March 11, 2010 Dr. Dawn Bantel

Herbal Remedies for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

I was teaching my weekly health group at Mirasol and was feeling really excited about sharing information about herbal medicine with our clients. It was easy to pick up on their enthusiasm about trying new things as a part of their recovery journey here. I also forget at times how special our program is and how fortunate I am to practice naturopathic medicine in such a unique environment.

One subject of great interest was the topic of nervine herbs. These are herbs that help nourish the nervous system. Many clients discover Kava Kava while in treatment at Mirasol. It's an herb native to the South Pacific and is very effective in treatment of anxiety. It's a nice alternative to the highly addictive anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax. You can take it as needed or throughout the day (up three times/day). However, if you're going to take Kava Kava for more than a few months, it's a good idea to have your liver enzymes checked.

I'm also a fan of herbal combinations that include passionflower, skullcap and milky oats. These can relieve anxiety and are may help us to better adapt to stress. I also like to include Valerian for clients who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

I have found that there is no "one-size-fits-all" treatment for insomnia. I encourage clients to try different combinations and to practice good sleep hygiene. Cutting back on caffeine intake is a must also for those dealing with insomnia and/or anxiety.

For faster results, I suggest taking the herbs in a tincture form to ensure rapid absorption into the bloodstream. Otherwise, capsules and teas are fine too.