Mental Health Alternatives in Trying Times

We live in a fast-paced world with constant news flashed at us of despair, violence, and catastrophe. We feel hopelessness, anxiety, depression, stress, anger, and FEAR. These are all very appropriate emotions when you think about the challenging times we are living in. We are all “too busy” and stressed to the max at the expense of our own mental health and wellness. You are not alone in this, most humans are experiencing these emotions at this time. The society we live in greatly contributes to, and often even creates, emotional distress and mental health disorders.

If one were to go to a doctor and express these emotions, the likelihood of medical diagnosis and suggestion of medication is high. We are the most medicated country in the world, so why are we also one of the unhealthiest? SSRI medications and benzodiazepines are overprescribed and misused. In many cases, medication is necessary and can have a positive impact on someone’s life for a time, but in many cases, it is simply not necessary and one would benefit more from a natural approach and lifestyle change. I say this with confidence not only based on my own experience but also in the experiences of hundreds of people I engage with through my work. The people I work with reach out to me because they are seeking a different way. They don’t want to have to switch medications 10 times until they find the “right one”. They seek freedom from the very thing that was supposed to help them.

So, what do we do? There are many health practices that will contribute to improved mental health. The food and what you put into your body to nurture it plays a huge role. The wonderful world of plant medicine and plant allies that often grow abundantly in the fields and forests can provide support which will exceed all expectations. I will highlight a few of my favorites for anxiety, depression, and stress here.

Cannabis/Hemp CBD (Cannabis sativa)
This master plant is at the top of my list. Within our bodies lies the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. This system is responsible for regulating our physiology, mood, and overall bodily homeostasis. There are more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but CBD and THC are the most studied. When you use CBD, the cannabinoids present in the plant medicine bind to our bodies’ own cannabinoid receptors located throughout our organs and peripheral nervous system and provide balance and support wherever there is dysfunction or imbalance. CBD has been shown to increase feelings of wellbeing, decrease depression and anxiety, and support a variety of other common ailments. This plant’s medicine is SAFE, effective, and offers something for just about anyone. Note that I am speaking about hemp-derived non-psychoactive CBD.

Motherwort/Passionflower/Vervain (Leonurus cardiaca) is an herb known to be wonderfully supportive to matters of the heart. These include anxiety, heart palpitations, and melancholy. It is a gentle sedative and anti-spasmodic and promotes relaxation without drowsiness. Contraindications: As it also stimulates the muscles of the uterus, it should not be used if menstrual bleeding is heavy, nor should it be used during pregnancy.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. It is a gentle sedative and acknowledged in the herbal world as a wonderfully supportive plant medicine for anxiety, stress-induced tension, and irritability. It can be used to support insomnia and is generally safe for all to use, including children.

Mindful Earth Herbal's Cool Calm ElixirVervain (Verbena officinalis) is native to North America and grows in the wild here in Maine. It has a restorative effect on the nervous system and is used to relieve stress and anxiety. I find it helps to be more present within the body rather than being stuck in the racing thoughts of an overactive mind. It can be supportive for headaches and migraines as well as the digestive system.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) grows abundantly here in Maine. Its little yellow flowers bloom right around the summer solstice and it is known as a joy tonic. It has been extensively studied as an alternative treatment for depression with great success. However, it is contraindicated with several prescription medications, including SSRI and benzodiazepines. It is generally safe when used alone or in combination with other supportive plants but I suggest to consult your health care provider to discuss if this is an appropriate treatment option for you.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is the first plant I ever learned about and used as medicine when I was transitioning off of prescription anti-depressants. It has a long history of being used to lift the spirits. It contains the volatile oil citronella which has been shown to calm the central nervous system.

Rose (Rosa Rugosa) is a gentle and uplifting plant remedy for the heart.

Ashwagandha/Holy Basil/Schisandra are considered adaptogens which are non-toxic plants that help the body resist and deal with stressors. These stressors can be physical, chemical or biological. Adaptogens are most supportive when taken daily, consistently, for an extended period of time.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is valued in the medicinal plant world for its ability to support and restore vitality in the overworked or those exposed to prolonged periods of stress. The alkaloids reduce blood pressure, are mildly sedative, and lowers heartbeat.

Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is thought to be useful medicine for the heart center, protecting it from stress, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and helps the body adjust to new demands and stressors. It is a well known Ayurvedic herbal remedy and makes a delightful tea, especially combined with rose.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is an excellent tonic and restorative herbal remedy. This 5-flavor berry tones vital organs, can provide protection to the liver, and strengthens the nervous system. It is a mild stimulant and may improve mental clarity.

These are some of my favorite plant allies to work with in my business. Please note that I am not a doctor and your choice of plant remedies should be discussed with your health care provider.

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