Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults. While counseling and medication are standard treatments, many people are looking to complementary therapies like acupuncture for anxiety relief. In this post, we’ll look at the causes of anxiety and treating anxiety with acupuncture to restore calm and balance. In addition, we’ll go over the most effective herbs, vitamins, and minerals to help treat anxiety.
What Causes Anxiety
Anxiety stems from an overactive sympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Chronic stress keeps the body in a constant state of arousal, causing physical and emotional symptoms like rapid heartbeat, nausea, and excessive worry.
Research shows that people with anxiety have an underactive parasympathetic system, which counters “fight or flight.” Calming this parasympathetic branch through relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety symptoms. This is where acupuncture comes in.
How Does Acupuncture Help Anxiety?
Disruptions in the flow of qi (energy) through the body cause anxiety and stress in traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture helps rebalance qi by accessing specific points along the body’s meridians.
Modern studies confirm that acupuncture impacts both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Inserting needles at certain points has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, calm the mind, and regulate stress hormones like cortisol. This makes treating anxiety with acupuncture an effective treatment approach for anxiety.
What to Expect in an Acupuncture Session
Your acupuncturist, Linyana, will first assess your symptoms and medical history. To induce relaxation and treat anxiety with acupuncture, the most effective points will be used. Main acupuncture include include:
- Yintang (between eyebrows) to calm the mind.
- Neiguan (inner wrist) to soothe irritability.
- Shenmen (inner arm) to reduce nervousness.
- Zusanli (outer leg) to relieve tension.
Here are some of the most common feelings and sensations people report after acupuncture treatment:
- Relaxed – One of the main goals of acupuncture is to induce deep relaxation and many people feel a profound sense of calm after treatment. The breathing and meditative aspects also contribute to this relaxing effect.
- Emotionally balanced – Acupuncture will balance energy and emotions. Many people feel less anxious, depressed, and emotionally unstable after treatment. They describe a stable, peaceful mood.
- Improved sleep – By reducing stress and pain, acupuncture can lead to better sleep quality for many people. Feeling relaxed and rested is a common feeling post-acupuncture.
- Increased energy – Some people feel a surge of energy after acupuncture, while others feel pleasantly drained and tired. Both effects result from the rebalancing impact.
- Improved focus – Mental clarity from acupuncture can help people feel more motivated, productive and focused following treatment.
- Euphoric – Acupuncture releases endorphins which can result in a natural high. Some people experience an intense feeling of euphoria post-treatment.
The effects of acupuncture vary based on the individual and conditions being treated. But overall, the majority of people find it relaxing and restorative.
Treating Anxiety With Acupuncture: How Many Sessions?
Acute anxiety symptoms can improve immediately but lasting changes may take 4-6 weekly sessions. Maintenance appointments every month for treating anxiety with acupuncture help sustain the benefits. Consistent acupuncture over several months retrains the body to maintain normal parasympathetic activity.
Is Acupuncture Right for You?
Acupuncture is very safe and causes minimal side effects. It’s a great option if you want to avoid medication and/or if you’re taking medication but not feeling necessary changes. For best results, acupuncture works best paired with lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, exercise, restful sleep and stress reduction techniques. After your medical assessment, I will recommend herbs, vitamins, and minerals in addition to acupuncture.
Herbs That Help With Anxiety
- Chamomile – Contains apigenin, a compound that binds to GABA receptors in the brain which helps promote relaxation. You can consume chamomile as tea or a supplement.
- Valerian – Increases levels of GABA in the brain similarly to benzodiazepines, creating a sedative effect. Valerian is available as a supplement.
- Lemon Balm – Has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-anxiety properties. Lemon balm tea or supplements may improve mood and reduce stress.
- Lavender – Has a calming, soothing aroma that can decrease anxiety symptoms when inhaled or applied topically as an essential oil.
- Passionflower – Contains flavonoids that increase GABA levels, creating a relaxing effect. You can consume passionflower in tea, tincture or supplement form.
- Ashwagandha – An adaptogenic herb that helps the body manage stress and anxiety by regulating cortisol levels and calming the nervous system. Available as capsules, tinctures and powders.
- Rhodiola – An adaptogen that helps regulate serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain which control mood and emotional responses. Rhodiola comes in capsules or liquid extracts.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in fish oil supplements. Omega 3’s will help control inflammation connected to mood and brain health.
Vitamins and Minerals That Can Help Manage Anxiety
- Vitamin B Complex – B vitamins like B6, B12, and folate help produce brain chemicals that regulate mood. Deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to anxiety and depression.
- Vitamin D – This vitamin impacts serotonin activity and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Low vitamin D levels correlate with mood disorders. Getting sufficient vitamin D from sunlight, food or supplements may lessen anxiety.
- Magnesium – Magnesium assists in balancing neurotransmitters that control stress response. Supplements can to reduce anxiety levels, especially in those with magnesium deficiency.
- Calcium – Calcium regulates nerve functioning and neurotransmitter release. Adequate calcium intake can have anti-anxiety effects.
- Iron – Iron helps cognitive abilities and is needed to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Iron deficiency is associated with anxiety disorders.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3s found in fish oil play a role in mood and brain health. They help control inflammation that may contribute to anxiety.
- Zinc – Zinc impacts neurotransmitter activity and is needed for normal brain function. Zinc supplements may benefit those with anxiety who are low in zinc.
Before taking any supplements, including herbs, it’s best to speak with your healthcare practitioner, especially if you take medication for anxiety, as interactions are possible. Many of these herbs work well in combination with other relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
From calming nerves to regulating hormones, acupuncture can address anxiety at its roots. As part of a comprehensive wellness plan, treating anxiety with acupuncture offers a drug-free way to find relief from being anxious. A healthier, more balanced you awaits with this ancient approach!