Mental Health

June 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

At some point during a long, snark-filled weekend with 7Song discussing the nervous system, I suddenly remembered my dream. When I first sunk my teeth into medical herbalism in a serious way, it was with the intention of expanding awareness of alternative options for mental health issues. I’d hoped to at some point be a part of an integrative mental health clinic.

Mental health issues are extremely individualized. They can be lumped into a few umbrella categories, but each person has extremely different experiences within them.

  • Depression: I like 7Song’s definition of depression as a “lack of affect.” Lethargy, lacking emotion, motivation, or will; vegetative.
  • Anxiety: Excess sympathetic response or a sympathetic nervous response to inappropriate triggers.  Within this category fall Panic Attacks, which have to do with intense fear or apprehension, sometimes triggered and sometimes occurring randomly.  Also Anxious Depression, which is excess affect leading to inaction. Basically, folks who express or react to their anxiety by shutting down. Again, a definition inspired by 7Song. This happens to be the most prevalent mental health issue in my own life.

While mainstream medicine treats most  forms of anxiety with benzodiazepines and most forms of depression with SSRIs (though sometimes MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants are used), herbal medicine has a distinct niche in that we can incorporate specific indications into a treatment plan to address individual emotional needs in a personalized way. Thinking energetically and constitutionally can help in this endeavor. Narrowing down the options to those herbs which would compliment a person’s constitution could be a good place to start, then moving on to consider specific indications. However, using herbs to affect someone on the mental/emotional level can be done with energetic doses (a few drops of a tincture), so constitution may be less essential in that case.

With that in mind, I’d like to use this blog as a venue to begin compiling a list of specific indications for addressing mental health issues. At first, it will just look like a disorderly list of plants with brief notes, but my intention is to slowly include indications, descriptions, and plants as they come to me, and then present them in an organized way:

  • Wood Betony
  • Ghost Pipe
  • Coralroot
  • Monkeyflower
  • Evening Primrose: Depression or anxiety around food and digestion (Winston)
  • Mugwort: Brings the demons to light so that they can move on, often in dream.
  • Elderflower: Opens the gateways for those who feel cut off. Grief as if facing death.
  • Chamomile
  • Borage: For courage, as they say.
  • Pulsatilla: Excess wind. Panic attacks. Soft, yielding people who need to please others (Francis).
  • Black Cohosh: Fear of insanity. For Persephone’s journey. Deep, dark depression with hormonal indications (Wood).
  • California Poppy
  • Devil’s Club: Boundaries for those struggling with their power. Stimulating adaptogen.
  • Hops
  • Lavender: “A hug in a bottle” (Kiva)
  • Lemon Balm: Post partum depression. SAD.
  • Linden: Social anxiety/dischord.
  • Milky Oat: Food for the nervous system.
  • Rose: Depression or anxiety underlined by fear (Kiva).
  • Passionflower
  • Skullcap: Hypersensitivity (Kiva)
  • Saint John’s Wort: Perforates the veil of depression. Emotion held in the solar plexus. Anxious depression accompanying symptoms of liver deficiency?
  • Valerian
  • Pedicularis: Anxiety around intimacy. Obsession. Specifically breaking out of cycles of obsession into a healthy idealism.
  • Motherwort: Tension with heart palpitations.
  • Hawthorn: Keeping the heart open when it would otherwise close down.  Anxiety felt in the chest.
  • Blue Vervain: Anxious tension held in the neck.
  • Red Root: Artist’s funk (Wood). Brooding, circular thoughts.
  • Dragonroot: Issues around identity (Francis).
  • Quaking Aspen
  • Spikenard
  • Ashwaganda
  • Tulsi
  • Pine: Issues around shame (Francis).
  • Yarrow: Protects the wounded healer/wounded warrior.
  • Opium Poppy
  • Gentian: For shock (Wood), disconnection from instincts. Puts people in their bodies.

If you have thoughts, plants, or indications to share, please feel free.


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