Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionKavaMagnesiumPassionflowerSt. John's Wort

Nutritional herbal supplements for treating anxiety

Approximately 6.8 million Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. It’s not surprising then that there’s interest in finding effective natural treatments.

The Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, in Los Angeles, California, reviewed the evidence for passionflower, lysine, magnesium, kava, and St John’s wort, alone or in combination.

First, the details.

  • 24 studies of 2619 participants met the inclusion criteria and were analyzed.

And, the results.


  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata Linn) was compared to oxazepam (Serax), a benzodiazepine used to treat chronic anxiety.
  • No difference between treatments, suggesting that passionflower is as effective as oxazepam in eliminating anxiety symptoms.
  • The passionflower group reported lower job impairment performance.
  • Those treated with oxazepam reported faster onset of symptom relief.
  • Mild side effects reported in another study included dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion.


  • Kava is a drink prepared from the plant Piper methysticum.
  • Study results are evenly divided as to the value of kava to treat anxiety.
  • FDA published a consumer advisory warning in 2002 about the potential for severe liver damage from kava-containing supplements.

St John’s wort

  • Hypericum perforatum, or St John’s wort is best known for treating depression.
  • There has been little study of the effectiveness of St. John’s wort to treat anxiety disorders.
  • What is known suggests it’s a potential anxiolytic agent.


  • The results of 2 studies suggest that the L-lysine + L-arginine reduces anxiety scores with no reported side effects.
  • More research is needed to determine the value of L-lysine alone.


  • In 3 studies, magnesium showed that anti-anxiety effects of increased when it was combined with other vitamins, minerals, and herbal extracts.
  • More research is needed to determine if magnesium itself has antianxiety effects.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded; “more research is needed before these products can be recommended to patients. St. John’s wort monotherapy has insufficient evidence for use as an effective anxiolytic treatment.”

10/9/10 19:31 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.