Treating 'psychological' imbalances with natural medicine
One of the areas I find responds very well to herbs and homeopathics is the mental and emotional sphere. Because naturopathic medicine is based on the individual as an integral whole, by helping re-balance the mental/emotional aspects of a person, a dramatic difference in the person’s overall physical health is also achieved. So let’s discuss some of the most typical imbalances.
Anxiety– This is probably the most prevalent underlying imbalance I treat in my office. Everyone has stressors in their lives, some are positive stressors and others are negative stressors, but, it is how we deal with these stressors that determines how we cope on an everyday basis. There are many lovely herbs that can be combined in a tea and sipped on all day. Some of the commercial brands are: Celestial seasonings Tension Tamer and Sleeping Time teas. We blend a calming/cleansing tea at the office that has a wonderful spearmint flavor. They are a great replacement for stimulants that just contribute to anxiety, such as coffee, tea-black/green/white, herbe mate, honeybush, rooibos and Pop. The common herbs are chamomile, oat straw, lemon balm, skullcap and St. John’s Wort. I often combine these with Siberian ginseng and licorice to help re-balance the adrenals as well. There are also many nutrients that are supportive, such as a high quality B complex, B5, vitamin C, Calcium/Magnesium, GABA, Theanine and 5HTP.
Depression– This is probably the second most common imbalance I treat in my office. It is important to understand what that word means to the individual person, since it can mean many different things. For some it is low energy, for others it lack of motivation and drive, others it is feeling easily over-whelmed and for others an inability to identify what makes them happy or satisfied. Again, I will use the calming herbs mentioned above in a tea. I definitely use more of an adrenal/nerve combination we call energy tea. I will also consider using tyrosine, 5HTP, as well as calcium/magnesium, zinc, a multi B5 or B6 and vitamin C.
Panic attacks– Related to anxiety are panic attacks. They require stronger herbs such as valerian, ashwaganda, passion flower, Siberian ginseng added to the other anxiety herbs. Supplements are similar to the anxiety ones- multi B5, B6, B3, B12, chromium and essential fatty acids. I also teach breathing exercises to help prevent the panic attack and always look at how much caffeine, alcohol and sugar is being consumed.
Anorexia & Bulemia– There usually is an underlying anxiety associated w anorexia, so, I usually will use some of the tools above and always check for nutrient deficiencies and correct them. It is also important to check thyroid and hormonal imbalances. This is where homeopathy is a great assistant. Certain remedies really help re-pattern how the individual reacts in situations and each must be individualized. Other supplements that will help are zinc, magnesium, 5HTP, B12 and a multi B6 complex which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin which is our “feel good” hormone.
Autism– Some of the most gratifying appointments are with autistic children that have come into my office and are now functioning very well in social settings. I always test for nutrient levels, because, classically they often have deficiencies due to poor absorption of nutrients. I also test for food sensitivities and allergies. This underlies much of the chemical imbalance in the brain and creates such a sensitivity to light, noise, crowds etc. I use many tools to support the liver, so, it does a better job at removing toxins and metabolites from the body and often need to supplement Vitamin C/essential fatty acids, zinc and magnesium. In some cases there is a need to check for heavy metal toxicity or a vaccine reaction.
For all of these conditions, I always recommend seeing a counsellor or psychologist, because they can give you the tools you need to handle stressors much more effectively. This will help you move forward, rather than resorting to drugs.
That should give you a start on re-balancing how you are handling stressors.
Brenda Gill is a naturopath practising in Rossland.