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Anxiety: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • Hypnotherapy is currently used in health care to modify feelings of pain, anxiety, and fear, and to gain acceptance of new behaviors.

  • Imagery is used to prepare patients for medical procedures, to relieve pain and anxiety, and to soothe side effects that are aggravated by anxiety.

  • Many patients have found imagery helpful, even if they were not cured, and have reported relief of anxiety and pain, better toleration of chemotherapy and radiation, and an increased sense of control.

  • A study showed that Qi Gong exercises, involving physical movement and breathing techniques, were helpful for patients with reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a debilitating disease of the autonomic nervous system that often resists medical intervention. For these patients, Qi Gong significantly reduced pain and anxiety.

  • Therapists use music for a number of purposes, including reduction of stress, anxiety, and social isolation.

  • In the treatment of heart disease, music has been used as a pacemaker, helping patients to sustain normal heart rhythms. It also reduces anxiety in heart attack patients.

  • Taking a holistic approach to the individual, traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine maintains that all aspects of life contribute to health, including nutrition, hygiene, sleep, weather, and lifestyle, as well as physical, mental, and sexual activities. Emotional factors are also taken into consideration. Anger, fear, anxiety, and unhealthy relationships are believed to contribute to illness. A healthy emotional state is considered the very foundation of physical health.

  • Brahmi, an Ayurvedic herb, is highly valued as an anti-anxiety compound.

  • A study evaluated the effects of pancha karma, an Ayurvedic detoxification regimen, on risk factors for heart disease in thirty-one adults. Patients who participated in a program of herbs, meditation, and moderate exercise were found to have an 80 percent increase in the ability of their blood vessels to dilate three months after the treatment, indicating improved function. Total cholesterol was reduced in all the participants, with a reduced measure of free radical damage and significantly reduced anxiety.

  • Yoga programs have shown the potential for helping to reduce heart disease by influencing such risk factors as blood pressure, anxiety, and unhealthy reaction to stress.

  • As a result of over a dozen studies, it has been concluded that devout religious belief enhances health and well being and helps protect against anxiety and depression. However, religious beliefs can have a negative impact. Religious dogma can be harmful when it fosters excessive guilt, perfectionistic expectations, fear, or lowered self-worth.

  • A study found that patients in a cardiovascular unit who received therapeutic touch, a procedure involving the manipulation of the body’s energy fields, showed a significant reduction in anxiety, compared to patients receiving mock therapeutic touch.

  • Studies indicate that the herb kava kava, or "intoxicating pepper," may reduce anxiety and induce sleep. Kava should not be used with antidepressants, alcohol, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers such as Valium, or any other sedating pharmaceuticals used for the central nervous system. Kava can cause a skin reaction (dermatitis) or sensitivity to light. Rarely, hallucinations have been reported. If you use this herb for a long period of time, which is not advisable, your skin can become temporarily yellow. Your nails and your hair can react as well. If you overdose on kava you will have a strong urge to sleep and you might lose control of your voluntary muscles. Kava should not be used while driving a motor vehicle or operating heavy equipment, during pregnancy, or if you have a history of depression. The typical preparation is a crude extract of standardized kavalactone (30 percent) and the typical dose is 45-70 mg of kavalactone. Typical dosage is 250 mg of the standardized extract two or three times per day, preferably with meals. Do not take more than two 250 mg capsules in any four-hour period. Kava may relieve mild anxiety in less than an hour, but it can require up to eight weeks for any impact on severe anxiety. Take for a maximum of three months followed by abstaining for two to four weeks.

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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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