Q. I find myself getting more and more anxious, but I don't like to take medications. Is there an alternative natural treatment I can try instead?
A. Anxiety is an incredibly common problem. Although there are many FDA-approved medications that have been widely studied and proved effective, studies show that up to 43% of patients with anxiety use alternative medicine to treat it. Among alternative therapies, herbal treatments are widely used both for therapeutic purposes and for comfort.
Chamomile, also known by the botanical name Matricaria recutita, is one example. It is well known to many of us who drink tea, not only for its delicious taste but also as an alternative treatment for anxiety. In a clinical trial, chamomile extract was found to reduce anxiety when compared with placebo.
Although chamomile is associated with fewer troubling side effects than conventional medications are, it may increase the anticoagulant properties of medications like warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix). If you're on any blood thinners, you should exercise appropriate caution. And you should talk to your clinician about alternatives. Compared with conventional medications, however, the safety and efficacy of alternative therapies are not as well studied or established. You may want keep an open mind when it comes to medical therapies that have good evidence behind them.
- Hope Ricciotti, M.D. and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch