Silexan, derived from lavender, has been mentioned in the media a lot recently. One Daily Mail article claimed that Silexan should be a “first-line treatment for people with anxiety instead of addictive drugs” like with Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Ativan and Xanax .
Psychiatry professor Hans Peter-Volz said in that same article that “doctors are too quick to dish out benzodiazepines and other drugs to patients with anxiety.”
He continued, “patients with a mild form of [anxiety] should be given natural remedies, including [Silexan], to combat their symptoms.”
Another psychiatry publication called The Carlat Report recently published a podcast about Silexan and generalized anxiety, stating :
Not many treatments in psychiatry have a large effect size. There’s stimulants for ADHD, ketamine for depression… and now Silexan for generalized anxiety disorder.
The conclusion of that same episode was fascinating:
Most [alternative medicine] therapies do not have robust effects, but Silexan is an exception. Consider it in adults with generalized anxiety disorder.
I think it’s fair to say that this little-known lavender oil extract has many experts on anxiety excited. Could Silexan be the natural extract that works even better for anxiety than benzodiazepines, SSRIs and Quetiapine plus doesn’t cause addiction, while having no major side effects? In this article we’re going to investigate what Silexan is, how it works for anxiety, what the dosages & side-effects are and we even look into some potential alternatives.
Silexan for anxiety Key Takeaways
Without completely spoiling the rest of this article, here are the most interesting & useful takeways about Silexan for anxiety:
- Silexan is a branded extract of lavender oil created by Wilmar Schwabe pharmaceuticals that is typically sold over-the-counter in the US as a supplement. The mechanism of action for Silexan against anxiety likely involves serotonin 1A receptors, the same receptors that are manipulated by other anti-anxiety medications like Buspirone and some antidepressants. Silexan supplements are generally considered safe and well tolerated, with minimal to no risk of addiction.
- The major downside of Silexan are recent reports of silexan being an Endocrine Disruptor. These are chemicals that may mimic or interfere with hormones in the body. Specifically, Silexan has been shown in some (annecdotal) cases to have an effect on the estrogen and testosterone levels in the body. The link still needs to be researched further as the precise development of these reported issues can be multifactorial.
What is Silexan?
Silexan is a branded extract of lavender oil created by Wilmar Schwabe GmbH, a German pharmaceutical company. Schwabe pharmaceuticals claim that silexan is “introducing a new therapeutic alternative in the field of anxiety disorder treatment” .
At its core, Silexan is a standardized essential oil of L. angustifolia (lavender) flowers prepared by steam distillation .
The mechanism of action for Silexan is not entirely clear yet, but it likely involves serotonin 1A receptors which are the same receptors that are blocked by other anti-anxiety medications like Buspirone and some of the newer antidepressants .
Silexan is typically sold over the counter in the US in supplement form (although in Germany a prescription is required). The supplement form is generally very safe and well tolerated.
Typically, you have to build up silexan dosage over time and after 3-4 weeks you should notice some benefits for generalized anxiety .
Besides helping with anxiety, Silexan has also been shown to help with impaired sleep, somatic complaints and comorbid depression.
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How does Silexan work for Anxiety?
The limited research involving silexan is showing that “uniquely prepared, pharmaceutical quality lavender oil” (potent silexan) can improve symptoms of mild anxiety. In fact, two studies found lavender oil capsules to be just as effective as commonly prescribed benzodiazepine Lorazepam and the antidepressant Paroxetine .
This isn’t surprising as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller or Lavandula officinalis Chaix) has a long history of traditional use for anxiety, especially in its essential oil form .
Lavender oil, and therefore silexan, contain linalool, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, 1,8-cineole (Eucalyptol) and camphor compounds. For anxiety purposes, linalool and linalyl acetate are what give lavender its supposed calming and sedative effects, and silexan pills typically contain 36.8% linalool and 34.2% linalyl acetate .
Typical anti-anxiety medications like Lorazepam (Ativan) and Alprazolam (Xanax) attach to voltage dependent calcium channels (VOCCs) in the body, but Silexan does not seem to do the same thing.
Instead, The anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties of lavender/silexan seemingly come from the antagonization of NMDA and GABA-related receptors in the central nervous system that influence muscle contraction, as well as inhibition of the serotonin transporter .
In one study, Silexan was administered daily at a dose of 160 milligrams for a minimum of eight weeks. The researchers found a reduction of 5-HT1A receptor binding in healthy participants, when compared to participants given a placebo. This sort of activity is similar to the mechanism of action shared by anxiolytic and antidepressant drugs like selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Benzodiazepines .
While the exact method of action for Silexan is still being researched, the studies are making it clear that silexan is an effective natural anti-anxiety medication, perhaps just as effective as benzos and SSRIs without the harmful side effects (although there is not enough study, yet, to prove this out).
Silexan Dosage Recommendations
Studies using Nature’s Way CalmAid by Kasper et al. where Silexan was used specifically for generalized anxiety symptoms, recommended dosages of two 80mg CalmAid pills once a day for anti-anxiety effects, totaling 160 mg (two pills) of silexan per day . The recommended dosage by the brand is one 80mg pill, once per day.
Silexan Side-Effects & Downsides
One of the major advantages of Silexan over other anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines and SSRIs is the almost complete lack of abuse potential in healthy recreational users of the lavender extract . The implications of this are huge, as many countries are facing abuse epidemics of similar anxiolytic drugs.
But, just like with any drug or medication, there are some potential drawbacks to silexan usage:
Mild gastrointestinal issues, which have been affectionately coined “lavender burps“, are some of the only commonly reported side-effects of lavender oil and oral silexan users. Typically nothing to worry about, but if you experience more serious gastrointestinal issues following silexan use, please consult a medical professional.
Scott Alexander of Astral Codex Ten summarizes the ‘lavender burp’ issue well :
The most common side effects are upset stomach, nausea, and burps that taste like lavender. I was able to avoid the last one by putting the silexan softgel in a capsule, but I don’t know if this is okay: it might ruin the absorption – and remember that according to the aromatherapy people, the weird lavender-smelling burps are part of the mechanism of action!
There are several reports of silexan being an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals, both natural and man-made, that may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, known as the endocrine system .
A recent study revealed that chemicals in lavender oil are potential endocrine disruptors with varying effects on receptors for two hormones — estrogen and androgen .
The senior researcher for the study stated that the findings “demonstrated that the two oils can have hormonal-like effects for estrogen and testosterone in the body.”
Kenneth Korach, Ph.D., lead researcher for the NIEHS Receptor Biology Group, discovered in a prior study that exposure to lavender oil is linked to prepubertal gynecomastia, or abnormal breast development in males .
The link still needs to be researched further as, in many cases, the precise development of these conditions can be multifactorial. But in in all cases, the gynecomastia resolved once the use of the lavender oil products was discontinued, and there is in vivo evidence of estrogenic and antiandrogenic properties of lavender essential oils .
Silexan Alternatives For Anxiety
Silexan itself is a natural alternative to other anti-anxiety drugs on the market like SSRIs, Benzodiazepines and Quetiapine. There are (sometimes severe) side-effects and downsides to these medications, so Silexan is arguably a good alternative for those looking to go the natural route.
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- ^ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6761759/Leading-expert-claims-doctors-dish-LAVENDER-OIL-line-treatment-anxiety.html
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- ^ https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20131017005763/en/Schwabe-Pharmaceuticals-underlines-its-commitment-to-research-and-development-with-a-Symposium-on-the-latest-study-results-in-the-CNS-field-at-the-ECNP-European-College-of-Neuropsychopharmacology-in-Barcelona
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