When it comes to herbs to help stop panic attacks, there are several options available and it can often be quite confusing when trying to decide which ones to try. To add to the confusion, several herbal supplements come combined in one remedy and are sold as all-in-one ‘cures for anxiety’. After several years of communicating with people who have used various different herbs for panic attacks, I can recommend two herbal supplements that appear to be effective for reducing panic attacks: Passiflora and Valerian.
Passiflora (Passiflora incarnata) has traditionally been used as a folk remedy for anxiety and insomnia. It contains many active ingredients. The most widely studied of these constituents, maltol and ethymaltol, seem to be responsible for much of the anti-anxiety effects. It works on the physical body, relaxing muscles to reduce tension, which can be particularly effective for people who feel physically tense (e.g. tight shoulders or the sensation of a knotted stomach). People also report good results using this herb to aid sleep. It should not be taken with sedatives unless under medical supervision.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is believed to have been used for its calming and soothing effects since at least the time of Hippocrates (460-377 BC). Right up until the introduction of prescription sleep medications is was used as a folk remedy for a variety of conditions such as insomnia, nervousness, and headaches. The primary use for valerian today is to treat insomnia, but it is reported to reduce feelings of general anxiety. The active constituents in Valerian appear to be valerenic acid and valerenal. These compounds have a calming effect because they interact with the neurotransmitter GABA. As with most herbs for panic attacks, it generally takes a few weeks of use to feel the full benefit. Valerian may cause sleepiness or daytime drowsiness and should not be used with other medications for insomnia or anxiety.
It is important to be aware that herbal supplements are not a magic pill to stop panic attacks. In most instances people report only mild improvement and it is not uncommon for folks to feel no benefits at all. Again, you should discuss these or any other herbs with your doctor, especially if you are pregnant or taking any kind of medication.