Safe Alternatives to Anti-Anxiety Drugs


Safe Alternatives to Anti-Anxiety Drugs

Julian Whitaker, MD

Cheryl, a CPA and owner of a successful accounting firm, often puts in 12 to 14 hour days. A few months ago, she began waking up at night with a rapid heartbeat and severe anxiety. The anxiety often lasted throughout the day.

Cheryl would be a perfect candidate for anti-anxiety medications such as Valium, Librium, Xanax, or Tranxene. These medications belong to the class of drugs called benzodiazepines. They work by activating receptor sites in the brain that are sensitive to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid and neurotransmitter that helps calm down the brain.

Anti-Anxiety Drugs Have Dangerous Side Effects

Unfortunately, these drugs have a plethora of adverse side effects, including dizziness, impaired thinking, memory loss, and unsteady gait. Although they can cause forgetfulness and other behaviors that are erroneously chalked up to “old age,” almost one in five people over age 65 has had a prescription for one or more of these “tranquilizers.”

Even worse, approximately 14 percent of all hip fractures and 16,000 automobile accidents per year are attributed to benzodiazepine drugs. They are also quite habit forming. Many people are put on them for extended periods, then find themselves with the heartbreak and misery of a prescription drug addiction.

An Anti-Anxiety Amino Acid

The good news is that there are several natural anti-anxiety treatments out there which, in my opinion, are equally effective and much, much safer than prescription medications.

One is the amino acid GABA. Since benzodiazepines stimulate GABA receptors to alleviate anxiety, I suggest you skip the drugs and take GABA supplements instead. GABA naturally stimulates these receptors and thus has a similar, yet safer effect. The suggested dose is 750 mg as needed, up to three times a day. GABA is especially helpful for situational anxiety. Many people take it before they fly on airplanes, give public presentations, or any other time when they need relief from anxiety.

Kava, Tried and True

Another natural anti-anxiety remedy which has been used in the Pacific islands for centuries is kava, from the roots of the pepper plant, Piper methysticum. It contains kavalactones, which promote a sense of calm and peace. A double-blind study of 29 patients showed that 100 mg of kava taken three times a day helped reduces palpitations, chest pain, headache, dizziness, gastrointestinal distress, and other symptoms of anxiety.

A word about kava safety. In recent years, Canada and several European countries pulled kava from the market after it was linked to several cases of liver toxicity. Yet Donald Waller, PhD, a toxicologist and professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who reviewed more than 50 reports of adverse reactions to kava, found the evidence for toxicity sketchy at best. He reported, “There is no clear evidence that the liver damage reported in the US and Europe was caused by the consumption of kava.” Today, there is consideration being given to rescind the actions against kava in several countries.

A Gentler Approach

It may take a while for you to get used to the subtleness of these natural remedies. They don’t blast into your system like drugs do. Yet their ultimate effects of calming and alleviating anxiety are similar to, yet much safer than, benzodiazepine drugs.

Cheryl took my advice and started taking kava. She gets by very well on this herb alone, taking one at night and one or two during the day when confronted with stressful situations.


  • If you’re taking a benzodiazepine or another prescription drug for anxiety, talk to your physician about gradually reducing your dose. To make an appointment with a Whitaker Wellness physician experienced in treating anxiety with non-drug therapies, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
  • The usual dose of GABA is 750 mg, or half a 750 mg capsule if you weigh less than 100 pounds. Kava doses vary, depending on the strength of the extract. Take as directed. Kava should not be taken by heavy drinkers, people with liver disease, pregnant or nursing women, or anyone taking a drug that stresses the liver. Be aware that it causes drowsiness in some people. To order GABA, call (800) 810-6655.
  • To order my special report, Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, call (800) 810-6655.


  • Wolfe, SM et al. Worst Pills Best Pills II. Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, Washington, DC, 1993.
  • Bowery, NG et al. GABA receptors in Mammalian Function, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., West Sussex, England, 1990.
  • Natural anxiolytics-kava and L.72 anti-anxiety formula. American Journal of Natural Medicine. Oct. 1994;1(2): 10-14.
  • Natural Products Insider. Read article.

Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.

One-Stop Shop for Wellness and Natural Anti-Anxiety Treatments

Renowned physician, author, and speaker, Julian Whitaker, MD, opened the doors of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in 1979. Since then, our clinic has helped more than 45,000 patients overcome serious health challenges and get back on the road to healthy living. We’re proud to offer nearly two dozen safe, innovative, healing therapies under one roof—that’s more than any other facility in the northern hemisphere. Just think of us as your “one-stop shop for wellness.”

To learn more about how the natural anti-anxiety treatments at the Whitaker Wellness Institute will allow you to control your anxiety safely—without the use of dangerous drugs—and help restore your health and vitality, click on the buttons below to schedule a complimentary consultation or contact us to learn more. You can also schedule your complimentary consultation or obtain more information by calling our Patient Services Representatives at (866) 944-8253.

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