Rosemary displays a powerful anti-anxiety effect, similar to diazepam but without the side effects
12/11/2018 // Ellaine Castillo // Views

More than 500 million people suffer from anxiety worldwide. Because of this very alarming statistic, researchers are focusing on finding treatments for this condition. Natural products are good alternatives to anti-anxiety drugs because of their potency and safety. Researchers from Iran showed that rosemary, a commonly used medicinal plant, has potential use as a treatment for anxiety.

Anxiety is a condition that causes frequent feelings of worry or fear in normal situations. Having this problem can greatly affect a person's quality of life, especially when left untreated. The most common conventional treatments for anxiety include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, both of which are also used against depression. However, many patients suffering from mental health problems choose not to take these medications because of their side effects, which include nausea, vomiting, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and drug dependency. Instead, they choose to go for alternative treatments like herbal remedies.

Rosemary is a perennial shrub native to Mediterranean and Southern European countries. It has a broad range of pharmacological activities that include killing bacteria and fungi, reducing inflammation, preventing mutagenesis, neutralizing free radicals, promoting blood circulation, and lowering blood sugar levels. These properties of rosemary can be attributed to the presence of bioactive compounds, which vary depending on the form that rosemary is found in. Essential oils contain tricicline, 1,8-cineole, camphor, camphene, and bornyl acetate while hydromethanolic extracts are rich in flavonoids. There are also some people who use this herb for treating mental health disorders. However, this application was not yet fully understood prior to this study.


In this paper, which was published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, the researchers administered hydroalcoholic extracts from rosemary into the abdomen of mice. They also administered Diazepam, a common anti-anxiety drug, as a basis for anti-anxiety effects, which they determined through the elevated plus maze. This method, which is the most reliable way of measuring anti-anxiety effects, involves two open arms of the plus sign where the mice can see over the edge and two closed arms. Mice exhibiting lower anxiety levels tend to go to the open arms and stay there longer than anxious mice.

The authors of the study observed that mice treated with rosemary extracts reduced anxiety at a degree similar to Diazepam, especially at higher doses. The medicinal herb was even better since it did not exhibit any of the side effects associated with Diazepam, which include seizure, depression, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, insomnia, and liver problems.

Although the researchers did not determine the mechanism behind rosemary's anti-anxiety effect, they hypothesized that it could be attributed to the presence of flavonoids. These bioactive compounds can cross the blood-brain barrier to enhance the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical that is reduced in patients with depression and anxiety. Moreover, the antioxidant activities of rosemary also have a potential role in reducing anxiety.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that rosemary has anti-anxiety effects that are comparable to the anxiolytic drug Diazepam. This activity can be attributed to the presence of flavonoids that have antioxidant activities and can improve GABA production. These results prove that rosemary has potential use as a natural remedy for anxiety. (Related: Herbs for anxiety: Experts share the science behind some that are most effective.)

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