6 Alternative Treatments for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

How you can treat the causes of anxiety and panic attacks — not just the symptoms — and opt out of drug-based anxiety treatments.

Causes, Symptoms and Triggers

Anxiety is an emotional state characterized by apprehension, uneasiness, panic, fear or terror, dread, uncertainty, and/or worry. Physical symptoms that often accompany the feelings of anxiety include jitters, insomnia, fear, sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and/or heart palpitations, chest pain, decreased sex drive, nausea, and/or diarrhea.

Feelings of anxiety can become a greater health concern when the symptoms become excessive and persist indefinitely, cause emotional distress or when the symptoms start to interfere with normal activities of daily living. An acute form of anxiety disorder is often referred to as a panic attack — a sudden, intense bout of panic, fear and dread combined with shortness of breath, excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat and/or a feeling of looming death.

The exact causes of anxiety and panic attacks in a given patient are usually unknown. Anxiety attacks can be triggered by intense stress or a traumatic event, such as a death, accident, or divorce, while others have no identifiable root causes. Physiologic and hereditary factors may also play a role in anxiety. Certain substances or drugs, or withdrawal from such substances, can trigger anxiety. The most common triggers include caffeine, over-the-counter decongestants, asthma drugs, and withdrawal from alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, certain medications and other addictive substances including narcotics.

Complementary/Nondrug Treatment and Prevention

In complementary or alternative treatments to psychotherapy and/or medication, your doctor may prescribe include several natural methods.

  1. Natural medicine practitioners have used herbs including kava kava and St. John’s Wort as effective treatment alternatives to prescription anxiety drugs. Kava is well known for its calming effects and holds great promise in easing the symptoms of nervousness; however, the FDA has recently issued warnings on kava due to its adverse effects on the liver. Valerian root is another herb that is often used for its calming effects. St. John’s Wort is backed by more research on its safety and use as an anxiety treatment, and as a treatment for mild to moderate depression. Its effectiveness in treating anxiety is yet to be confirmed.

  2. SAMe is another dietary supplement that has been used in treatment of anxiety.

  3. Eliminating caffeine and alcohol, reducing your intake of sugar, sugary food products, refined carbohydrates and foods with additives and chemicals may help lessen anxiety symptoms. To minimize headaches and other withdrawal symptoms, make reduction of caffeine intake gradual. Instead of caffeinated beverages, try drinking tea made from chamomile (or passionflower, skullcap or lemon balm), which can relax you without causing drowsiness or addiction.

  4. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B complex all contribute to the health and proper functioning of the nervous system. They also support the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that help relay messages between nerve cells.

  5. Exercising regularly and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, t’ai chi or progressive relaxation are all nondrug remedies that can help relieve anxiety disorders. Your routine should include cardiovascular exercise, which burns lactic acid, produces mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins, and causes the body to use oxygen more efficiently.

  6. Controlled breathing techniques can help ease a panic attack. When an attack strikes, try this breathing exercise: Inhale slowly to a count of four, wait four counts, exhale slowly to a count of four, wait another four counts, then repeat the cycle until the attack passes.


Consult your doctor before using any health treatment — including herbal supplements and natural remedies — and tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as substitute for medical counseling.

Related Articles:

How to Manage Anxiety

6 Alternative Treatments for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety Avoidance Maneuvers

Anxiety to Zen: An Open Letter to Yoga


Related Products: 

Emotional Freedom Audio CD 

Marianne Williamson: Everyday Grace DVD 

The Breathing Box

Stress Relief CD 

Thank you for signing up!


JoshNod's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 14 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 04/19/2010

This is great information for anxiety problem sufferers like me. It is very hard to get over and I have always tried to not take the medicines and use alternative remedies instead.

jcbrown's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 12 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 04/27/2010

Acute anxieties and Panic attacks usually happen to 35% of people. It is, even though cannot be considered very normal, it still is an issue happening to many of us and is considered to be normal, because everybody ignores it. These kinds of fears, nervousness should definitely be consulted with a doctor or a counselor; otherwise it may breed and destroy one forever!
People usually manage to adjust themselves with medications from the stores but what I believe is with proper healthy lifestyle and exercise one need not worry about problems like this!

Anonymous's picture

Everybody experiences stress and strain at some time during their life. Sandra Hanlon Counsellor who can help you to see things clearly, to work it all out and to get back to enjoying life.

Add comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.