Valium, the brand name for diazepam, is an anti-anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family. Valium can be physically addictive and can cause side effects. According to the CareGroup Healthcare System, herbs are generally milder in effect--yet more complex pharmacologically--than pharmaceutical drugs. Sedative herbs, or nervines, can be used for moderate depression, insomnia and sleep disturbances. However, never begin any herbal regimen without consulting your physician as herbs can have side effects and interfere with prescription medications.
Black cohosh, botanically known as Cimicifuga racemosa and also called black snake root and rattleweed, is a sedative nervine often prescribed by herbalists for symptoms of menopause and pre-menstrual syndrome. A 2005 clinical study published in the March 2005 issue of "Advances in Therapy" suggested that black cohosh, marketed as Remifemin, reduced anxiety in menopausal women. According to the CareGroup Healthcare System, black cohosh should not be taken during pregnancy unless under the care of a trained midwife or herbalist.
Kava kava, botanically known as Piper methysticum and also called long pepper, is a muscular relaxant, a sedative and an anxiolytic, or anxiety reducer. Pacific islanders have used it ceremonially for centuries as a mild mood elevator and to enhance sociability. Herbal practitioners recommend kava kava for anxiety and muscle tension. A clinical study published in the Sept. 10, 2003 issue of "Phytomedicine" showed that kava kava was as effective as Buspirone in treating patients with generalized anxiety disorder. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that there is serious concern that kava kava may cause liver damage, and recommends taking it only under a doctor's supervision. If you are pregnant, nursing or have liver disease, you should not take kava kava at all.
Valerian, botanically known as Valeriana officinalis and also called heliotrope, has sedative and hypnotic effects. It has been used since the second century to alleviate mental depression and anxiety; herbalists currently prescribe it to soothe stress that contributes to restlessness, insomnia, excitability, and tension. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, scientists believe that valerian increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid in the brain, which has a calming effect on anxiety--the same action by which Valium works. According to MedlinePlus, valerian is generally recognized as safe, but should not be taken for longer than four to six weeks; stopping valerian after long-term high-dose use can lead to confusion and rapid heartbeat.
Gelsemium, made from the yellow jessamine plant, is a homeopathic remedy for anxiety. In homeopathic medicine, symptoms of disease are treated by using infinitesimal amounts of a substance that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person, and that in larger amounts could cause toxicity or even death. Homeopaths prescribe gelsemium for anxiety about upcoming stressful events--such as public performances and interviews--as well as for general nervousness, tension and apprehension. Homeopathy is generally considered safe, but it is an alternative therapy that is not intended to replace medical treatment.
Arsenicum album is made from arsenic, but the minute amounts and successive dilutions of homeopathic preparation render it harmless. Homeopaths prescribe Arsenicum album for patients that are anxious, restless, fidgeting, preoccupied with their health and prone to panic attacks.