Anxiety

Anxiety is defined by the American physiological association as an emotion characterized by a feeling of tension, worries thoughts and physical changes like increased rate of respiration, sweating and increased heart rate.
In simple general terms, anxiety consists of several disorders of the central nervous systems that cause nervousness, apprehension, fear, and worrying. These disorders change the behavioral patterns and can elicit physical symptoms affecting the activities of daily living. In the U.S.A, anxiety affects over 40 million people and is one of the commonest mental illnesses.

In mental health, anxiety is classified as a mood disorder. The most common type of psychiatric disorders are the anxiety disorders. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders anxiety disorders include disorders that have features of extreme anxiety and fear and are related to behavioral disturbances. These disorders include selective mutism, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobia, agoraphobia, panic disorder, substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorder due to other medical conditions.

Symptoms of anxiety include, Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath or feeling of smothering, feelings of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint, chills or heat sensations, paresthesia, derealization depersonalization, fear of losing control or going crazy and fear of dying.

Anxiety is a part of our natural defense mechanism humans inherited from their earliest primitive ancestors. When faced with potentially harmful or stressful situation our body releases stress hormones such as norepinephrine and cortisol that activates a stress response in the body. This norepinephrine or noradrenaline produces a rush known as the “flight-or-fight” response. This is only a short-lived response however in certain individuals this process lasts for abnormally long durations of time and has excessively large amounts of stress hormones being released causing these anxiety disorders.

This is one of the mental illness affecting the majority of the population. However, only 37% of the people receive treatment. One study carried out showed a large number of patients stopping treatment midway and high dropout rates due to adverse effects on anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs have many adverse effects such as dry mouth, nausea, vomiting weight gain, drowsiness, blurred vision, nightmare, confusion, headaches and many more.

Since ancient civilizations, many properties of plants and their extracts have been used to treat anxiety symptoms and it is a well-documented fact many ancient tribes used to drink plant potions before battle to get rid of their anxiety and fear. The main advantage of using this plant component in alternative medicine is that they do not produce the adverse effects anti-anxiety treatment does. Therefore, they have a better compliance to complete the therapy.

Essential oils are plant oil extracts from herbal plant components such as barks, flowers, seeds and leaves that have concentrated herbal compounds to treat disorders.

One of the most promising extracts is Lavender. In randomized control studies that compare the effect of lavender oil with anti-anxiety drugs, it has shown lavender oil produced no side effects in the therapeutic range, compared to anti-anxiety drugs. In the therapeutic range, it has shown the same effect as synthetic anxiolytic medications, including the benzodiazepine lorazepam and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) paroxetine prescribed in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Cherry plum and Rock rose extracts have also shown significant anti-anxiety properties in research studies. A randomized control study done on patients with anxiety showed that the group that used the flower essences of cherry plum and Rock Rose had a larger and statistically significant reduction in anxiety level in comparison to the placebo group.

A review study was done on many research articles which were published in “Biomed central”, has shown the extract from plant Star of Bethlehem has remarkable properties in stabilizing mood, reducing anxiety and balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain.

References:
Schuwald, A., Nöldner, M., Wilmes, T., Klugbauer, N., Leuner, K. and Müller, W. (2013). Lavender Oil-Potent Anxiolytic Properties via Modulating Voltage Dependent Calcium Channels. PLoS ONE, 8(4), p.e59998.
Thaler, K., Kaminski, A., Chapman, A., Langley, T. and Gartlehner, G. (2009). Bach Flower Remedies for psychological problems and pain: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9(1).
Cho, M., Min, E., Hur, M. and Lee, M. (2013). Effects of Aromatherapy on the Anxiety, Vital Signs, and Sleep Quality of Percutaneous Coronary Intervention Patients in Intensive Care Units. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, pp.1-6.
Tabatabaeichehr, M., Rashidi-Fakari, F. and Mortazavi, H. (2015). The effect of aromatherapy by essential oil of orange on anxiety during labor: A randomized clinical trial. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 20(6), p.661.
Zahra Seifi, R. (2018). The effect of lavender essential oil on anxiety level in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A double-blinded randomized clinical trial. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280720/ [Accessed 7 Aug. 2018].

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