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Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Herbs and medications

Alexander Bystritsky, MD, PhD
Section Editor
Murray B Stein, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the United States. Many patients with anxiety disorders find conventional (Western) mental health care treatments to be insufficiently helpful and turn to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as an adjunct or substitute.

Epidemiologic studies suggest that 30 to 43 percent of patients treated in primary care for anxiety use CAM remedies as at least part of their treatment [1-3]. Clinicians would be well prepared to know about efficacy and safety of CAM treatments available for anxiety disorders.

Herbal remedies and dietary supplements used as complementary and alternative medical treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders are described here. Complementary and alternative treatments involving physical, cognitive, or spiritual activities for anxiety symptoms and disorders are described separately. Herbal medicine and dietary supplements in general medical care are also described separately. (See "Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Physical, cognitive, and spiritual interventions" and "Overview of herbal medicine and dietary supplements".)


Sixty-two percent of adults in the United States utilize some form of complementary and alternative medical treatments [3]; the most commonly used were mind-body therapies. Individuals diagnosed with a psychiatric illness are more prone to using these therapies, especially patients with elevated anxiety or anxiety disorders [4,5], in part because many who are treated psychiatrically respond only partially to treatment and have residual symptoms and impairment [6].

Among the challenges encountered with evaluating the efficacy and clinical use of herbal remedies and dietary supplements for anxiety symptoms and disorders:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 09, 2017.
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