My grandson has just started college and says he feels anxious about going to school every morning. He's usually fine when he gets there but I don't like the thought of him feeling anxious walking to school every day. What natural remedies could he take to possibly alleviate his nerves?

Gladys, Upper Hutt

Hi Gladys, thank you for your question, it is lovely you are thinking of your grandson. Sudden and new changes can definitely bring feelings of anxiety and unease.

Anxiety, in particular social phobia, can be a really hard thing for people of all age groups to deal with. It can be especially tough for adolescents with anxiety to describe or cope with the feelings they have, and it can interfere with all aspects with their lives.

Luckily, there are great plant remedies that can help with that uneasy and uncomfortable feeling that anxiety can give.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) has been used for anxiety and other anxious symptoms such as palpitations, nervous headaches and mild insomnia. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study it showed the group taking the Passionflower extract had significantly lower anxiety levels than the control. In an observational study a combination of Passionflower, St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) greatly helped children suffering from social withdrawal, mild depression and anxiety. The results showed that over 80% of the children observed had mild to no symptoms on completion of the study.

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Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is another great medicinal plant that can impart a feeling of relaxation and reduce anxiety by providing a calming effect.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been known for centuries to have a soothing and calming effect on the nerves. It's mild sedative effect helps to reduce anxiety. Additionally, it soothes the digestive system. This plant holds amazing constituents, including apigenin which has a clear antianxiety activity. It is an excellent plant for all ages, babies included.

The great thing about medicinal plants is that they can be easily assimilated into your daily regime. Having a cup of a relaxing tea remedy at night and in the morning before college, and maybe filling a flask of herbal tea to take with him are easy ways to incorporate the plants. Reducing caffeine (from energy drinks, cola, and coffee) will significantly help as caffeine can induce the feeling of anxiety.

Deep breathing is also very important for those that get anxious. A great tip I learnt which can help us all is to breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and breathe out for the count of 4. Repeat 3 times or as needed.

If his anxiety increases or he finds it harder to manage his symptoms, it would be best to discuss a plan with his lead medical provider or a trained Medical Herbalist as often an individual plant remedy may give a stronger, more targeted effect.