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NCCIH Clinical Digest

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Anxiety and Complementary Health Approaches

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November 2016
Clinical Digest Anxiety

Researchers are studying a variety of complementary health approaches to see whether they might be helpful for occasional anxiety or anxiety disorders. There is some evidence that mindfulness and other forms of meditation, music, relaxation techniques, and melatonin may be efficacious for anxiety, especially anxiety associated with medical procedures or chronic medical problems. However, there is not enough evidence on other complementary health approaches for anxiety to draw definitive conclusions about their efficacy.

This issue of the digest provides a summary of current evidence on several complementary health approaches for anxiety, including mind and body practices and natural products.

Modality and Summary of Current Evidence

Acupuncture

Although some studies of acupuncture for anxiety have had positive outcomes, in general, many of the studies on acupuncture for anxiety have been of poor methodological quality or not of statistical significance. In addition, because the research is extremely variable (e.g., number and variety of acupuncture points, frequency of sessions, and duration of treatment), it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about potential benefits.

Read more about the evidence-base for acupuncture for anxiety

Massage Therapy

In some studies massage therapy helped to reduce anxiety for people with cancer or other comorbid medical conditions; however, other studies did not find a statistically significant beneficial effect.  

Read more about the evidence-base for massage therapy for anxiety

Mindfulness Meditation

Meditation therapy is commonly used and has been shown to be of small to modest benefit for people with anxiety-related symptoms. However, there is a lack of studies with adequate statistical power in patients with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders, which makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about its efficacy for anxiety disorders.

Read more about the mindful meditation for acupuncture for anxiety

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques may reduce anxiety in individuals with chronic medical problems and those who are having medical procedures.  However, evidence demonstrates that conventional psychotherapy, for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder, may be more effective than relaxation techniques.

Read more about the evidence-base for relaxation techniques for anxiety

Kava

Kava extract may produce moderately beneficial effects on anxiety symptoms; however, the use of kava supplements has been linked to a risk of severe liver damage. 

Read more about the evidence-base for kava for anxiety

Melatonin

There is some evidence that suggests melatonin may help reduce anxiety in patients who are about to have surgery and may be as effective as standard treatment with midazolam in reducing preoperative anxiety.

Read more about the evidence-base for melatonin for anxiety

Lavender

Although some studies of lavender for anxiety have shown some therapeutic effects, in general, many of these studies have been of poor methodological quality.

Read more about the evidence-base for lavender for anxiety

Scientific Literature

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

Copyright

Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

This page last modified November 17, 2016