Herbal Supplements for Panic Disorder

Alternative Medicine for Panic and Anxiety

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Herbal supplements have grown in popularity for the treatment of a variety of conditions.. Photo © Microsoft

The use of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) for the treatment of medical and mental health conditions has grown in popularity. Many people with panic disorder will seek out a form of CAM treatment as an integrative way to help manage their symptoms. Some of the most common choices of CAM for panic disorder sufferers include acupuncture, aromatherapy, therapeutic massage, mindfulness meditation, and hypnotherapy.

The use of herbal supplements has also become more widespread among those with panic disorder. However, before starting on any supplements, it is important to understand that there is minimal scientific evidence supporting their use for panic disorder. Due to lack of evidence of effectiveness, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve any claims that supplements can help ease panic and anxiety. The FDA also does not regulate these substances.

Additional caution should be taken if you are prescribed any medications for panic disorder or other mental health or medical conditions. Even though supplements are available over-the-counter, there is potential for them to interfere with your prescribed medications or cause other adverse effects. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

The following describes some of the most common types of herbal supplements used to treat panic disorder and anxiety symptoms:

Kava Kava

Kava kava originates in the South Pacific and has now become a popular supplement sold throughout the the United States and Europe. This supplement is derived from a plant and can be consumed in capsule or liquid form. Kava kava may be recommended for panic and anxiety as it is thought to have a relaxing and tranquilizing effect.
There is some evidence that this supplement may help ease anxiety-related symptoms, such as insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and nervousness. However, there is not enough research available to back up these claims. Kava kava should be taken with caution only under the approval of a physician, as it may have adverse side effects.


Valerian is thought to have a sedating effect that may be able to provide feelings of calm and relaxation. It may also be able to help with sleep disturbances and mild anxiety. Valerian is thought to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety by impacting gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, neurotransmitters in the brain that are partly responsible for regulating mood, anxiety, and sleep. Still, little research has been conducted to validate the use of valerian for anxiety issues. Caution should be taken when taking valerian as it can have harmful interactions with commonly prescribed medications for panic disorder, including benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

St. John’s Wort

John’s wort has grown in popularity to treat the symptoms of depression. It is also being used to help alleviate anxiety-related symptoms. There is some evidence suggesting that St. John’s wort can help balance specific neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in the brain, that may be imbalanced for people with mood and anxiety disorders. Despite initial findings, more research will need to be conducted to confirm these results. There have been some dangerous side effects involving St. John's wort when combined with other medications — particularly antidepressants — so it should be used with caution.

Bourne, Edmund J. (2005). The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, 4th ed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Seaward, B. L. (2011). Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Wellbeing, 7th Edition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Sachs, J. (1997). Nature's Prozac: Natural Therapies and Techniques to Rid Yourself of Anxiety, Depression, Panic Attacks, and Stress. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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