Anxiety is a generalized feeling of fear, danger, or dread, often resulting from an unknown source. Symptoms include stomach tension, acid stomach, muscle tension, rapid breathing and heartbeat, trembling, headaches, sweating nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, memory problems, and sexual impotence.
What is Anxiety?
From Modern Western Medicine
Anxiety is seen as a triggering of the fight-or-flight reaction, causing excess adrenaline to be produced by the adrenal glands, which in turn produce other hormones (catecholamines) that affect various parts of the body, such as heart beat and respiration.
From Traditional Medicine
A certain amount of anxiety is seen as a fundamental part of life, born of humanity’s sense of separation from the one or creator of the universe. Anxiety is part of what motivates humans to search for answers to life’s mysteries and to establish greater faith. In health, anxiety is not experienced to any great extent and is easily overcome through a variety of natural means. High levels of anxiety are caused by an imbalance of the spleen, pancreas and stomach, organs that comprise the earth element. These organs are destabilized by excessive thinking, acid-rich foods, insufficient chewing and excess consumption of sugar. Anxiety accelerates aging, creates muscle tension and weakens immune response, the blood, adrenal glands, and the pancreas. Virtually all the traditional systems attempt to strengthen these organs as a treatment for anxiety.
Chinese medicine also urges the person with high levels of fear to strengthen the kidneys, which are the physical organs that control or promote fear. (See Part IV for additional information on healing spleen, stomach, pancreas, and kidneys.)
Who Gets Anxiety?
- See Part IV for methods of strengthening spleen, pancreas, stomach and kidneys.
- Get regular exercise.
- Avoid foods that increase nervous tensions, such as sugar, soft drinks (especially those containing caffeine), coffee, and tea.
- Meditate, pray, or find some other activity that establishes greater faith.
- Try aromatherapy and essential oils.
Foods to Eat
- Whole grains, especially brown rice, barley, millet, corn, and wheat
- Slightly salty foods
Foods to Avoid
- Strong spices
- Highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, which are injurious to spleen
Herbs to Treat an Anxiety
The following herbs have relaxing or sedating effects and can help relieve bouts of tension and anxiety. Unless otherwise specified, take them three to four times a day, either ½ tsp. of tincture or two capsules:
- Chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower: gentle, herbal sedatives that can also relax the digestive tract and can be taken in tea form
- California poppy and skullcap: slightly stronger herbal tranquilizer
- Valerian: a powerful but safe herbal sedative, useful in cases of extreme stress
The following tonic herbs can be used on a daily basis over a long period of time to strengthen the body and improve resistance to stress:
- Siberian ginseng: ¼ tsp. of tincture, three times daily, helps the body cope better with stress by supporting adrenal function
- Oats: ½ tsp. of tincture, three times daily, strengthens and relaxes the nervous system. Look for preparations that contain oat seed along with the straw.
- Ashwaganda: 1 capsule or ½ tsp. of tincture, twice daily; considered the primary strengthening tonic in Ayurvedic medicine
- Ingatia: for acute emotional upset that results in fear and anxiety
- Nux vomica: for when fear or anxiety also upset the stomach
- Aconite: for anxiety caused by fear, panic, sudden shock, or upset
- Vitamin B complex: 50 mg daily; to support nervous system
- Vitamin C plus mixed bioflavonoids: 500 mg daily
- Calcium and magnesium in a 2:1 ratio (for example, 1000 mg calcium and 500 mg magnesium); for tranquilizing effects
The most effective methods for using essential oils to help calm the mind and relax the body include massage, baths, and vaporization. Use any of the following singly or in combination:
- Lavender: sedative, tonic. Sprinkle four drops on a tissue and inhale deeply for sudden stress.
- Clary sage: sedative, tonic
- Ylang-ylang: euphoric, regulator, sedative, tonic. Use in moderation, can cause headaches in some people.
The following blend can be used in a vaporizer, for a massage, or in a bath. If you use it for massage, add ½ fluid oz. of carrier oil:
2 drops geranium
2 drops lavender
2 drops sandalwood
1 drop ylang-ylang
- Meditate or pray, preferably in the morning before or after breakfast
- Practice surrendering the outcome of events to the great spirit, however, you perceive him/her/it.
- Excessive need to control events actually increases anxiety and eventually leads to depression
It is important to pray or meditate before the workday actually begins to reduce the excess and destructive need to control all events.