It’s the rare person who doesn’t feel down every once in a while. But when a bad day turns into a bad week, month, year … What then?
Books, magazines, the Internet are full of perky tips: start exercising, join a new group, make a list and give yourself points for each thing you accomplish.
Yeah, but I’m talking about when it’s too hard to even get out of bed.
I recognized how down I was after my 102-year-old uncle died. Except for a few distant cousins who are at war with each other, my uncle was my last blood relative. I felt adrift with no stability and no support.
My first thought was, “OMG! I forgot to have children!” (Just kidding.) But I took a look back at my life and wondered what I’ve accomplished, really. And who will care about it? So why bother?
Once they get started, self-defeating thoughts can keep repeating in an endless loop. They drain our energy, until we feel so tired and heavy that even simple things seem too hard to do. And hardest of all is getting to feel good again.
Therapy and antidepressant drugs are certainly an option. But in my own journey, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I didn’t want to take anything with dangerous side-effects. So I chose herbal medicine instead.
Herbal adaptogens are tonics that help us cope with stress while they are helping to support, strengthen and often restore the body’s immune system. Some adaptogens are also natural antidepressants; others support the work of antidepressant herbal remedies.
Here are some examples of herbal medicine that I am finding helpful. Let me start with the standard FDA Disclaimer:
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
And here’s a link with a Glossary of Herbal Actions, where you can find definitions of any unfamiliar terms: http://www.naturesalternatives.com/herbs/herb-actions.html.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) – adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, immunomodulator; use when adrenal deficiency reduces the brain chemical that prevents depression; also for people with a family history of dementia. Holy Basil has been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years to maintain health and promote long life. It has been used for conditions from asthma and bronchitis to indigestion and vomiting, from stings and bites to colds and flu. Today it is used to help clear “mental fog” and “stagnant depression.” For long-term use.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) – adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitussive, antiviral, cardiotonic, hepato-protectant, immunomodulator, nervine; reduces anxiety, stress, fatigue, moodiness, poor memory, improves sleep quality, energy, immunity and endurance, good for “functional burnout.” Reishi has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Today it is used as a complementary adjunct for patients undergoing chemotherapy, to protect and restore immune function. For long-term use.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – adaptogen, antidepressant, antiviral, cardioprotective, immune tonic, nervine, neuro-protectant, restorative; provides more energy, normalizes the HPA axis, reduces cortisol levels. Rhodiola has been used for thousands of years in China and Tibet, to prevent illness and treat pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancer. The Vikings used it to boost stamina and endurance. It helps alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and can decrease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For long-term use.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) – adaptogen, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, expectorant, hepatoprotectant, immune tonic, immunomodulator, nervine, restorative; specific for severe fatigue, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, night sweats. In TCM it is called “five-flavor berry” because its berries are salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy), and bitter, and so it benefits the “yin” organs: kidneys, spleen/pancreas, liver, lungs and heart. Schisandra can both stimulate and calm the nervous system while relieving anxiety and stress. For long-term use.
Bacopa (Bacopa monniera) –antioxidant, antispasmodic, circulatory tonic, immune tonic, nervine, nootropic, restorative; specific for long-term (chronic) fatigue, for people with a family history of dementia, for mild hypothyroid. Bacopa has been used in traditional Ayurveda as a treatment for epilepsy, asthma, ulcers, tumors, enlarged spleen, inflammations, leprosy, anemia, and gastroenteritis. Renowned herbalist David Winston states, “Bacopa is used to promote memory and focus, relieve anxiety, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” For long-term use.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) – amphoteric, astringent, carminative, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive, nervine; aids with anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, shock, calms ADD symptoms, alleviates chronic insomnia. In Celtic mythology, the hawthorn plant was said to heal the broken heart. And TCM uses it to “calm the Shen” (the Spirit that is housed in the Heart). Modern uses target cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure as well as ADHD. For long-term use. Caution when using in conjunction with cardioactive medications, as it can potentiate the drugs, but it can also reduce the toxicity of those same medications.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – antidepressant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, carminative, diaphoretic, hepatic, nervine, mild sedative; for nervousness, hysteria, anxiety, insomnia, melancholy, depression, gas, cramps. Lemon balm can improve mood and cognitive function, relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It helps with digestion and quality of sleep, and eases stress headaches. For long-term use. Contraindicated for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other hypothyroid conditions. Observe caution and consult first with your physician if using thyroid medications.
Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin) –anti-anxiety, antidepressant, nervine, calming sedative, tonic; for grief after severe loss, insomnia, depression, anger, irritability, poor memory. Called “the happiness bark” in TCM, the flowers and bark are used to relieve anxiety, stress and depression. Mimosa has helped people recover from a broken heart, PTSD, long-term grief, unresolved issues, and fear. For long-term use. Contraindicated in pregnancy.
This is just a partial list of what I consider “herbal allies” — plants that help us heal ourselves. Let me know if you want to learn more.
Christin Whittington is a practitioner of energy medicine – helping people restore balance in their bodies, their health and their lives using a combination of Reiki, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Qi Gong and herbal medicine.