A Philosophy of Herbal Medicine and Mental Health; How Herbs Help with Anxiety, Stress & Worry

Herbs for Mental Health

The science behind herbal medicine and mental health has come a long way. This is in part due to three things. First, more and more people are searching for an alternative to the pharmaceuticals offered. Many people may wish to try something natural before they dive into the stronger pharmaceuticals. Others have already used the conventional medications and didn’t see the results they wanted or they experienced side effects. Secondly, there has been a lot of interest in the master teacher plants like Ayahuasca and Psilocybe mushrooms and the many mental health benefits they offer. Thirdly, there is more and more money being invested into the research of how plants work in the body.

Some of these plants are well known and can be found in any herbal medicine dispensary or health food store:
• St. John’s Wort
• Bacopa
• Lemon Balm
• Ashwagandha
• Damiana
• Skullcap
(If you feel called or want to explore using these plants for mental health, please feel free to reach out to a local herbalist or you can follow the contact information below.)

Holistic Approach to Mental Health

Quite often we can get caught in the conventional model, a linear pattern of:

I have an ailment I need a solution → solution provided → solution may or may not provide relief
Problem – Reaction – Solution

Herbal medicine offers more than solutions to an ailment. Through research we can see that these plants do the things they are proposed to do but there is more to it than that. Plants are living; they offer a vibration. In a sense, when you take an herb, the plant is changing the body’s vibration to that level. After using that plant remedy for a given time, the body will begin to match that vibration on its own. By doing this the plant changes us and we no longer need to be dependant on the plant because our body will begin supporting itself.

How Herbs Work Energetically

An example of how plants change us can be seen in the case review of a client I worked with for a few years. The client had anxiety and stress issues and was looking for something natural to find relief. We used different plants and blends but ultimately the main herb that was providing relief was Skullcap. Skullcap, taken over time, will help tonify the nervous system so anxiety and panic attacks are less likely to happen.

We saw success with the client and his anxiety attacks were happening more infrequently. This client shared a story of how one day the anxiety attack was coming on so he quickly began to make a tea. In the process of making the tea the client mentioned he felt the anxiety starting to go away. The body knew what was going to transpire after the tea was made. So, in the process of making the tea the body already began to release hormones and neurotransmitters to move the body in to a parasympathetic state.

The Lemon Test

The above story can be confirmed by the lemon test that is so easily performed. If you close your eyes and imagine biting into a lemon wedge the salivary glands begin to up-regulate saliva production. This is because the body has its own intelligence, it knows what will happen as soon as a lemon wedge is bitten into and begins the process to prepare the body. The act of releasing saliva is a cascade of events; of hormones and neurotransmitters being released just from a simple thought.

Herbal medicine works the same way. The body will become familiar with the vibration of the plants. As the body knows what to expect it will adapt and match that frequency.

A similar story is shared with Ayahuasqueros in South America. Some traditions of using this plant require the student to consume high doses of the Ayahuasca. Over time the Ayahausquero becomes so familiar to the plant that even sitting next to the vine or touching the vine will induce an experience.

Get to Know the Plants

Taking the use of herbal remedies one step further is becoming familiar with the plants themselves. If possible, take the time to plant and watch them grow. Observe their patterns as they go to seed and then return back to their roots in the fall. By spending time with the plants, we are able to become more in tune with the medicine they offer.

Nature is the Cure

Quite simply the return to nature is part of the solution. There are many theories surrounding mental health and the need to return to nature. This is echoed in many traditional mythologies and stories. The separation of humanity from the creator and creation is at the root of all disharmony and may be at the root of all disease. That is yet to be “proven” though it is the belief that is held in this writing. A returning to our divinity that is not separate from the whole. As it has been so beautifully said “We are not a drop in the ocean, but the ocean in a drop” – it’s only a matter of time until we remember.

David is a practising Medical Herbalist living on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. His herbal dispensary is stocked with therapeutic grade tinctures. The dry herbs he uses are all locally or regionally sustainably sourced in North America. If the herb is not accessible locally or regionally the dispensary supports other local distributors in Victoria, British Columbia. This is the vision of Errant Empire Herbal Medicine; to re-localize herbal medicine.

If you are interested in connecting with plants and working with an herbalist, please feel free to reach out to herbalist@errantherbal.com Thank you for reading and take care.