During seasons of stress and anxiety, it's easy to want to turn to a medication that promises to resolve unpleasant feelings. The problem is many of these medications come with their own set of unpleasant side effects. That's why I much prefer natural options that are safe yet effective. Recently, one study demonstrated the effectiveness of a natural herb for a group of people who frequently experience stress and anxiety: college students.
The researchers conducted this study with 81 students between the ages of 18 and 35 who attended the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. All of the students were healthy nonsmokers who consumed fewer than five caffeinated beverages a day and had no history of alcohol or other substance abuse. However, all of the students scored higher than a 30 on the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
Half of the students were part of the control group and did not receive any treatment. The other half received 200 mg tablets of a proprietary product called Vitano®. Vitano® is extracted from the root of the herb rhodiola, which helps combat anxiety and stress. The students took Vitano® before breakfast and again before lunch every day for 14 days.
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The researchers then evaluated the students' anxiety levels according to the STAI as well as their stress levels according to the Perceived Stress Scale. They also checked their mood according to the Profile of Mood States Inventory, sleepiness according to the Milford Epworth Sleepiness Scale, sleep quality according to the Leeds Sleep Evaluation Questionnaire, reaction time, attention, and speed of thinking.
All of the participants had similar results at baseline. But by 14 days in, those receiving the rhodiola had significantly lower levels of anxiety and stress compared with those in the control group. The Profile of Mood States Inventory also showed significant decreases in the anger, confusion, and total negative mood subscales for the rhodiola group. None of the other measures revealed significant differences between the two groups.
While there were some limitations to the study, including that the outcomes were self-reported and it's possible that school schedule changes also had an effect on the students' anxiety and stress, the clear differences between the two groups were telling.
If you know that you're going to be entering into a season of anxiety and stress (or are currently in the midst of one), you may want to give rhodiola a try to help you ease those negative feelings. Rhodiola may also be a viable alternative to anti-anxiety drugs. However, make sure you never stop taking a prescription medication without the supervision of your doctor. Get their help to make the transition.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD