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What are the Different over-The-Counter Anxiety Medications?

Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Herbal anti-anxiety treatments such as proloftin, kava, St. John’s wort, lemon balm or valerian root are deemed to be effective and relatively safe for use as over-the-counter anxiety medications. Some sleep medications or antihistamines, particularly Benadryl and chlor-trimeton, are sometimes viewed as medicines for anti-anxiety without a prescription. This is not their intended use and doctors do not recommend taking either of these as over-the-counter anti-anxiety medications, however.

Also known as diphenhydramine, Benadryl is commonly used to treat allergy and hay fever symptoms. Individuals who experience difficulties sleeping are also sometimes advised to take Benadryl as an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aid. Benadryl, however, is not considered an anxiety treatment, but only temporarily calms symptoms associated with anxiety, such as sleeplessness.

Similar to Benadryl, chlor-trimeton is also considered by some who are seeking OTC anxiety medications. As an antihistamine, chlor-trimeton stifles symptoms associated with allergies, such as sneezing, itchy eyes, watering eyes and a runny nose. Chlor-trimeton also has a sedative effect on some, which may help reduce anxiety. Neither Benadryl nor chlor-trimeton are marketed as over-the-counter anxiety medications, however, and each comes with a list of undesirable side-effects, whether they are taken for the uses they were intended for or for anxiety.

Herbal anxiety treatments have been used for generations to relieve the symptoms of anxiety naturally. A few such herbal anxiety medications include kava, St. John’s wort, proloftin and valerian root. Each consists of natural ingredients, is available without a prescription and is deemed to be safe for adult anti-anxiety use.

Safety-approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, proloftin contains natural ingredients, including magnolia bark, L-Theanine and rhodiola rosea. It is not known to have any side effects and is available without a prescription from a variety of health food stores and online vendors. When using proloftin or any other over-the-counter anxiety medications, health experts recommend that a person consult with a physician first to be sure that herbal remedies do not interfere with other treatments or medications.

Herbal over-the-counter anxiety medications often have dual purposes. For instance, kava and valerian root are both frequently touted as effective sleep aids and anxiety relieving herbs. Kava calms the central nervous system, but does not impair mental cognition or function. Valerian root has a sedative effect on some people, especially when combined with lemon balm or St. John’s wort, which also are known to help calm and relax some individuals. While many natural over-the-counter anxiety medications are not accompanied by any major side effects, kava and valerian root have both been linked to liver damage in individuals who have engaged in long-term use of these herbs.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon353457 — On Oct 30, 2013

I don't think Xanax is an OTC drug. You need a prescription to get it.

By burcinc — On Apr 20, 2011

Our lives have become very difficult and stressful haven't they? I know so many people aside from myself who take medications for depression and anxiety. Some people directly go to the doctor and some of us are reluctant to say that we are depressed and that we can't handle our responsibilities anymore. I think this is why over the counter medications are becoming more popular.

One medication I have heard about a lot is Xanax. Some say it is the best anxiety medication over the counter. I've also heard that it is addictive and has a lot of side effects.

I can't afford to be drowsy and sleepy at work, so I haven't tried Xanax yet. I am taking Chamomile extract. It's the same thing as chamomile tea, except in extract form which I think works better. It relieves my tension to a great extent.

By SteamLouis — On Apr 18, 2011

I've been using something called Plassiflora. It's a herbal medication for anxiety. I think it is made from passion flowers. I take a little bit during really stressful times, especially when I am overloaded with work. I only need a teaspoonful with water in the evening. It helps me sleep better as well.

Since I don't have anxiety all the time, plassiflora has been working fine for me.

By ysmina — On Apr 17, 2011

I wonder if over-the-counter anxiety medications are best as a preventive measure. I have tried St. John's wort and several other herbal medications but did not benefit much from it. I think it might have been because my anxiety had progressed and had become chronic. I was really cautious about the amount I took because I didn't know if there would be any side effects. It was much too mild for what I needed though.

I was given prescription anxiety medication by my doctor and that has really worked for me. I'm still unsure about over-the-counter medicines for anxiety. But I think that they might be better for temporary or mild relief and not necessarily for the treatment of chronic anxiety that I have.

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