Healing the Heart: Exploring Heart Rate Variability and Trauma

  At the top of the heart, a small bundle of cells known as the sinoatrial node regularly send out an electrical impulse.  The signal causes the walls of the heart to contract, sending blood into the ventricles and then out to circulate through the body.   For some of us the rhythm of the heart is quite irregular and that arrhythmia can be dangerous.  But small variations in heart rhythm are actually very healthy.   Imagine someone who's heart beats at 60 beats a minute, or … [Read More...]


The Alchemy of Trauma: Healing with Aromatherapy

  Near to where I live tall cedars and towering douglas firs fly upward to the sky.  Walk through the woods and you will catch the scent of the canopy and the aroma of the wild and varied underbrush below.  What you are smelling are volatile oils, the evaporated molecules and compounds that float in the air and emanate from the landscape.  Traditionally when most of us lived closer to the land we were breathing in these volatile oils throughout much of the day.  These aromatic … [Read More...]


Healing from Childhood Trauma

In this article, I want to briefly explore the relationship of early childhood trauma with persistent emotional  issues.   As a therapist I often work with people who are dealing with long term anxiety and depression that are rooted in part to challenging or abusive relationships with one's family of origin.  Understanding the role of trauma can be key to understanding how to heal and move through persistent emotional distress.   The Kaiser Study:  Adverse Childhood … [Read More...]


Trauma, the Gut and Healing: Building Deep Resiliency

      Imagine yourself as a small child and living in a household where the parents drink excessively, argue and at times lash out angrily and abusively towards you.  Or imagine living in a situation where you are poor and living in a violent neighborhood where you feel threatened regularly.  Through studies, we now know that that type of stress is linked to higher potential  for physical and mental illnesses such as autoimmune disorders, depression and anxiety … [Read More...]


Deep Root Medicine with Jeff Johnson: The healing power of ashwaghanda

  Drive along the Columbia River Gorge and wind your way up the rural hills to the town of Corbett and then head up the misty road towards Larch Mountain and you will find a small herbal farm run by Jeff Johnson.  He leases a plot of land so that he can primarily grow an herb known as ashwaghanda.  This plant has long been known by healers in India to have tonic and rejuvenative properties.  A few years back, Jeff not only grew to love its medicinal effects, he decided to pour his … [Read More...]


15 best Mental Health Herbal Tinctures

I was recently talking to a friend about mental health herbalism and they wanted some good recommendations about how to stock their house with the best herbs so I thought I’d write out a few thoughts with my recommendations on tinctures.  Often a mental health tincture is one that is gently relaxing, can help someone drift off to sleep more easily, can help improve mood or reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.    It is key to pair taking these tinctures with lifestyle changes such as … [Read More...]


Revolution! NorthWest Herbal Resource Guide

  Recently someone asked me what books I would recommend for learning about studying the local medicinal plants of the Pacific Northwest.   I jotted down some notes and that got me to thinking about the larger subject of how the Northwest has become a main hub for the study of herbalism. I started studying herbalism in the late 80's and early 90's when I attended the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.  Back then there were very few resources for budding herbalists. … [Read More...]


Making Infused herbal baths

  Perhaps my favorite way to reach people who are depressed, anxious and  stressed is through herbal infused baths.  I have an extra long claw foot tub that I rescued from recycling at a hardware store.  I fixed it up and built a bathroom that could fit its large size.  When you take a bath, your pores open up and herbal compounds can come in more easily, helping us to feel more deeply relaxed and calm.   There are a number of ways to connect to soothing and relaxing … [Read More...]

IMG_3617 (1)

Artisan Distillers: Making Small batch Essential Oils with Love

In the last decade much of the modern alternative health field has been swept up by the power of aromatherapy and essential oils to help improve mood, health and wellbeing.  The connection between plant volatile oils and their effect on wellbeing has been noted since ancient times and the art of perfumery has roots dating back to the eras of the Egyptian and Roman empires.   The scents of essential oils and hydrosols  are almost instantaneously processed by the thalamus and then … [Read More...]


Seeking Refuge: Bringing Nature into the Healing Practice

Every day I sit with people who feel sad, isolated, broken and lost.  Often the snaky currents of past traumas ebb and flow in their hearts, leading to an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, depression and dissociation.  Many of these people feel like raw nerve endings plugged into a high voltage socket.  The constant hum of fluorescent lights, electronics, screens, tweets and car horns cascade into an overbearing assault on the nervous system.  Many feel the burden of modern indentured … [Read More...]


The Healing Power of Wild Northwest Reishi

  Walking the murky and tulgy backwoods trails deep in the Pacific Northwest hills in the summertime and fall,  you may find a treasure trove of edible, poisonous and medicinal mushrooms.    As an herbalist I have long been fascinated by some of these strange creatures and specifically one genus of mushroom known as Ganoderma.       The most famous Ganoderma is the exceptionally prized Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) that is often commercially grown … [Read More...]

Bridge in winter in Matsue

Winter, Depression and Healing Adrenal Fatigue

  The winter settles in, deep, dark and cold.  For some of us this can be a deeply hard time as we descend into sadness, lethargy, exhaustion and depression.  For most of our time as humans, the winter has been a challenging time for those in temperate climates.  Plant life dies down and the cold weather brings people indoors to sit beside the long fire, sharing stored reserves of berries, roots and game until the light months and new plant growth makes foraging possible and hunting … [Read More...]


The Untamed Heart: Holistic Approach to Bipolar

  I walked into the secluded psychiatric hospital area where she stood.  The words came out in spurts and gymnastic rhythms, incessant and spiraling.  She pleaded, cajoled, mocked, yelled and raged, then softened and became charming, seductive.  As I listened and tried to reply, she commented endlessly on my features, her level of distrust off the system, her parents, me.  Her frustrated words then came out partially in song, in word salad chopped phrases that disappeared into grunts … [Read More...]


Interview with Monica Cassani of Beyond Meds

Monica Cassani  runs a very popular blog,, that details her experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, treated with numerous medications and then her journey of coming off those medications while incorporating holistic tools to help her heal.   In her own words:   “I have seen the system from both sides – as a social worker and as a person whose life was severely ruptured by psychiatric drugs. I write critically about the system, as well … [Read More...]


Wild Food, Wild Heart

  In the last 100 years there have been dramatic changes  in how we grow food and what we eat.  These changes have fundamentally altered the planet’s landscape as we have blanketed much of our agricultural lands with monocultures of just a few varieties of crops. And what we are finding is that much of the food that we eat has far less phytonutrients than it did in our ancestor’s time.  For example,  ancient potatoes from South America have 28 more anti-inflammatory … [Read More...]

Ayutthaya, courtesy of Wikimedia

Happiness and the Myth of Chemical Imbalance

  About 2500 years ago Gautama Buddha outlined the four noble truths of Buddhism.  The first noble truth is that life is suffering because all things fade and fall apart (Dukkha).  The second noble truth is that  the cause of suffering is our thirst for pleasure and happiness that can never be fully quenched (tanha).   Buddhism has a prescription for this suffering which is to follow an eight fold path that includes mindfulness as key. In the U.S., happiness is such an important … [Read More...]

Manookian_-_Shaman,_1930-2 - Version 2

Decolonizing the Mental Health System

  "You know, we had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers who came to Rwanda immediately after the genocide, and we had to ask some of them to leave…They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun like what you’re describing – which is, after all, where you begin to feel better.  There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again when you’re depressed and you’re low and you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense … [Read More...]

Art-illustration that represents the hand drawn image of vegetables

Healing the Gut, Healing Mood

About 65 years ago the first widely viewed psychiatric manual was published known as the diagnostics and statistics manual.  Just over 100 disorders were categorized such as major depression, bipolar disorder (then manic depression) and schizophrenia.  While these terms had been around for a while this was the first time they were codified into one book.   In the 80s we added ADHD and bipolar II (strong mood swings without psychosis) and in the recently published DSM V there are over 300 … [Read More...]


Devil’s Club: Sacred Plant of the Northwest

    This summer I spent quite a bit of time with a plant known as Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus)  that grows wild in the northwest and up through the west coast of Canada to Alaska.   If you have ever come across this plant you will never forget it.  It grows upwards of 12 feet tall with a tall sharply thorned stalk and wide branching palmate leaves that are also lined with spiky spines.  The stalks fall along the ground in snaky decumbent stems that criss cross each … [Read More...]


Tonic Herbalism: Pathway to Healing Anxiety and Depression

  These days its quite common for people to head to their local health food store in search of remedies for depression.  One of the leading sellers is St. John’s Wort, a good herb that is unlikely to single handedly solve cases of depression, especially when taken in capsules with small amounts of old herb that are unlikely to have a lot of potency.    In places like China and India there is a long history of helping people with depression by offering tonic strengthening herbs, … [Read More...]