Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million people—20 percent of the population—in the United States. And during unsettling times like these, those figures are much higher.
To make matters worse, most prescription drugs used to treat anxiety disorders don’t work and can even cause great harm.
Fortunately, a new study from my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, found that you can experience “significant” relief from anxiety with a natural, safe, and time-tested herbal remedy. Plus—it even helps improve symptoms of another common mood disorder!
The study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which I had started publishing 25 years ago. And I’ll tell you all about it in a moment.
But first, let’s take a closer look at this gentle, time-tested remedy that dates back thousands of years…
Ancient flowering herb used medicinally for centuries
Chamomile is a flowering herb that’s been used medicinally for centuries. It belongs to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants. The most common varieties are:
- German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
- Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
(Both varieties contain the essential oil chamazulene, although German chamomile contains a higher concentration.)
Over hundreds of years, practitioners of natural medicine have routinely prescribed chamomile for everything from menstrual disorders to hay fever to insomnia. In fact, a cup of chamomile tea at bedtime is still a well-known remedy to induce calm, relaxation, and sleep. Indeed, my grandmother and mother (who between them went through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II in France) often drank a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime.
Chamomile is still particularly popular in Germany (the country that was once the source of anxiety and depression for the French). In fact, today, Germany leads the world in research into and production of herbal remedies like chamomile. And the chamomile extract used in the new study I mentioned above actually came from Germany…
Chamomile eases anxiety and depression in new study
For the new study, researchers at U Penn recruited 179 men and women who had been diagnosed with at least a moderately severe general anxiety disorder (GAD).
People with GAD also often experience low mood and depression. So, at the study’s outset, the researchers noted which participants suffered from just GAD (with no depression) and those who suffered GAD with depression. They also assessed the severity of the participants’ anxiety and depression using several standard indexes.
Then, they randomly divided all of the participants into two groups…
The first group took a 1,500 mg supplement of dried chamomile extract daily for eight weeks. (They could reduce the dosage, as needed.) And the second group took a placebo.
After eight weeks, all of the participants with GAD who took the chamomile extract experienced “significant improvement” in anxiety scores (which researchers defined as an improvement greater than 50 percent) compared to the placebo group. In addition, those who had GAD with depression also experienced significant improvements!
The researchers concluded that chamomile produces meaningful improvements in anxiety as well as depression, in those prone to it.
Explore your safe, natural, herbal remedies
In my view, we need much more research into these kinds of natural, time-tested remedies for anxiety and depression. Because, as I mentioned earlier, the prescription drugs often used to treat the conditions cause serious side effects, habituation, and withdrawal symptoms. Plus, a significant body of evidence links antidepressant drugs to suicide or even homicidal thoughts of harming others.
By contrast, chamomile is a mild, gentle remedy that works over time. And most people seem to tolerate it quite well.
You can take chamomile, as the study participants did, as an herbal supplement. Of course, they took 1,500 mg a day and lowered it as needed. But I’d suggest you start at just 350 to 400 mg daily and see how you feel after a couple of weeks. You can always increase the dosage from there, as needed. Just don’t exceed 1,500 mg.
You can also enjoy chamomile tea nightly, as my mother and grandmother did, to soothe your anxiety and help induce sleep. Or—you can add fresh chamomile blossoms, if you can find them, in smoothies or fruit salads.
I also recommend applying chamomile essential oil as a topical roll-on “aromatherapy” ingredient for improved sleep and mood. In fact, the most effective sleep-inducing essential oils are: lavender, chamomile, orange, peppermint, eucalyptus, and limonene.
Indeed, over the last year, our daughter used a topical preparation that combined these essential oils (blended with vitamin E and coconut oil) to help her achieve perfect sleep throughout her pregnancy, labor, and after the birth of our healthy granddaughter in October 2020. So, I know firsthand how effective and safe essential oils can be, just as the science shows.
(You can learn more about essential oils in the April 2020 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures [“April showers bring pain-relieving plant oils”]. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to become one!)
In addition to chamomile, there are dozens of safe and effective non-drug approaches to anxiety, depression, pain, and other chronic conditions. You can learn all about these safe, effective approaches in my books, Your Emotional Type and Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain: Keys to Treatment Based on Your Emotional Type.
You can also learn about which non-drug treatments will work best for you or a loved one by taking this simple quiz.
P.S. If you find yourself really struggling with depression or with suicidal thoughts, please don’t wait to seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.
“Putative Antidepressant Effect of Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) Oral Extract in Subjects with Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9/18/20. 26(9): 815-821. doi.org/10.1089/acm.2019.0252