Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses. About 15 percent of the population suffers from the condition. How can medicinal plants and natural healing methods help?

An anxiety disorder occurs when you regularly suffer from various anxiety characteristics that cause problems in daily life or at work. Women are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than men. These are serious issues that significantly reduce the quality of life.

Nerve messengers, also called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, transmit anxiety impulses from one brain cell to another. Three brain areas are involved: the amygdala, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. They belong to the limbic system, which controls emotional behavior and form the “fear circuit” in the brain.

In the amygdala, emotional information is processed. If you experience danger or anxiety, the brain processes the information about it first in this place. Then the hippocampus gives it meaning. If you are afraid, the connection between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal cortex becomes confused.

Which medicinal plants regulate the imbalance?

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)

Studies show that cannabidiol (CBD) has an anxiolytic effect: CBD reduces anxiety, restlessness and nervousness. Even in cases of acute anxiety, CBD has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and restlessness. CBD acts on a number of receptors, similar to the pharmacological anxiolytics (anxiety-dampening drugs). Unlike these drugs, however, CBD does not cause drowsiness. In addition, even with prolonged use, there is no dependency. Studies show that activity in the amygdala decreases after taking CBD. The amygdala is an almond-shaped nucleus in the brain that is involved in experiencing, processing and controlling various feelings, including anxiety.

In other brain regions, activity also decreases after taking CBD, including in the hippocampus, which is important for processes such as learning and memory. The hippocampus plays a role in linking anxiety memories to the place where they happened, and the hippocampus can activate the amygdala based on a reminder.

CBD can also interact with the so-called 5HT1A receptor (serotonin receptor in the brain). There is a link between serotonin transmission between neurons and anxiety. The 5HT1A receptor is involved.

  • Saffron

Saffron has been used against diseases since ancient times. In Iran, saffron is not only a traditional remedy for colds, hoarseness, inflammation and asthma, but also for internal restlessness, depression and delusions. A high quality saffron preparation contains saffron extract with a guaranteed high concentration of crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin.

Various components of saffron (crocin, crocetin, saffron) regulate the stress response (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis), stimulate GABAergic neurotransmission and inhibit the resumption of monoamine neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in the brain. Studies have shown that saffron has calming and anti-anxiety effects.

  • Ashwaganda (Sleeping Berry)

Ashwaganda, a medicinal plant from the Indian medicine Ayurveda, which is also called sleepberry, Indian ginseng or winter cherry, has strong stress- and anxiety-reducing effects by regulating the stress system (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympatho-adrenal system), supporting the adrenal function and inhibiting oxidative stress. Ashwaganda counteracts the stress-related lowering of serotonin levels and increases cortisol and glutamate levels.

Stress reduction and anxiety reduction (anxiolysis) are also the result of stimulation of GABAergic neurotransmission. In several human studies involving participants with chronic stress, taking Ashwaganda extract led to a reduction in cortisol levels (an important stress marker) and CRP (C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker).

Ashwaganda reduced anxiety and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. It also reduces concentration problems and forgetfulness.

  • L-Theanine

L-Theanine is a water-soluble, glutamine-like amino acid that gives green tea its characteristic taste. Theanine is absorbed quickly after ingestion and usually develops a relaxing and calming effect within 30 minutes, without causing drowsiness or fatigue.

Relaxation is accompanied by an increase in alpha waves in the brain. Taken before sleep, Theanine can improve sleep quality. Theanine also affects various neurotransmitter systems in the brain (GABA, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate).

Cassidy Perry

A certified dietician specializing in diabetes care, Cassidy has over a decade of experience working with diverse patient backgrounds. She writes health-related articles for the Scientific Origin.