Complementary and Alternative Therapy for Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of unease and worry. Common signs of anxiety include excessive sweating, heart palpitations, and nervousness, which are often considered as typical stress reactions (1).
When anxiety lasts for days or weeks, it is said to be chronic. Chronic anxiety is a problem since it may eventually lead to medical problems. There are no simple or quick fixes, but you can stop the negative effects by eating to raise or decrease specific substances in your body.
The two types of treatments that are most frequently used in the treatment of anxiety-related disorders are psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.
Although many patients find these therapies beneficial, a large portion of patients complains that they are not readily available, enjoyable, or able to sufficiently reduce anxiety symptoms.
The study of complementary or alternative therapeutic techniques has generated attention due to these considerations (2).
Numerous forms of therapy are covered by alternative and complementary medicines. These include, among others as well, herbal treatments, body-based therapies, and treatments based on meditation.
Alternative techniques are those that take substitutes for the therapies recommended by your healthcare provider, while complementary treatments explain strategies you can use in addition to other therapies.
One individual may use a specific therapy in addition to, or instead of, items like drugs, whereas a different person may use the same treatment for a different purpose.
Regarding alternative therapies and complementary therapies, there are a few myths. Some people believe they are inaccurate, fraudulent, or lacking adequate documentation. This may not always be the case, but it might be challenging to determine which among them would be effective for you due to the paucity of data and clinical studies (2).

What Are the Indications for Complementary and Alternative Therapies?

There are several reasons why you should consider complementary and alternative therapies. Some of them are:
  • The psychiatrist’s recommended treatment, such as psychotherapy or psychotropic drugs, is not what you want.
  • The remedies your doctor suggested had already been tried, and they didn’t work for you. As an example, you haven’t discovered a drug for mental health that works, or it has unintended adverse reactions.
  • Despite being on the list of patients waiting for therapy, you urgently need assistance managing the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Along with the therapy your doctor has recommended, you desire additional alternatives.
  • You wish to go about taking care of your mental health differently because you differ from your physician’s method (2).

How Effective Are the Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Disorders?

As regards all treatment options, numerous approaches are effective for various individuals.
These therapies don’t have a lot of research support, so your doctor is unlikely to suggest them. However, many people claim they are useful for dealing with the manifestations of mental illness, so they may be effective in this regard.
According to specific studies on how they function, this might be the phenomenon of the placebo effect in action. This is the case when we take medicine and feel better simply because we expected it to. Without any active components, sugar tablets may have this same effect. However, it also applies to other types of treatments, such as over the counter or prescribed drugs.
The result of feeling healthier can be quite real and valuable in our lives, regardless of whether the treatment has a therapeutic benefit or not (2).

What Are the Complementary And Alternative Treatments For Anxiety?

Herbal remedies, dietary habits, physical activity, and mind-body practices all have the potential to lower anxiety. You can unwind and lessen your anxiety by using gradual relaxation of the muscles, breathing techniques such as diaphragmatic, biofeedback, the practice of meditation, and soul-hypnosis. The use of acupuncture, aromatherapy, therapeutic music, and visual visualization can all lower anxiety (3).


Regular and consistent exercise is one of the best methods of relieving anxiety. According to research, cardiovascular exercises have been of help in dealing with anxiety and stress, as well as boosting the immune system.
The Association for Control of Anxiety and Depression in America, advises that engaging in at least 5 minutes of regular aerobic exercises will provide the body with anti-anxiety effects while brisk walking for an average of ten minutes daily will provide anxiety relief that can last for several hours.
The United stated revised second edition of the guidelines for physical activity, published in 2018 showed that relief from anxiety has been listed among the top benefits of physical activity (4).
Studies were also carried out on the benefits of yoga as an anxiety and stress relaxation technique. There were positive outcomes to this study, that yoga helps to relax the mind and relieve anxiety feelings (5).
Other forms of exercises that can help relieve anxiety are:
    • Running
    • Dancing
    • Tennis
    • Boxing
    • Others are golf sport, walking, cycling, and boxing (4).

Herbal Therapy

The use of herbal remedies has long been in existence in its approach to treating diseases and boosting the immune system. However, it is not medically encouraged because of the difficulty in measuring the required quantity, interaction with other medication, overdose, and possible side effects. However, herbal medicine is gradually evolving, and these professionals have proved to be able to supervise appropriately the required herbal treatment.
If your doctor already starts you on drugs, don’t just combine that with herbs, take caution and ask the physician before commencing any herbal treatment to avoid drug-drug interaction (3).
Traditional Chinese Medicine aims at ensuring the optimal health of patients with anxiety by ensuring adequate nutrition, physical activity, herbal treatment, massage, and the use of acupuncture in relieving symptoms of anxiety (5).


Another treatment for anxiety disorders that dates back thousands of years that involves putting needles into points of tension on the body is acupuncture. There is some evidence from research that acupuncture relieves certain anxiety symptoms.
The impact of acupuncture on particular forms of anxiety, which include panic attacks, anxiety disorders such as PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as OCD, that is, obsessive-compulsive disorder, remains a subject of study by researchers.
The impact of acupuncture treatment on anxiety has been the subject of numerous investigations. Acupuncture may be effective in reducing general anxiety, according to these studies, which have mostly focused on the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.
For instance, an intriguing 2015 study discovered that acupuncture decreased symptoms in individuals with anxiety who did not react to other therapies, such as medications and psychotherapy.
Ten acupuncture procedures of thirty minutes in duration each were given to participants for twelve consecutive weeks. Even ten weeks after the end of the therapy, they saw a considerable decrease in their anxiety.
However, two analyses of previous studies — one from 2007 and an additional one from 2013 — note that a great deal of them aren’t very trustworthy. Some, like the one mentioned earlier, had a very small number of participants, whereas others were poorly constructed. However, these assessments also note that acupuncture does not appear to hurt anxiety.
Anxiety is reduced by acupuncture in a recent 2016 investigation on rats. It could affect how the body initiates the reaction to flee or fight, according to the researchers.
The data is promising for acupuncture therapy as a practical and secure choice, even though we still need to learn more about how it impacts panic disorders and phobias. Acupuncture shouldn’t exacerbate your symptoms if you’re suffering from anxiety that hasn’t responded to conventional treatments or if you just want to try something different (6).

Nutritional Supplements

Only recently has the complexity of each person’s biochemical processes been recognized. The dynamic discipline of functional medicine tries to account for both a person’s genetic makeup and the distinctive variations in their metabolism, including their heightened requirement for specific nutrients.
The following recommendations are current and are based solely on overall knowledge of human brain chemistry. Note: Organic foods high in nutrition are the most beneficial source of nourishment for the body and mind (5).
The following nutritional supplements are best used to relieve anxiety:
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is important for how the brain works and may lessen anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Chamomile: This herbal tea may be calming and anti-anxiety. Using chamomile on a continuous schedule dramatically reduced symptoms of mild to severe generalized anxiety, according to a landmark clinical investigation from 2016. This did not, however, significantly reduce recurrence.
Passionflower: Endemic Americans utilized this climbing vine, which is endemic to the Southeast of the U.S., as a sedative. To help people sleep and reduce anxiety, it is presently used. The National Institute for Integrative and Complementary Health Services states that not enough research has been done on it to draw definitive inferences on its efficacy in lowering anxiety.
L-Theanine: This amino acid is naturally present in mushrooms, green and black tea. To lessen tension and anxiety, it is frequently used as a supplement. According to a 2019 research trial, 4 weeks of use significantly reduced the manifestations of anxiety and sadness that are linked to stress.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid: Omega-3s are essential for the growth of the neurological system. Omega-3 fatty acids considerably helped lessen anxiety symptoms, according to a 2018 assessment of 19 trials (4).

Aromatherapy (Essential Oils)

Aromatherapy using essential oils is risk-free and has the potential to treat sadness and anxiety. Self-care may be influenced by personal smell choices. While the use of bergamot and peppermint oil is stimulating and may benefit those with depression, lavender, chamomile, basil, as well as Frankincense oil have been shown to have a calming effect on anxiety (5).

Music Therapy

To boost health and healing, music therapy entails paying close attention to or playing music. Although more and deeper research is required before recommendations can be made with certainty, given the relatively inexpensive price and risks, this might be a useful strategy for those with an interest in this field.

Naturopathic medicine

Diet, physical activity, herbal remedies, mind-body approaches, aquatic therapy, and other instruments are all included in naturopathy. For individuals who choose all-natural methods, therapy provided by a naturopath can be combined with some form of psychotherapy.

Animal-assisted therapy

The therapeutic use of pets for individuals with symptoms of depression or anxiety may be significant. People with depressive symptoms and anxiety have found great benefits from equine-assisted therapy (5).


Professional practitioners may consider the following treatments for anxiety based on their expertise and previous experience, even though few studies have looked at the efficacy of certain homeopathic therapies.
Homeopaths consider a person’s basic type, which comprises their physiological, emotional, and mental makeup, before prescribing a cure. When choosing the best course of action for each patient, an expert homeopath considers all of these factors.
  • Aconitum: For patients with anxiety, irregular heartbeats, and difficulty in breathing.
  • Arsenicum album: For idiopathic anxiety with unexplained cause and restlessness
  • Phosphorus: Anxiety accompanied by a sense of doom. It can be used in both children and adults.
  • Lycopodium: for patients with anxiety and feeling of insecurity. It is also a useful tool in treating children who have anxiety and are bedwetting.
  • Gelsemium: For performance anxiety with diarrhea, dizziness, and headache (3).

Diet approach

The use of dietary therapies in the management and rehabilitation of psychological issues is the subject of the developing field of study known as nutritional psychiatry.
Nutritional advice is rarely given to mental patients in clinical practice, despite mounting evidence of its positive effects. This has been traceable to the inadequate knowledge of the impact of diet and nutrition on the mental health of patients.
The foods that help relieve anxiety are:
    • Eggs
    • Dark chocolate
    • Turmeric
    • Yogurt
    • Green leafy vegetables (7).

Exposure therapy

A type of psychological treatment called exposure therapy is commonly used to assist patients with fears and anxiety disorders. It entails the individual confronting their dreads, whether they are actual or imagined, in a safe setting while being guided by a skilled therapist. It has been scientifically proven to be beneficial and may be utilized with individuals of all ages (4).
(1) MedlinePlus. (2020, May 22). Anxiety.; National Library of Medicine.
(3) St. Luke Hospital. (n.d.). Anxiety | Complementary and Alternative Medicine | St. Luke’s Hospital.
(4) Cirino, E. (2014, October 13). Alternative Treatments for Anxiety Disorder. Healthline.
(5) University of Minnesota. (n.d.). What Holistic Therapies and Practices Help with Anxiety and Depression? Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.
(6) Watson, K. (2018, September 29). Acupuncture for Anxiety: Benefits, Side Effects, and What to Expect. Healthline.
(7) Funston, L., & Oehler , C. (2022, December 12). 20 Foods That Can Help Relieve Stress.
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