Three Herbs for Anxiety


California Poppy is the first plant that comes to mind. Although it contains none of the opiates that this family is famous for, it has a very similar calming effect on the nervous system. It works particularly well for PMS related stress as it has pain relieving and muscle relaxing benefits as well. The whole above ground plant, leaves, flowers and all can be made into a relaxing tea.


St John’s Wort needs no introduction. It is a wonderful plant to treat stress, anxiety and depression. It is used primarily for nervous function for which is has a calming, restorative influence, whether the symptoms are physical or emotional. It will ease the pain of any nerve-related problem as well. The leaves and flowering tops can be made into tea. Please see the full article for contraindications to use.


Chamomile is an oldie but a goodie. It has held an esteemed place in the home herbal medicine arsenal for hundreds if not thousands of years. And for excellent reason, as it is a very reliable relaxant, calming the nervous system without undue sedation. I works well for children, and because of it’s calming effect on digestion, it settles an anxious stomach. Pick a few flowers for your tea and get ready to relax and let go.


California Poppy

Escholtzia californica

Common names: California Poppy

Family name: Papaveraceae

California Poppy is a common roadside herb here in Victoria, it brightens up the travel with it’s cheering vivid orange flowers. Although it belongs to the poppy family, it contains none of the opioid alkaloids that the family is famous for. Although it has a distinct relaxing effect on nerves and muscles, this effect is probably due to the different alkaloids interacting with our endogenous benzodiazepine receptors as described below. The class of chemicals in this plant are in no way addicting.

Parts Used: above ground herb harvested in flower. I like to include the orange taproot and immature seed pods as well; chopped up fresh and placed in 50 % alcohol for a powerful whole plant tincture.

Constituents: isoquinone alkaloids-(eschscholtzine, californidine, californine, chelirubine, chelirutine, cryptocavine, cryptopine, escholidine, escholine, protopine, sanguinarine, chelerythrine) flavones glycosides (quercetin, isohamnetin)

Pharmacology: There is inhibition of enzymatic degradation of catecholamines and the synthesis of epinephrine in vitro, alkaloids enhanced gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) binding possibly indicating a benzodiazepine-like activity, binding to benzodiazepine receptors displacing the benzodiazepine flurazepam. The sedative and anxiolytic effects are likely linked to benzodiazepine receptor activation.

Therapeutic actions: hypnotic, sedative, nerve relaxant, anodyne, anxiolytic

Therapeutic uses: insomnia, migraine, stress, nervous bowel (IBS), anxiety, depression neuralgia, menstrual cramps, colic, and gastric pains, suitable for children, painful conditions where codeine or morphine might be used. This herb is highly valued in reducing the effects of opiate withdrawal.

Combinations: With Passiflora incarnate for hyperactivity and sleeplessness.

Donna Odierna, herbalist and director of the H.E.A.L.T.H. needle exchange clinic in Oakland California, uses Escholtzia as a primary ingredient in her “Kick Juice”. She has found that her formula helps to wean and/or reduce her patient’s use of heroin and methadone. The other components include Vitex agnus castus, Avena sativa, Piper methysticum and Verbena officinalis.

Toxicity/side effects: If using high doses avoid driving or operating machinery.

Contraindications: avoid in pregnancy and fever,

Dosage: max 3ml of a 1:5 extract three times per day

Duration of treatment: as required

How it is given: tincture in warm water 1/2hr before meals

Studies: Canadian study showed some attenuation of the development of morphine addiction. sm230

Sedative and anxiolytic properties were demonstrated in mice dependent upon dosage; sedation was produced on higher doses.

It was demonstrated that an aqueous extract inhibits the enzymatic degradation of catecholamines, including dopamine beta-hydroxyase and monoamine oxidase, as well as the synthesis of adrenaline.

Researchers determined an affinity for the benzodiazepine receptor.

(Caldecott)