Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Anxiety

 Some forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have proven to ease the stress of anxiety, based on research studies. Complementary medicine includes strategies that are not routinely used in Western medicine, although some doctors are favorable towards these methods. 


Here are some examples of several types of CAM that are used frequently to treat people with anxiety, and one or more of these options may help you too.


  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Yoga and tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Exercise

Analyzing Acupuncture for Alleviating Anxiety

How could someone sticking pins into you make you feel less anxious? The process may sound pretty anxiety-producing instead. It’s not entirely clear how acupuncture works, but it is known that acupuncture treatments help make some people feel less anxious. Some experts believe that acupuncture results in the release of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are two different neurotransmitters that work to elevate mood.


Researchers have found that acupuncture actually does provide some short-term relief for anxiety, although the jury is still out on longer-term relief. If you decide to try acupuncture for your anxiety, make sure that your acupuncturist is licensed, and has at least several years of experience in using acupuncture for anxiety.


Massage Therapy: It Is Relaxing and IT Feels Good

Even if you don’t have a sore back, neck or another aching part of your body, massage therapy can make you feel much more relaxed than prior to the treatment. It’s very hard to feel anxious and distressed when your whole body seems to feel like one big sigh of contentment. 


In one study at the University of Washington in Seattle, the researchers compared and contrasted the effects of three therapies. They analyzed the results of massage therapy, heat therapy and relaxation room therapy on individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Interestingly, the researchers found that the anxiety levels of the subjects in all three groups improved significantly.  However, there was not much difference in the improved responses of the people in the three groups when they were compared to each other. The researchers concluded that all three therapies included beneficial relaxation responses, thus decreasing anxiety levels.


Aromatherapy: Smell Therapy

Some people swear by aromatherapy as a great way to reverse anxiety and induce a state of calm. Research is mixed, but indicates that some people report experiencing a temporary relief from their anxiety when they inhale certain pleasant aromas emanating from essential oils. If anxiety were a smell, it would be very stinky and unpleasant. So it makes sense that smelling pleasant aromas could counteract your anxiety.


Lavender, with the Latin name of Lavandula angustifolia, is a pleasant-smelling herb used in aromatherapy, and it can relax people.

Lemon balm is another form of aromatherapy that has been found mildly helpful to people with anxiety. (And when you are very anxious, even mild relief may seem like a godsend.) Lemon balm may also be available as an herbal supplement.

Yoga and tai chi

Using special movements under the rubric of yoga or tai chi can help relieve anxiety considerably, based on research studies.  Yoga and tai chi are different forms of  very specific types of exercises. Yoga includes stretching exercises that are combined with breathing techniques and meditation.  Tai chi includes exercises in various increasingly difficult postures. 


Many gyms and community centers offer yoga and tai chi lessons. To perform the movements correctly, you must concentrate and that means your brain can’t fixate on how things are terrible and what if you get fired from your job—and so on.



Meditation is a process during which the person focuses on their own mind and body and ignores all outside distractions.  Experts say that meditation can occur while a person is lying down, sitting or even walking around. Some studies have shown that meditation can decrease anxiety, stress, depression, and even improve some health problems. Community centers may offer lessons on how to meditate.


Exercising Your Anxiety Away

It has been proven scientifically that exercising frequently generates endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel better. It’s also called a “runner’s high” when the person experiencing it runs for exercise.  In most cases, exercise will make you healthier and feel better—two great goals. Of course, talk to your doctor first before starting any exercise program.



Many people use two or more forms of therapy to decrease their anxiety, such as combining exercise with yoga or tai chi, or aromatherapy with massage therapy.  Try these different therapies and evaluate whether they work for you. If they do improve your anxiety problem, then consider making them a regular part of your life.