What is Anxiety Anyway?
Anxiety has been around since humans have had brains that were capable of worrying. However, it's growing into more of a problem. Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the US with 40 million adults being affected by some form of it.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common form. Temporary anxiety turns into GAD when you experience three or more of the following symptoms on a regular basis for 6 months:
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances
Nonclinically, you can also think of GAD as having difficulty shutting up that asshole voice in your head.
Drugs called benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) are usually prescribed to treat anxiety. One of them is oazepam. Oazepam is a fast-acting benzodiazepine with the super-fun side effects like clumsiness, daytime drowsiness, a feeling of whirling motion and headaches, all of which will totally kill your workout of course. Oh yeah, and it can be highly addictive.
An Herbal Alternative?
The good news? There's an herbal alternative... and we're not taking about weed. It's passionflower. It's been used to treat anxiety and other disorders for at least a couple hundred years, and now science is taking notice.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics put passionflower in the ring with oazepam.
- In this double-blind randomized trial, a group of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder were divided into two groups.
- Group one was given 45 drops of passionflower extract plus 1 placebo tablet (tricky scientists) per day for 28 days.
- Group two was given oazepam, 30 mg per day, plus placebo drops for 28 days.
- Each member was assessed by a psychiatrist at days 4, 7, 14, 21, and 28 for their anxiety symptoms using the HAM-A.
Passionflower and oazepam tied for effectiveness at lessening the symptoms of anxiety, BUT passionflower won in a split decision when it came to fewer side effects. The oazepam group reported job impairment from the side effects of the drug the next day. This was not reported by the passionflower group.
Passionflower is, as the study concluded, "a significant improvement over benzodiazepines in the management of GAD especially when drug-induced impairment of job performance is to be avoided."
So go ahead. Get a little hippie and grab yourself some passionflower extract or tea and get your chill on.
Where, When, How to Use Passionflower
- Passionflower extract can be found at most health food stores or online. There are two types of extracts: one is alcohol based and the other is glycerin based if you want to avoid alcohol. The study used an alcohol-based extract, but glycerin is comparable in efficacy. Passionflower can also be bought in tea form. For the tea preparation, pick up some loose-leaf passionflower and a tea ball. Steep for 10-15 minutes or longer for more potency.
- Passionflower can be taken any time anxiety puts you in a choke hold. Just be aware that it WILL mellow you. Passionflower is especially beneficial when taken before bed for the above reason, so it will shush that voice that always seems to wake up right as you want to wind down.
- The study used 45 drops per day. However, you can adjust the dose to your own needs. Generally, one "serving"= 1 ml of extract or 20-30 drops. It's possible to take that dose up to three times a day.
- S. Akhondzadeh et. al., "Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam", Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics 2001 (26): 363-367.