Last week, I had my annual physical. I normally would not even go to the doctor unless I was gravely ill, but our health insurance carrier gives us a giant discount on our premiums if we do this.
So, we do this.
Anyway, instead of a quick weight, cholesterol, and blood-pressure check to confirm my excellent health and get my discount, I heard myself ramble on to my doctor for 15 minutes straight about my high anxiety levels, my terrible sleep, and my increasing concern that my body can’t take much more.
I mentioned a few times here on the blog that this has been a challenging year. We’ve had some deeply personal and difficult situations at home, I lost my father, my 18-year-old daughter is moving out in a few weeks, I took on a new leadership position at church, I’m about to launch my first book, and (plug your ears, men) I just turned 49, and I’m having *whispers* symptoms of the change.
FYI: Here is the official Urban Dictionary definition of Menopause:
A special time in a woman’s life when they can’t have babies anymore.
They get hormonal, mean, rude, short-tempered, angry, and awkward.
Bad time for teenagers to live with their moms.
‘She was mean because she was going through menopause.’
Any one of those things alone would produce anxiety or sleep issues. I happen to have all of them simultaneously–yay me. Consequently, despite my best efforts at radical self care, my body and mind are on “high alert” all day, every day.
I hesitate to make the following admission, because I know it’s controversial in Christian circles, but here it goes: about the only thing that effectively takes the edge off this ongoing anxiety is a glass of wine. This is wrought with problems–the most obvious of which is dependency on alcohol to function. Plus, drinking at 9 am, 3 pm, 6 pm, and 9 pm is generally frowned upon.
So, I blurted all this out to my doctor last week, stopping just short of begging for some sort of anti-anxeity prescription, because, basically, I’m miserable.
I’m very blessed to have a lovely and compassionate primary care physician who is trained as both a board certified M.D. and also in integrative medicine (homeopathy, herbs, vitamins, nutrition, and meditation–she’s the only one in my town!). Because of her dual training and my desire to use prescription meds as a last resort, she recommended I try Passionflower and Valerian Root.
I left her office and drove straight to the nearest health food store, bought both, and took my first dose of passionflower that evening. I’ve taken it every evening since.
Here is my experience in a nutshell:
- It takes the edge off the anxiety equally as effectively as a glass of wine (admittedly, takes a little longer and doesn’t taste as good).
- I have fallen asleep quickly each night and slept straight through until morning (I have not done this in probably a year!), and wake up feeling refreshed and rested. (Note: a glass of wine also helps me fall asleep, but wears off about 2 hours later, which means I wake up and lay in bed wide awake for an hour or 2 ruminating about All The Things.)
- A dose of Valerian Root around dinner time for anxiety combined with a dose of Passionflower at bed time for insomnia appears to be the magic bullet for me.
- My 16 year old son, who suffers with extreme ADHD and anxiety, tried it the other night and reported feeling “GREAT!” about an hour later. He asked for it the following day because he noticed such an improvement with his anxiety.
This is all anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness, so please do not take my word for it. I’ve included more information below with some links you can follow for further research. Do your homework, talk to your doctor, and do what is right for you. But if you are suffering from anxiety and/or insomnia, and hesitate to rely on alcohol or prescription meds for relief, this is worth a shot.
You can purchase Passionflower and Valerian Root on Amazon and can take it in many forms (drops, tea, capsules…) I chose capsules.
You can get the exact capsules I purchased here: Passionflower
And you can get the Valerian Root here: Valerian Root
More info on Passionflower
Passionflower is used for sleep problems (insomnia), gastrointestinal (GI) upset related to anxiety or nervousness, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and relieving symptoms related to narcotic drug withdrawal.
Passionflower is also used for seizures, hysteria, asthma, symptoms of menopause, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness and excitability, palpitations, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and pain relief.
In 1569, Spanish explorers discovered passionflower in Peru. They believed the flowers symbolized Christ’s passion and indicated his approval for their exploration. Passionflower is found in combination herbal products used as a sedative for promoting calmness and relaxation. Other herbs contained in these products include German chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap, and valerian.
Passionflower was formerly approved as an over-the-counter sedative and sleep aid in the U.S., but it was taken off the market in 1978 because safety and effectiveness had not been proven. However, passionflower may still be available alone or in combination with other herbal products. The chemicals in passionflower have calming, sleep inducing, and muscle spasm relieving effects.
Precautions: The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. For others, passionflower is generally considered to be safe and nontoxic in recommended doses and for less than 2 months at a time. Passionflower may interact with certain medications. Check this link at WebMD for a complete list.
Studies of people with generalized anxiety disorder show that passionflower is as effective as the drug oxazepam (Serax) for treating symptoms. Passionflower didn’t work as quickly as oxazepam (day 7 compared to day 4). However, it produced less impairment on job performance than oxazepam. Other studies show that patients who were given passionflower before surgery had less anxiety than those given a placebo, but they recovered from anesthesia just as quickly. See this article at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Passion flower is a safe herbal remedy for children and teens as well as adults. Accomplished herbalist and naturopathic physician, Dr. Mary Bove, endorses passion flower for stress in children. Dr. Bove is the author of the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants and is considered an authoritative reference on natural pediatric medicine. “Mayan healers recognized passion flower’s special usefulness in children, and traditionally employed the herb to support restful sleep, calm emotional reactivity and ease muscle twitching in kids. Today, herbalists frequently recommend passion flower as a first defense against nervousness and difficulty sleeping in teenagers,” says Dr. Bove. See this article at University Health News Daily for more info.
Other benefits of Passionflower:
1. May Help Reduce the Effects of Menopause, Including Hot Flashes & Depression
2. Lower Blood Pressure
3. Address ADHD symptoms
4. Reduce Insulin Levels
5. Reduce inflammation
If you experience nausea, vomiting, drowsiness or any other odd symptoms, even if after a few days, please seek the help of a physician. It may not be suitable for children under 6 months of age. See this article by Dr. Axe.
More on Valerian Root
For thousands of years, the herb valerian has been used as a sedative in Europe and Asia. Many people throughout the world use it to treat insomnia and anxiety. A number of studies suggest that valerian does help with insomnia. It seems to give people better-quality sleep. It may also help them fall asleep faster. See this article on WebMD.
Other benefits of Valerian Root:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Eases Menstrual Cramps
- Improves Stress Management
See this article by Dr. Axe for more info about drug interactions and potential side effects.