15 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed
August 9, 2021

Anxiety disorders affect close to 20% of Americans every year. And even if you don’t have a disorder, you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety in your daily life—it’s a normal response to stressful situations.

Anxiety involves a variety of symptoms including constant worrying, trouble concentrating, and irritability, but it’s not only a mental experience.

Anxiety can also manifest in physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking, stomach problems, and difficulty sleeping. 

For that reason, anxiety can be quite overwhelming, even impairing people’s ability to normally function.

While anxiety treatments like medication and psychotherapy have been shown to help, there are also several evidence-based home remedies for managing anxiety.

Whether you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or phobias, here are 15 natural remedies for anxiety you can try today.

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Exercise

Routine physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your overall mental health and to naturally reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Healthy activity can serve as a helpful distraction from your worries, but exercise also works with your body’s chemistry to physically reduce anxiety.

Exercise can actually increase the availability of neurotransmitters which your brain uses to reduce anxiety, including serotonin and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). 

One meta-analysis found that people who report higher levels of physical activity have lower levels of anxiety, and even brief periods of exercise can be beneficial.

If you struggle with anxiety, aim to get out of your chair a few times a day to go for a short walk, stretch, or do a few jumping jacks. If you can, walk or bike to work instead of driving. Or add some much-needed social connection by walking with a friend or joining a fitness class.

Reduce Caffeine

Caffeine may increase alertness, but it can also mimic anxiety symptoms—and in high doses, may actually trigger anxiety.

If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, and especially if you’re noticing that morning (or afternoon) cup is doing you more harm than good, it may be a good idea to limit your caffeine intake. 

Instead of fully caffeinated coffee, try half-caf or decaf options. Herbal teas, which don’t contain any caffeine, are another option for a hot morning drink.

Hopefully, reducing caffeine will encourage you to drink more water, which can also improve physical and mental well-being. 

Herbal Teas and Supplements

Nutrition can actually impact your mental health—and supplementing with vitamins and minerals under a doctor’s supervision is one way to improve anxiety.

In addition, certain herbal remedies have relaxing, anti-anxiety properties. 

The following supplements have been linked with decreased anxiety symptoms and overall improved mental health:

  • Magnesium: Some research connects magnesium deficiency to anxiety, and magnesium supplementation may be able to assist with anxiety episodes.
  • Vitamin D: Low vitamin D levels have been associated with anxiety, so boosting your vitamin D with a supplement may help your overall mood.
  • L-theanine: This amino acid has been shown to reduce the effects of stress, helping with symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil): A number of studies have suggested Omega-3s can reduce anxiety, especially acute episodes.
  • Valerian root: Thanks to its sedating properties, valerian is often used in tea or as a supplement to support better sleep. Sometimes doctors recommend it for mild anxiety, too, though there’s limited data to quantify its effectiveness.
  • Chamomile: Scientific research has found chamomile, including chamomile tea, to have positive effects on sleep quality and general anxiety disorder, or GAD.

Keep in mind that these supplements are generally not FDA regulated, and either the supplements and vitamins themselves, or the compounds they are packaged with, could negatively interact with other drugs.

Always consult with a doctor for medical advice before you try a new supplement, especially if you have any preexisting health conditions or you’re on any prescription medications, including antidepressants, antibiotics, and blood thinners. 

Stop Smoking

Smoking can cause a variety of diseases and physical ailments, including an increased risk of lung disease, heart disease, and several types of cancer. But it can also wreak havoc on mental health.

Research shows that nicotine contributes to the development, maintenance, and reoccurrence of anxiety disorders.

Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, which can cause symptoms similar to anxiety or panic attacks. At the same time, stopping smoking suddenly can cause nicotine withdrawal, which can also cause anxiety attacks. 

If you smoke and suffer from anxiety, quitting could improve your health in many ways. Ask your medical provider or a K doctor about tools that could help you quit safely and effectively. 

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol may provide temporary comfort, but it’s not helpful for managing anxiety symptoms in the long term. Many people with alcohol use disorders also have anxiety disorders.

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause both anxiety and panic attacks

Even if you aren’t abusing alcohol, you may suffer negative mental health consequences.

Alcohol alters levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to anxiety. So while you may feel relaxed while sipping a cocktail, you might feel more anxious the next day, even if you only have one or two drinks.

If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation, and don’t use drinking to self-medicate.

Alcohol can also negatively interact with some anti-anxiety medications, so let your doctor know if you drink alcohol, and always follow your doctor’s instructions about drinking and prescription medication.

Aromatherapy

A limited body of research suggests aromatherapy, or the smelling of essential oils, may be an effective way to manage anxiety and improve sleep quality.

Try using an essential oil diffuser with a calming scent to calm yourself down when you are feeling anxious, or simply inhale the aroma of the oil straight from the bottle. Common essential oils used for relaxation include: 

  • Lavender
  • Orange
  • Chamomile 
  • Neroli 
  • Ylang ylang
  • Lemon 
  • Clary sage

Do not apply essential oils directly to your skin or ingest them, and talk to a doctor before using essential oils around children.

Journaling

Writing about your feelings in a journal can reduce anxiety symptoms—it can help you process feelings, understand situations or just get things off your chest.

Journaling can also help you recognize cognitive distortions, or ways of thinking that might be contributing to your anxiety. When you write out your thoughts, you may pick up on patterns that contribute to anxious feelings. 

Make a habit of journaling about your emotions on a regular basis, or grab a notebook and pour out your feelings when you’re anxious or stressed. 

Meditation

Mindfulness meditation, or training your mind to stay present, can improve anxiety, help with sleep, and even support a healthy immune system.

While routine-based mindfulness meditation will have lasting effects on your mood and well-being, practicing meditation during a moment of panic can also help. 

You can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, at any time, and there are a variety of techniques that you can experiment with to see what works for you.

Apps like Headspace and Calm provide useful resources and can make it easier to integrate meditation into your daily life.

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing has been shown in scientific literature to promote a bodily sense of calm by reversing the stress response.

Also called “fight or flight,” this response is your nervous system’s natural reaction to anxiety.

When you’re anxious, focus on taking slow, deep breaths through your nose, and make sure you’re using your diaphragm and expanding your belly as you breathe. 

CBD Oil

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound found in cannabis.

Unlike marijuana, however, it doesn’t cause people to feel high because it doesn’t contain the same psychoactive compounds. 

The evidence supporting CBD for anxiety is still growing.

One small 2019 study found CBD oil can help improve anxiety and sleep patterns. Ask your doctor if CBD oil could be  helpful for you if you have anxiety or difficulty sleeping.

Getting Enough Sleep

Anxiety can make it hard to sleep, but poor sleep can also contribute to anxiety, either causing or worsening anxiety disorders.

In general, sleep deprivation can take a toll on mental health, including triggering anxiety.

Research shows people who already have anxiety experience heightened anxiety when they get less sleep.

Weighted Blankets

People who love weighted blankets say these heavy bed covers feel like a cozy, all-over hug.

But weighted blankets can also have a significantly calming effect, promoting healthy sleep and helping to manage anxiety.

One reason these blankets feel so soothing is that they push your body downwards, which is called grounding. 

Studies suggest grounding can decrease the body’s levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause feelings of anxiety.

Grounding can also improve sleep quality—which can improve anxiety symptoms. If you buy a weighted blanket, choose one that’s about 10% of your body weight.

Eating a Healthy Diet

A balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins can support brain health.

Efforts to reduce sugar intake can help, too: Too much sugar can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leading to feelings of anxiety. Skipping meals can have similar effects.

Specific foods may also support mental health. For example, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and magnesium have been shown to help with anxiety.

Spending Time Outdoors or with Animals

Time in nature has been linked with many mental health benefits, including alleviating anxiety.

Going outdoors can help lower heart rate and blood pressure, which are common effects of anxiety.

As little as ten minutes outside—a simple walk around the block or a few deep breaths in your backyard—can help zap the effects of stress.

If you can, find something calming and mesmerizing to focus on, like a beautiful sunset or crashing waves at the beach.

Feelings of awe, or being fascinated by something, have been shown in studies to help with anxiety, chronic stress, and depression symptoms. 

Spending time with animals can also help. Research suggests that furry friends can lower cortisol, a stress hormone that’s associated with anxiety.

The effects are even better if you can pet an animal—one experiment from 2003 found people who did so experienced lower anxiety symptoms. 

Time Management Skills

Sometimes, the stressors of everyday life—including a chaotic schedule—can cause anxiety symptoms. Implementing time management skills is an important component of staving off stress. 

If you don’t already, try keeping a digital or paper calendar to manage your commitments.

When you can see what’s coming up each week and month, you’ll be able to plan ahead, helping events feel less stressful. 

When possible, set boundaries around work and home life, especially if you work from home.

Studies suggest people who work longer hours are at higher risk for mental illness, including anxiety.

Plus, nighttime exposure to too much blue light—the kind made by your phone or computer—has been linked with difficulty sleeping, which only exacerbates anxiety symptoms. 

Lastly, effectively managing your schedule can help to ensure that you’ll have enough time for the relationships and hobbies that add meaning and joy to your life, which is another way to stave off anxiety.

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The Bottom Line

Whether your anxiety is just irritating or totally overwhelming, natural remedies for anxiety can help you feel and function better.

But if your anxiety symptoms are affecting your daily life, or impacting things you love to do, you may want to reach out for support for anxiety, especially if natural remedies aren’t making a big difference in how you feel on a daily basis.

If your anxiety is severe to the point that it interferes with your everyday functioning or lasts longer than a week or two, talk to a healthcare professional.

A therapist, psychiatrist, primary care provider, or K doctor can help assess the problem and determine the proper course of treatment to help decrease anxiety symptoms so you can function and feel better.

How K Health Can Help

Stress and anxiety are among the most under-reported and under-treated diseases in America.

Nearly 20% of adults in the US suffer from mental health illness and fewer than half receive treatment. Our mission is to increase access to treatment for those suffering in silence.

You can start controlling your stress and anxiety and get access to the treatment you need with K Health.

Starting at $19/month get prescriptions for mental health medications plus unlimited doctor visits through the K Health app. Start your free assessment here.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.