· By Caitlin Bray
Natural Alternatives to Xanax
Anxiety can sneak up on any of us at any time; that’s part of what makes it such an insidious condition. We could be running through the grocery store, just browsing for cereal, when that familiar feeling of our chest getting tighter, our heart beating faster, our palms feeling sweaty.
For some people, medications that can be taken during the middle of a panic attack aren’t a possibility, as many of them, like Xanax, both need to be prescribed by a doctor, and have the potential to be addictive. With these two traits and other side effects in mind like brain fog and fatigue, some people would rather deal with anxiety than take a prescription for it.
But, do natural options work to combat the feelings and physical symptoms of anxiety? And what natural alternatives are out there?
What Does Xanax Do?
To better be able to understand how potential natural alternatives work, it’s essential to first have some basic knowledge about how Xanax functions in the body. It is in a class of medications known as benzodiazepines (or “benzos”) that were designed to calm, or sometimes sedate, the user. Other medications in this class include Lithium, Valium, and Ativan.
Xanax (or alprazolam, its generic name) starts to work quickly when ingested. When it hits the bloodstream, it starts to activate an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA (or gamma-Aminobutyric acid). When GABA is present in appropriate amounts in the brain, it blocks some of the chemicals released during times of stress, so that they are unable to bond to their receptors to create feelings typically associated with anxiety like shakiness, sweating, and increased heart rate.
Unfortunately, over time and with long-term use, not only does the medication become less effective, but it also has the potential to affect the brain’s regular function. Combined with its addictive potential, Xanax continues to be a fairly controversial drug, for good reason.
How Does a Natural Alternative Differ?
Unlike Xanax, natural alternatives can provide most of the same benefits with far fewer side effects. They also aren’t addictive in nature, so people can use them without having to worry.
The main difference between Xanax and a natural alternative is in their ingredients. Xanax is made from a manufactured chemical compound, while the alternative is made simply from an all-natural herb or other product. In some cases, they have a few fillers to hold them together, but those are mostly things like glycerin or gelatin.
One last benefit of choosing a natural alternative to a prescription medication like Xanax is the risk of liver damage. While most prescription meds are broken down and processed in the liver, most natural alternatives are processed similar to how food items are.
It’s simply a healthier, most holistic way to help your body help itself. And with more focus on trying to live a clean, natural lifestyle, alternatives like the ones we’ll feature are the perfect option.
What Natural Alternatives Are Out There?
While nothing works exactly like Xanax, there are a few natural alternatives that can still work to support your mental health and wellness and promote feelings of calm to ease uneasiness.
They can also do that without many of the risks that Xanax comes with, both mild and serious. Many natural alternatives don’t have any serious side effects, and those that do tend to only be things like nausea and headache as the body adjusts.
A popular natural alternative is supplementing directly with GABA.
Since one of Xanax’s main goals is to increase the level of GABA in the brain, skipping the middleman and going right to the source is a great way of increasing GABA levels without the side effects. As mentioned, more GABA leads to a natural boost in mood.* It also helps with feelings of anxiety by blocking the receptors that our fight or flight instincts trigger.* GABA is one of the most important neurotransmitters we have, and the focus of many of the other supplements as well.
L-Theanine is another booster for your mental health, especially when paired with GABA in supplement form.
L-Theanine is an amino acid, one that is not able to be naturally made by the body (known as an essential amino acid). It can, however, be found in both green and black tea. When used on its own, it naturally supports healthy GABA levels in the body.* When paired with GABA, those levels are even more prevalent. In addition, L-Theanine can help the brain to mimic the effects of meditation. These brain waves, called alpha waves, are seen in people only when they are at their most calm.
Kava Kava also shows a lot of potential, and has been subjected to plenty of research. Like the other supplements, its main job is to increase GABA levels.* While some people have said that Kava has the potential to cause liver damage, that is actually an unfounded myth. The effects of Kava are usually chalked up to kavalactones, which bind to receptors in the brain. They tend to especially focus on the amygdala, where our fight or flight response initiates.
One last natural mental health booster to consider is Rhodiola Rosea.
Unlike the other products mentioned, Rhodiola Rosea is considered an adaptogen. That means that it can naturally help the body to support itself during times of stress.* It naturally helps to decrease feelings of stress, while also supporting the body’s ability to both fall asleep and stay asleep.* Poor sleep quality can often exacerbate feelings of anxiety, so using a product to help sleep while also keeping you calm is a great option, especially when combined with L-Theanine and GABA. When those three combine, magic happens. Your body will start to feel relief in no time flat.*
Are There Any Other Options Besides Medication and Supplements?
Absolutely. There are lifestyle alternatives out there for people who want to manage their anxiety in additional ways besides taking prescriptions and supplements. Here are some great ways to manage anxiety by keeping yourself healthy overall.
Yoga is a perfect example that can greatly help to decrease anxiety.
While yoga can seem a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before, there are plenty of YouTube videos online that can help you learn without even having to leave the privacy of your own home. If you’d rather learn from a teacher, yoga studios regularly offer beginner classes for people with absolutely no experience. It’s a great way to get out of the house, try something new, and help reduce your anxiety naturally.
Exercise in general, not only yoga, is also incredibly helpful.
All exercise, no matter how long or short, releases endorphins. Endorphins work to naturally boost your mood, as well as the exercise itself giving your brain something else to focus on instead of anxiety. Getting out of the house is another way to break up your routine and try to change your triggers, hopefully leading to less anxiety.
A healthy diet is also essential to helping with anxiety.
In addition to helping naturally supplement some of the nutrients we’ve talked about today, eating less processed food, drinking more water, and trying to focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can just help you feel better overall. When you feel better overall physically, your anxiety can naturally be reduced.
A final suggestion to help naturally manage anxiety is meditation.
All you need to do is find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed and take a few, quiet, deep breaths. It’s really as simple as that. Focus on both the in and the out breaths and try to not pay attention to your thoughts. Let them drift past you as you slowly count your breaths. Similar to Kava Kava, your brain waves will slow down, which will induce a natural sense of calm. Taking time to yourself, even when you feel at your most anxious, can allow you to recenter, reset, and refocus. It’s a great tool, even when you’re feeling calm.
Natural remedies for your mental health exist, and they do work! When combined with non-medical alternatives like meditation, yoga, a healthy diet, and exercise, these natural mental health supplements can help you feel your best.
*FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.