Alternatively Speaking: Alleviating anxiety

Alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: Any herbs used for treating anxiety?

Overwhelmed anxious businessman 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Overwhelmed anxious businessman 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Q. Hi Natalie, I have been suffering from terrible anxiety for the last month and I am not sure why. It feels as though I have the symptoms of someone who has drunk too much coffee; heart racing, thoughts racing, restlessness and insomnia. Are there any herbs used for treating anxiety?
The calming effects of lemon balm are often used to calm anxiety. You can also use it in combination with other anti-anxiety herbs like valerian to encourage relaxation.
Research carried out in 2006 in the journal ‘Phytomedicine’ shows that a combination of lemon balm and valerian improves sleep problems and restlessness. A wonderful combination since valerian works to stimulate a chemical in the brain that helps manage nerve cells, promoting a natural more "sedative" effect.
Passionflower is another herb that slows the activity of certain brain cells which can produce a mildly tranquilizing effect assisting with feelings of anxiety and insomnia. I also recommend supporting your nervous system with some essential nutrients to minimize the symptoms of anxiety. Begin taking calcium, magnesium and B complex supplements to support the nervous system. I suggest 1,000mg of calcium, 400 to 600mg of magnesium, and 50 to 100mg of B complex daily. Plant essential oils can be added to baths, massage oil, or infusers.
There are several types of essential oils that are used for anxiety and nervous tension. Using an oil burner, try a few drops of one of the following; cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa and ylang-ylang. I nearly always suggest lavender as the base of any of these relaxing blends.
Finally, committing to at least one mind/body breathing exercise a week will do wonders for anxiety. Try simple yoga, tai chi, meditation or biofeedback exercises. These will encourage time to slow down and dedicate a little "TLC" to yourself, also reducing your palpitations and eliminating the anxiety.
Q. Natalie, I have a rather embarrassing problem…I have terrible flatulence! The smell is putrid and it is more frequent after every meal. Please help me since it is becoming painful, harder to disguise and I am afraid to be in social situations. With Many thanks.
Gas, or flatulence, can indeed be an embarrassing problem. It can happen due to a number of reasons such as constipation, too much fiber, being lactose or gluten intolerant, certain medications and simply poor digestion.
If the condition continues and worsens then check with your family doctor that it's nothing more serious such as irritable bowel syndrome (although this is usually accompanied with pain).
You may want to begin by reducing the amount of foods which are known to cause gas and indigestion such as fried foods, spicy foods, processed foods and refined sugar. The leaves of the aromatic herb peppermint contain phenolic acids, essential oils, flavonoids and tannins. The plant has carminative, antispasmodic and antimicrobial actions, which relax the muscles of the digestive system.
"The Holistic Herbal Directory," confirms that peppermint stimulates bile flow, thereby relieving indigestion and flatulence. Try drinking fresh peppermint tea after every meal.
Dill is another aromatic herb commonly used for digestive problems. The seeds and the volatile oils have an antispasmodic action on the stomach muscles therefore easing gas spasms. Two superior remedies for gas include drinking ginger tea and eating fresh ginger root. You can add small amounts of ginger (dried or fresh) to your food. I suggest taking a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger before meals for gas relief.
A popular and effective remedy for gas is "activated charcoal." Charcoal works to absorb excess air in the digestive track as well as absorb toxins which contribute to gas problems. Take a charcoal supplement before eating to help relieve gas.
Finally, I recommend you to take a probiotic supplement or try including more foods with probiotics into your diet, such as pineapples. Probiotics replenish beneficial intestinal bacteria and help keep your colon in optimal condition.
Q. Natalie, are there any alternative solutions for getting rid of head lice? I have three children who have all contracted head lice at school and the products in the pharmacy are so strong and full of chemicals I am reluctant to use them. Thank you.
The author of Gentle Healing for Baby and Child, Andrea Candee, recommends combining anise seed oil with olive oil to make a lice killing hair treatment. Anise seed essential oil has antimicrobial properties. Combine two parts olive oil with one part anise seed oil and rub into the hair and scalp. Comb through the hair with a metal lice comb after application to remove the lice and then shampoo normally. Repeat the treatment twice daily until the infestation disappears.
Another very effective liquid resin called Balsam of Peru comes from the Myroxylon pereirae tree that grows in South America. It contains anti-parasitic compounds that kill lice and their eggs. After applying directly to the scalp, leave for half an hour and then carefully comb the hair with a fine-toothed comb to remove the parasites and eggs. You can make a solution of citrus oil mixing it with eucalyptus oil adding oil of lavender, tea tree oil and finally geranium oil to apply in the hairs to get relief. Don’t wash it immediately but wait for at least thirty minutes.
Lastly, try adding five to ten drops of pure tea tree oil to a shampoo and massage the mixture thoroughly into the scalp. Do this every day until the eggs are removed. In between shampoos, a few drops of the oil can be massaged into the scalp, without rinsing out.
Since all your children have caught the lice, you want to make sure your home is kept ultra-sterile to prevent further lice infestation. I recommend soaking all combs, bedding and towels in a tea tree oil solution of 1/4 oz. of oil mixed in a tub of water.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments.

This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.

Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected].
Someone Once Said: "The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend." - Benjamin Disraeli