The year 2020 has been a wild ride with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming US elections and social media playing a bigger-than-ever role in our lives. Times are changing and uncertainty is growing while institutions like extended families and civic groups that people once depended on for a sense of community are waning.

An epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and depression has hit millennials and Generation Z especially hard compared to other generations. Luckily, says Dr. Bomi Joseph of the Peak Health Center in California, nature has given us powerful natural herbs that can help some people feel calmer and more confident, whatever life happens throw our way.

1. Ashwagandha 

Also known as winter cherry, this herb is one of the most prized remedies in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It has been trusted for thousands of years to soothe frazzled nerves while boosting energy and focus and it has recently caught on to become one of the top-selling herbal supplements in the US. Ashwagandha can be taken long-term but it has the strongest effects if you periodically take a week or two break from using it.

2. Licorice

In the old days, licorice candy originally became popular for its soothing, mood-boosting effects more than for its flavor. The licorice root contains a compound called glycyrrhetinic acid that was found in a 2011 study to help the body more efficiently regulate the stress hormone cortisol. If you are feeling stressed or burned out, making a cup of licorice tea and gently sipping it throughout the day can help calm your nerves and restore confidence. To be on the safe side, avoid licorice if you have high blood pressure.

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3. Magnolia Bark

The bark of the magnolia tree has been used to by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for thousands of years to help bring about a sense of calm relaxation. It is one of the strongest anti-anxiety herbs on the market today. Magnolia bark contains active compounds called magnolol and honokiol that work on the nervous system’s anti-stress GABA receptors. The best magnolia bark products for stress are extracts that contain 90% or more honokiol. Magnolia bark extract is very potent and it works best for occasional relief “as needed” when you are feeling overwhelmed, rather than for regular everyday use.

 While herbs can really make a difference in your perceived stress levels,” say Dr. Bomi Joseph, “you can’t depend on herbs alone. You have to make changes to your life such as eating a healthy diet of unprocessed foods high in antioxidants, get to bed early for a good night’s sleep, and training your mind to focus on positive outcomes rather negative ones.“