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 […]

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 […]

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, 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

Artisan Distillers: Making Small batch Essential Oils with Love

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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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

Winter, Depression and Healing Adrenal Fatigue

Bridge in winter in Matsue

  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 […]

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 […]

Interview with Monica Cassani of Beyond Meds


Monica Cassani  runs a very popular blog, www.beyondmeds.com, 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 […]

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 […]

Happiness and the Myth of Chemical Imbalance

Ayutthaya, courtesy of Wikimedia

  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). […]

Decolonizing the Mental Health System

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  “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 […]

Healing the Gut, Healing Mood

Art-illustration that represents the hand drawn image of vegetables

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Depression and Anxiety- Healing Starts in the Kitchen


  Its late summer moving into fall here in Portland.  The skies are turning darker.  The trees are embracing the dying time.  The chlorophyl that gives leaves their rich green color is breaking down as deep auburn and yellow hues take over.  Its getting close to the time to start the first fire, to lay […]

Holistic Alternatives to Psychiatric Hospitalization


Odd thoughts and confusion.  Watching letters rearrange in a newspaper and mean something very profound.  Hearing voices of friends and spirits…some benign and some harsh and menacing.  Jumbling thoughts into circular patterns that are paralyzingly and overwhelming.  Feelings of boundless energy where everything seems to connect to everything else in brilliant and meaningful truths. These […]

The Roots of Mental Illness


  In the past 20 years there has been a dramatic change in the perception of mental illness amongst holistic and integrative practitioners.  Instead of seeing depression as due to a neurotransmitter chemical imbalance, increasing focus has been placed on the role of diet, inflammation, trauma, medication side effects and nutrient deficits.  In this article […]

Trauma, Plant Medicine, and Recovery


When people come to see me as a therapist and an herbalist, they come with complaints of sadness, fatigue, grief, anger and shame.   But after peeling back the layers it usually becomes clear that they have gone through quite a bit of trauma.  Trauma comes in many different forms.  Emotional, sexual and physical abuse […]

Deep Herbalism


In my practice as an herbalist I often work with plants at a simple level.  My daughter is fussy and wound up and I give her a small cup of linden tea with a touch of honey.  It’s flu season and I start taking elderberry elixir and occasionally some fire cider made of strong spicy […]