Herbs for Anxiety: Try Polygala, the Will Strengthener.

Herbs for Anxiety: Try the Will Strengthener (Polygala tenuifolia)

If you’re looking for herbs for anxiety, consider Polygala (the Will Strengthener), an all-natural, stress-relieving herbal extract.


Anxiety can come in many forms, such as information overload, analysis paralysis, social interaction-induced anxiety, pervasive thoughts about the past or the future, or a more serious condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Always being in an uneasy state can become the norm for many. In fact, during periods of calm your brain might even start looking for things to worry about.

For example, you might be worrying about what you’ll make for dinner and then suddenly be struck with intense concern over how to pay your bills. As you experience these nervous, restless emotions, more thoughts creep in, creating a cycle of worry with no resolution.

Impaired Stress Response

Cortisol is a natural hormone released by the body to handle stress. However, if anxiety causes you to constantly induce your cortisol response, that excess of cortisol can cause serious harm. Excessive cortisol production can impair the hippocampus, which can in turn impair learning, memory, and emotional regulation over time.

Repeated overstimulation of the hippocampal response to stress can also create symptoms of depression, including low appetite, decreased libido, abnormal reaction to new stimuli, and difficulty sleeping. Prolonged anxiety can reduce your body’s serotonin and dopamine levels, leaving you vulnerable to drug self-administration and abuse as a means of escape.

Herbs for Anxiety: Try Polygala

Polygala tenuifolia is valued for its healing powers. It’s sometimes called Seneca or the Will Strengthener. The Chinese name for Polygala, Yuan Zhi, translates to “high aspirations.” Polygala is a nootropic, an adaptogen, and an antioxidant, and it’s one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Polygala has many therapeutic uses. It’s valued for its reputed ability to protect the brain. It’s often used to support the treatment of cognitive deficits, improve learning and memory, and increase awareness and clarity. Adherents believe it improves creative thinking, enhanced dreaming, and manifested ideas. Buddhist monks use it to support meditation and focus.

Polygala is an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens help the body combat the effects of stress and enable the body to function normally during traumatic periods. Polygala is thought to calm the heart and ease restlessness and anxiety. Polygala may also support the sleep process by discharging repressed emotions and relaxing the body.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine terms, Polygala tenuifolia balances the qi of the heart and kidneys, supporting emotional stability and promoting healthy mood. In addition, Polygala extract is often used to reduce inflammation and promote a healthy respiratory system. The extract also appears to have immune system-supporting properties.

The Science Behind Polygala

A study in Neurochemical Research Journal suggests that Polygala can go beyond simply being neuroprotective and can promote neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation, pushing the plant into a special category of nootropics that support new brain cell growth.

A Phytotherapy Research Journal study states that Polygala extract “promotes the proliferation of neural stem cells, [which] may contribute to the therapeutic benefits of herbal medicines containing [Polygala] for the treatment of patients with insomnia, neurosis and dementia.”

A 2014 Public Library of Science Journal study cites preclinical evidence that Polygala extract “exerts rapid-onset antidepressant effects by modulating glutamatergic synapses in critical brain circuits of depression and may be worthy of further evaluation as a safe substitute to other rapid-onset antidepressants known to have unacceptable side effects.”

You can find additional research at the National Institutes of Health website.

Herbs for Anxiety to Help You Calm Your Nerves

Anxiety is a cascade. It can take over your brain if left untreated and spiral your mental health out of control. If you want to calm anxiety, start by taking control.

First, understand the effects of anxiety so you can recognize the dangers and begin to address those effects with thought and intention. Then, begin a course of practical, determined treatment in order to take back control over your anxiety and its negative side effects.

Meditation can help you build focus and attention, which can calm your anxiety. Meditation therapies may help reduce several anxiety symptoms, and incorporating Polygala extract into your diet may support these efforts. (Try it in our favorite stress relief smoothie recipe.)

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