporary and won't be that meaningful. You simply cannot expect any tea to provide you with the cure you need.
That's why those that use tea alone simply cannot hope to see tea as anything other than what it is - a drink that may reduce some of your anxiety. You still need to pair it with coping strategies and tools that will keep your anxiety from coming back. Take my 7 minute anxiety test to get started.
Potential Non-Medicinal Benefits of Tea
Something working in tea's favor is that there are several benefits of drinking tea that are unrelated to the medicinal qualities of the tea itself. In other words, the simple act of drinking nearly any kind of decaffeinated tea can have a fairly unique impact on your ability to reduce your anxiety. The following are very real benefits of drinking tea, even if the tea has zero medicinal value:
- Hydration Any excuse to drink more liquids is a good excuse. Your body needs to be hydrated when you have anxiety. Many people with anxiety don't drink enough water, and this always makes anxiety symptoms worse. Drinking any type of beverage can be helpful, but tea, especially, is a healthy drink that has no additives that can contribute to poorer health. That makes it a smart drink to add to your diet.
- Calm Activity Drinking tea is also a slow, calm activity. That is something more people with anxiety need. They need an opportunity to sit back and allow themselves to relax. You can't run around with your tea. The simple act of drinking tea is the type of naturally calming activity that can be very healthy for the spirit.
- Routine Finally, drinking tea becomes part of a routine, and routines themselves are naturally relaxing. Chances are you'll pour yourself a cup of tea regularly and sit down with a paper or the TV and simply enjoy your life. That routine may not be an anxiety cure on its own, but every little bit helps.
There are also the potential benefits of antioxidants that may be beneficial for overall health, and when your body is healthy your anxiety is less prone to extreme fluctuations.
None of these are medicinal in any way, and none of these are cures for anxiety. But every little bit helps, and these additional benefits of drinking tea are very real and beneficial for those that are suffering.
Also Note: More Powerful Herbal Medicine = More Dangers
Another common misconception about natural medicine is that because it's natural it's safe. This is not the case. The more powerful the herb, the more you need to take precautions to ensure that it's safe for you to take it.
That's because for any medicine to work - herbal or otherwise - it needs to be able to alter your body and brain chemistry. Both mental health herbs and medications have to affect your neurotransmitters or hormones to work, because those are what create anxiety in the first place. But if you're taking a medication that affects these neurotransmitters - even if it's natural - you need to make sure that you're taking it safely. Everything that can affect your brain can have side effects. The more powerful it is, the more likely it interacts with other medications or has an effect on different body types.
That's not to say that natural medicine isn't better. Quite the contrary - natural medicine should always be the preferred choice assuming that it works effectively. But it's always a good idea to talk with a doctor before taking any herbal tea or natural supplement because there may be side effects that you need to be careful of.
Herbal Teas That Fight Anxiety
With that information in mind, there are several herbal teas for anxiety. Make sure that you're taking one without caffeine. Caffeine itself can cause anxiety attacks in some people. The following are possible herbal/natural solutions for anxiety:
Kava is by far the most well-known an well-researched herbal treatment available for controlling anxiety symptoms. Many have likened the effects of kava to a very common anxiety drug called Buspar, and kava itself appears to have all of the qualities of an effective herbal remedy - it's non-addictive and can be taken as needed, it's safe, and it is completely natural.
However, there are a few things to note about kava tea. First, the kava tea you buy at a grocery store is not strong enough to combat anxiety. You need 300 or so kavalactones a day at some estimates, and basic teas only provide 30 to 50 - not enough to feel any effects. You'll need to buy a more pure kava herbal tea, like the ones sold in tea shops. You'll also need to combine it with something that has fat in it, like butter or coconut milk.
Secondly, kava is strong enough that it interacts with some medications and should never be taken with alcohol. It also shouldn't be taken by those with liver disease. While you should talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedy, kava itself should never be taken without a doctor's approval.
Nevertheless, kava tea is one of the few herbs that appears to have a very well-known and real effect on anxiety, and is something you can strongly consider.
Passionflower tea is "kava-lite." It's not nearly as strong as kava and fewer studies have confirmed its benefits, but many people swear that Passionflower has provided them with the same relaxation effects as kava without the same risk of side effects.
Because passionflower's "dosing" isn't quite as well known, it's unclear whether store-bought teas provide enough of the flavonoids that make passionflower effective. Research has only focused on "drops" of passionflower extract, usually around 30 drops three times a day. In tea, the amount of flavonoids compared to a "drop" is much less clear. It's best to start small and work your way up, seeing if there is any effect along the way.
Valerian Root Tea
Valerian root is unique, in that while it is not designed for anxiety, many people find that the calming nature of valerian is extremely effective for soothing anxiety symptoms. Valerian's traditional use is as a sleep aid. Many people use valerian root to help them get to sleep when they're suffering from insomnia.
But those same calming properties may have an effect on anxiety as well. In this case, valerian is dealing with anxiety symptoms directly, not the anxiety itself. You will still have anxious thoughts, but those thoughts won't create as many physical symptoms. Physical symptoms often lead to more mental symptoms, so you may still find that your mind wanders less as a result of both the lack of tension and the tiring of your mind and body.
Valerian root should be taken carefully until you know how it affects you. The tea should be taken at night at first to see if it helps aid your sleep. If you decide it is providing you with the effects you'd hoped for, try taking it during the day, but make sure that you avoid driving until you know how fatigued it makes you feel.
Other Teas for Anxiety
There are countless other teas that may be useful for anxiety. St. John's Wort, for example, is a popular tea used for depression. In many people, depression and anxiety are linked, so drinking St. John's Wort may actually improve anxiety symptoms.
Other popular tea choices include:
- Chamomile Tea
- Peppermint Tea
- Lemon Balm Tea
None of these teas have much support behind them, but users of the teas swear to their effectiveness and with the exception of peppermint tea (which can aggravate gastroesophageal reflux disorder), none of the teas appear to have any side effects.
Combining Tea With Effective Treatments
Regardless of your thoughts on teas as an anxiety treatment, no tea or medicine should ever be taken alone. These treatment types only reduce anxiety symptoms temporarily. They don't affect your ability to cope with future stresses or the likelihood of controlling your anxiety in the future.
You also don't want to depend on any quick fix without complementing it with a better treatment option. If you do, and it works, you will start to naturally depend on that treatment more and more. Eventually, you'll "need" the tea to reduce anxiety, and will be much less able to cope on your own.
That's why it's crucial that you combine any tea with a treatment that has been proven effective for long term anxiety management.
Take my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about the available options.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.