According to charity Anxiety UK, one in five people experience anxiety on a regular basis. Feeling anxious can be a normal response to things like exams, interviews or medical tests, but for some people it can be a long-term condition that affects their daily lives. For people who struggle to control their feelings of anxiety, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications can be prescribed by a doctor. However, some of these medications can have undesirable side effects, withdrawal symptoms and even become addictive.
One medication commonly prescribed for people with anxiety and depression is benzodiazepine – a drug which suppresses neuroactivity and in turn improves symptoms of anxiety.
However, benzodiazepine can be addictive and can also have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
There are also concerns that patients are too quickly being prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, without alternative options being properly explored.
“The use, and misuse, of prescription anxiety medication is rising,” said Professor of Psychiatry, Professor Hans-Peter Volz.
“Doctors can be quick to medicate people who are experiencing emotional distress, without exploring alternative options.
“Medicating too quickly can lead to unnecessary prescription of medication, and in some cases, can cause a dependency to the drug.
“The problem then, is trying to reduce dependency and get patients off the prescribed drugs.
“It is important that we look at alternative treatments to prescription drugs for anxiety such as talking therapies, mindfulness, and traditional herbal remedies.”
One herbal supplement which has been found in clinical trials to have the same effect as benzodiazepine in treating subthreshold anxiety, is lavender oil.
Research has shown “uniquely prepared, pharmaceutical quality lavender oil” has been shown to reduce excessive neurotransmitter activity, reducing overstimulation and hyperactivity of the nervous response, in turn improving symptoms of mild anxiety.
PET scans of participants’ brains also suggest that compared to placebo, lavender oil significantly reduces the binding potential of the neurotransmitter serotonin 1A in the regions of the brain that are involved in the regulation of anxiety.
“This is a positive development for anxiety. Research demonstrates that the lavender oil capsules reduce both physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, without issues such as sedation, addiction or withdrawal,” said Professor Hans-Peter Volz.
“Lavender oil capsules provide a promising alternative treatment option to prescription drugs for subthreshold anxiety sufferers.”
The potential for lavender oil as a treatment for anxiety has also been welcomed by Anxiety UK.
“Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the UK – one in five people report feeling anxious a lot or all of the time; and more than 45 million working days have been lost due to anxiety (combined with depression and stress) in the past three years,” said Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK.
“We welcome a range of treatment and support options, including Kalms Lavender One-a-Day capsules and other non-prescription options such as talking therapies.”