Anxiety is an increasingly common psychological disorder. One of the major ways to deal with anxiety symptoms is with prescription medication. While these medications work well for most people in controlling symptoms, they do not cure anxiety. The only way to cure anxiety is to engage in psychotherapy with a well-qualified professional.
Many of these medications also have some significant side effects. One of the most troublesome is the possibility of addiction if the medications are used for long periods of time or are abused. Some of them will also tend to lose their effectiveness if used for long periods.
Over the Counter Remedies
While there is no specific over the counter anxiety medication, there are some choices you have for more natural ways of dealing with anxiety symptoms. Just like with the prescription medications, these natural remedies do not cure anxiety. They relieve the symptoms temporarily.
Many of these over the counter anxiety medications are herbal and other supplements. It is very important for you to consult with your healthcare professional before taking these supplements. Some of them interact with medications you may be taking. When you purchase any of these supplements, be sure they contain only natural ingredients. Some manufacturers of these substances will add artificial sweeteners, caffeine, artificial flavors, and GMOs.
Passion flower. An herbal supplement that can be made into teas or tinctures. The leaves, petals, and stems are used. This supplement aids in helping you sleep and in lowering anxiety levels. Even though there are few research studies on how passion flower helps with anxiety, it has proven effective. It is thought to increase levels of GABA in the brain, which would explain its calming effects. It has also been known to reduce hyperactivity and is a good supplement for children.
Passion flower is considered generally safe for people to take in normal doses, but may be unsafe in large amounts. It may cause dizziness and confusion when first taken. Avoid taking this supplement if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.
Valerian Root. The root of this herbal supplement is ground and made into a tea or into pills. Tea made from this root is very strong and may be too pungent for some people. Valerian root is considered sedating and should be taken at night for this reason. It’s helpful for both anxiety and insomnia.
Valerian root is considered generally safe for people to take. Because of the lack of research information regarding its effects on women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, you should probably avoid taking it.
St. John’s Wort. This supplement has been used with mild depression and anxiety with some success. An anti-depressant and sedative, it has been used for children and young adults especially.
St. John’s Wort has been known to interact with some medications, so consult with your physician before taking it. Some birth control medications have been rendered ineffective when taken with St. John’s Wort. Generally considered safe in reasonable doses taken by mouth, this supplement may not be safe taken in large doses. Avoid taking this supplement if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. Because of some effects on certain diseases and conditions, consult with your physician before taking.
Benadryl. This over the counter anxiety medication isn’t an herbal supplement. It is used for temporary relief of anxiety symptoms. It is very sedating, so it should be taken at night. The sedation will help you sleep, and it is non-addictive.
Benadryl loses its effectiveness if used consistently over a long period of time. Dizziness, constipation, stomach upset, and dry mouth are common side effects.
Inositol. A natural substance that has a sweet taste, inositol has been found to be as effective as fluvoxamine for treating panic attacks. It is a carbohydrate found in many plants.
Inositol has been considered generally safe for people to take. Because of the lack of information regarding its effects on pregnancy and breast-feeding, it’s best to avoid it if you’re in one of these categories.
Lavender. A flowering plant in the mint family, lavender oil has been found to be more effective than placebo in dealing with anxiety. It has been shown to have fewer side effects than paroxetine, and as effective as lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder. It is not sedative or addictive.
For adults, lavender appears to be safe for use. But it’s unsafe for boys who haven’t yet reached puberty. Some significant detrimental effects on development may occur in these boys.
L-lysine and L-arginine. Taken in combination, these amino acids have been shown to be effective for relieving anxiety in adults.
L-arginine appears safe for all ages to take. High levels of this amino acid may cause serious side effects in children. Due to lack of information regarding its effects on pregnancy and breast-feeding, it should not be taken for long periods of time. There are possible negative effects on some illnesses and conditions, so you should consult your physician before taking.
L-theanine. This is an amino acid in green tea. It has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety in healthy subjects and in those with psychosis.
The only potential side effect with this amino acid comes for those who are pregnant or breast-feeding. A lack of reliable information suggests you should avoid taking it.
Omega-3 fatty acid. Necessary for normal metabolism, these fatty acids have been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety in normal subjects. It also was found to help anxiety symptoms in a sample of people with substance abuse issues.
A fishy taste, upset stomach, and nausea were the main side effects of this fatty acid.
Ginkgo Biloba. This supplement has been shown to be effective compared to placebo in controlling anxiety in generalized anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder with anxiety.
While generally safe for use, this supplement is unsafe if used intravenously. Roasted or fresh seeds are unsafe.
5-HTP. This amino acid occurs naturally in foods like turkey, milk, and pumpkins. It is turned into tryptophan in the body. Serotonin and melatonin come from tryptophan and are thought to be good mood stabilizers.
Possibly safe when taken by mouth, 5-HTP is considered unsafe if taken in large doses. With no reliable information regarding effects on pregnancy or breast-feeding, it is to be avoided if you are in one of these categories.
Vitamin C. A lack of vitamin C has been linked to the development of anxiety. It occurs naturally in fresh fruits and helps protect the body from illnesses.
It is probably safe for most people to take in normal doses. However, large doses could cause significant side effects. There are some illnesses and conditions in which vitamin C should be avoided. Consult your physician before taking it.
Biotin. One of the B vitamins, biotin is said to be able to calm nerves and relieve anxiety. Lack of sufficient levels of biotin has been shown to result in irritability and anxiety.
Biotin is probably safe to consume in reasonable doses.
Niacin. Another of the B vitamins, niacin helps you relax and fall asleep faster. This is a positive factor in dealing with anxiety.
Common side effects of niacin include:
- Itching under the skin
- Tingly skin
- Sweating or chills
More serious side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Serious allergic reaction
- Uneven heartbeat
- Severe stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Flu-like symptoms
Calcium. In addition to its other beneficial health effects, calcium stabilizes mood and alleviates anxiety symptoms.
Calcium is considered safe for use in appropriate doses. However, it is unsafe when taken in large doses. There are some health conditions in which the safety is less assured. Consult with your physician before taking calcium as a supplement.
Zinc. This supplement plays a major role in keeping your immune system working well. Because it plays an important role in synthesizing serotonin, zinc is thought to decrease the anxiety found in generalized anxiety disorder.
Zinc is likely safe for adults in general usage. It is unsafe in large doses or if inhaled through the nose. There may be some health conditions in which zinc would not be considered safe to take.
Potassium. Low potassium may bring on anxiety symptoms. Stress and mental fatigue may also be results of low potassium. Increasing potassium may relieve symptoms of anxiety.
Potassium is considered safe for use in reasonable doses. Too much potassium can lead to burning and tingling, generalized weakness, dizziness, and low blood pressure. If you have digestive a disorder that slows food passing through the body, you should avoid potassium. If you’re allergic to aspirin or tartrazine products, you should avoid potassium.
Melatonin. This hormone has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety in several studies. It is said to aid in sleep, as well.
Melatonin is considered safe for use by adults. It is likely unsafe for use if pregnant or breast-feeding.
While neither prescription nor over the counter anxiety medications cure the condition, the OTC products can be a welcome alternative for the side-effect producing prescription meds.