Herbal Healing for Social Anxiety
Let’s be real, the last two years have been a shit show economically, politically and health wise. Isolation has been detrimental to mental health and now that we’re back to normality it’s been a struggle to adjust to being normal social humans again. Rates of social anxiety have skyrocketed with nearly 60% of employees in the UK experiencing symptoms of anxiety, as shown by a study done in 2022 by Champion Health. In the last three months in England alone, there was 19.6 million antidepressant drugs prescribed by the NHS, which is a 4% increase from last year's quarter. These prescription drugs can be a lifeline for some, but the increasing number in patients begs the question, are these heavily concentrated drugs with high rates of side effects, really the best way of solving this epidemic?
Medicinal herbalism is the oldest form of treatment for disease and illness. It has been around pretty much the same as humans have, so it’s really on us to preserve this sacred tradition and make sure it doesn’t get lost behind the noise of big pharma. Herbal medicines have a low rate of side effects compared to pharmaceuticals and many studies have shown excellent results in the treatment of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Some people view medical herbalism as being elementary and unsophisticated and in fact, one of those statements is true. Using plants as medicine IS elementary because all living things, including plants, are made from four elements- earth, fire, water and air. So, it makes sense to heal ourselves with a remedy that holds the same elements within us, instead of nasty man-made chemicals, right?
Nervines and nervine sedatives are two classes of herbs that are generally used for relaxing and unwinding. Nervine herbs are more suitable for battling social anxiety as they are the milder option and can be used throughout the day without making us feel too drowsy or sleepy. Nervine sedatives are stronger and usually are only advised for use at nighttime.
To understand how to treat anxiety we must firstly find where the symptoms of discomfort are showing up in the body in relation to the parts of the nervous system- the head, heart and gut. This is another benefit of using medicinal plants over prescribing general anxiety medication as we can choose the medicine based on the specific root source of the problem.
Our friend calls us up and invites us to come hang out. We reach her house only to find she's invited a bunch of people we’ve never met before and suddenly our head is on fire, and we can barely string an audible sentence together. We go home and space out, overthinking the whole situation for the rest of the night, spiraling deeper and deeper into self-hatred whilst falling asleep watching reruns of friends.
Herbal remedies for the head:
- Skullcap (literally caps the skull) has been found to cool an overwhelmed mind.
- Lavender is another popular one for calming the mind due to its linalool content. In a controlled study, the administration of small quantities of linalool oxide resulted in researchers being able to forge a direct comparison between linalool and diazepam.
- Lemon Balm is one of the more popular herbs for calming acute anxiety and restless thoughts. It contains neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid which regulates an overactive brain. A 2004 study found that taking lemon balm eased the negative mood effects of laboratory-induced psychological stress.
- Passionflower has been said to be effective on easing looping scattered mind. In one clinical trial, researchers found that passionflower had results similar to anti-anxiety medication.
- White Sage is a great herb for cleansing negative energy and helping us remain calm, cool and collected.
We’ve all been there before; we have a presentation at work or school and suddenly our heart starts racing a hundred miles per hour and the palpitations feel like they’re going to burst out of our chest. For treatment of heart palpitations, a doctor might prescribe a beta blocker which can result in multiple side effects such as headaches, slowing of heartbeat, shortness of breath, sexual dysfunction or low libido! So, let’s have a look at some less harmful herbal alternatives instead.
Herbal remedies for the heart:
- Motherwort belongs to the mint family and also goes by the name lion's tail. The antispasmodic property of motherwort makes it a great plant to regulate a rapid and irregular heartbeat chiefly caused by anxiety or stress.
Lemon Balm extract at 500 mg twice daily significantly decreased frequency of episodes of benign heart palpitations and anxiety in a study done in 2016 by Dr Tori Hudson.
- Lindon Flower is known for easing nervous tension and promoting relaxation.
- Rose improves mental clarity, eliminates depression, and improves moods. It is also known to balance the heart chakra.
Palms are sweaty, knees weak arms are heavy, vomit on our sweater already? Uh oh, looks like a case of tummy nerves. The symptoms of anxiety in the gut can be loss of appetite, pain, flatulence, nausea, bloating, diarrhea and compulsive comfort eating. We may sometimes notice that we hold our stomach at times of discomfort in social situations- this is another sign of an anxious belly.
Herbal remedies for the gut:
- Chamomile is one of our favourite herbs for calming stomach issues. It helps soothe muscle spasms and tension which can ease stomach discomfort.
- Lavender is one we have already mentioned but it really is one of the best mild relaxants for all types of anxiety. Just take a whiff of a lavender bundle and you will feel instant relief.
- Red Raspberry has antispasmodic and astringent properties that are ideal for calming lower belly spasms, soothing period pain and diarrhea.
- Peppermint is an amazing muscle relaxant and can be very useful for an upset stomach. Studies shown that the aroma of peppermint itself can reduce feelings of frustration and anxiety.
- Hops can significantly decrease depression and anxiety metrics as shown in various studies. It sends a warning to the body to produce more stomach acids which aid in faster digestion.
How to use these herbs?
We can brew them as a tea, smoke them, make a tincture, or consume in capsule or powder form. Don’t forget- everything in moderation and always consult with a doctor first.
Roll up our CALM Herbal Blend in smoking papers and light up, or brew as a tea for chilling out on the daily. Made of carefully selected herbs, combined to calm the mind and relax the body.
Other ways to reduce social anxiety
Exploring alternative methods of anxiety relief before seeking medicinal treatment can be beneficial. Journalling in the morning can help ground and balance us for the rest of the day. Positive affirmations have been scientifically proven as effective for reprograming the belief of false narratives in the sub-conscious mind, significantly decreasing anxiety and feelings of self-doubt. Write a list of positive affirmations before going out and notice how discomfort in social settings is reduced. Improving diet and exercise help raise vibration and make us feel good internally and externally.