Alternatives to Benzodiazepines


Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Klonopin, are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. These drugs carry a risk of dependence and are usually not recommended for long-term treatment of these conditions. Several natural alternatives exist to address anxiety. Natural treatment strategies often involve a combination of methods that require consistency to bring about change. Consulting with a health care professional experienced in natural medicine can help you design an effective regimen. The University of Maryland Medical Center and natural health expert Dr. Andrew Weil suggest the following options.

Diet and Exercise

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that regular, intense exercise like running can relieve anxiety. Exercise gives you something to focus on and stimulates the release of beneficial chemicals that improve mood and induce relaxation.

Do not drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages; the stimulant effect exacerbates feelings of anxiety. And although there is no official anti-anxiety diet, certain dietary strategies can improve overall health and well-being. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Keeping your blood sugar level low can also decrease anxiousness, so eat smaller meals that combine protein, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and healthy fats like those found in fish and nuts.


Many natural supplements offer similar benefits, so taking all of them is not required. This is a particular aspect of treatment where consulting with a knowledgeable practitioner might be helpful.

The B-vitamins and magnesium can help relieve anxiety; take a B-complex supplement (contains all the B-vitamins) and a magnesium supplement as directed on the product label.

Valerian is well known for reducing anxiety and inducing sleep. It is available on its own or in a combination supplement that also contains lemon balm and St. John’s wort, two other herbs known for their relaxation properties. Use as directed on the product label. Do not use these supplements if you are taking anti-anxiety medication or any other drugs with a sedative effect. Do not use if you have liver problems or are pregnant or nursing. St. John’s wort interacts with many medications, including birth control pills and antidepressants; discuss this treatment with your doctor if you are on any prescription medications. Passionflower, as a tincture or capsule extract, has demonstrated action against anxiety that was equal to benzodiazepines; take as directed on the product label.

Alternative Treatment Modalities

You might want to experiment with different professional treatments. Acupuncture can alleviate symptoms of anxiety for as long as a year after a course of treatment. Acupuncturists can also be a good source of information for treating this condition from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective.

Massage can alleviate stress and anxiety, especially when it is combined with aromatherapy. Beneficial oils known to lessen anxiety include lavender, sage, jasmine and sandalwood.

Lifestyle Suggestions

Make an effort to reduce stress in your life. Experiment with meditation, yoga, deep breathing, positive visualization and hypnosis. Start a journal. Chronicling your daily thoughts, fears and worries can be an outlet to release them, and help you identify what treatments are working for you and evaluate your progress in overcoming your anxiety. Reduce your consumption of negative news by cutting back on how often you watch TV news, surf the internet or read newspapers.

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