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 […]

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 […]

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). […]

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 […]

Mimosa “Full Happiness” Flowers


  In a previous article I wrote about gathering bark from the Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) tree to make medicine. Known as “He Huan Pi” in Chinese medicine, mimosa bark is renowned for its ability to “anchor the heart”, meaning that it helps stabilize emotions, brings gentle calm to the spirit and is helpful for those […]

Mimosa- The Happiness Tree

Isabel helping make medicine

Early this summer I realized my beautiful Mimosa tree was growing kind of out of control.  This is an extremely fast growing tree that had risen to about 50 feet high and was intermingling its branches amongst the power lines.  Time to prune.  And since I was going to prune, this was also a perfect […]

Mental Illness or Societal Illness? An Alternative View of Treatment


      Recently an article came out in the Huffington Post that described how poverty is a strong indicator of severe emotional distress.  As you can see from the graph, those who earn below the poverty level are far more likely to experience “psychological distress” than those who are more affluent.       […]

Schizandra Deep Healing Tea


When I was a kid I used to get together with friends and play the game of “making potions”.  We would put together any substances and liquids we could find and blend them into magical elixirs.  Of course back then they were made with primarily koolaid, frozen concentrate and herbs from the spice rack and […]

Choosing The Best Tonic Herbs for Emotional Wellbeing

Chinese herbal medicine

Some of the most popular tonic herbs sold on the market are known as adaptogens.  Adaptogens are herbs (and mushrooms) that help us to adapt to stress, reduce fatigue, improve wellbeing and strengthen and optimize glandular, immune and nervous system functioning.   In terms of mental and emotional health, these are herbs that are specifically […]

Ginseng- Tonic for greater vitality, strength and mental health


Asian Ginseng  (Panax ginseng)   When thinking about herbs for mental health, one of the first herbs that comes to mind is ginseng.  In this article I will explore the benefits of working with the ginsengs for those looking to improve their mental health. Ginseng is really shorthand for three different types of herbs. The […]

Folk Healing, Industrial Agriculture and the Rise of Psychiatry

Selection of wild herbs in small basket.

      Throughout the world you will find people walking out their back door and picking weeds and plants that grow nearby. They will throw them into cookpots, make tea from them, turn them into healing medicines for their friends and family. This is the herbalism that is practiced everyday by billions of people, […]

Healing from Emotional Distress with 5 Senses Herbalism


  When we think of medicine we tend to think of something we ingest such as a drug or an herb to make us feel better.  As a therapist who specializes in working with herbs for improving mental health, I often talk to people who wonder what herb they can take to help them feel […]

Making Medicine: St. John’s Wort


    As a mental health therapist and herbalist, my specialty is helping people discover the benefits of herbs for healing emotional distress.  One of the best and most commonly used herbs for depression and anxiety is St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum).   This morning I went walking with my Dad and gathered some of […]

Holistic Support for Post Traumatic Stress


Waking up in the middle of the night, short of breath, heart racing and beating hard against the chest.  Feelings of panic, fear, of wanting to crawl out of one’s skin.  Restless obsessive thoughts and images.  Recurrent negative thoughts repeating endlessly.  Severe anxiety. Withdrawing from friends and family.  Feeling shut down and depressed.  Can’t sleep, […]

Reishi the Great Healer


  One of the most amazing herbs for promoting health and well being is not an herb at all.  It is a mushroom.  The reishi mushroom is known as one of the best adaptogens known to man.  An adaptogen is a natural substance that is non-toxic, helps a person to adapt to stress more easily […]

Nettles, Super Tonic for Better Mental Health


    Often when I talk to people about one of the best herbs to take regularly, I suggest Nettles.  Nettles has a long history of being used to strengthen and fortify the system, help with allergies, respiratory problems, anemia, fatigue, depression and exhaustion.  I find this herb particularly useful for those who are suffering […]

Deciding Whether to Start Antidepressants


After drugs to lower cholesterol, antidepressants are the most prescribed class of medications in America.  In 2011, approximately 254 million prescriptions were written for them and around 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and older are taking them.  Antidepressants are prescribed not only for depression, but for anxiety disorders as well as “off-label” conditions such […]

Ear Acupuncture to Support Mental Health


In the last 30 years, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have become increasingly popular as a modality for helping people not only with health concerns but also with emotional distress and addictions issues.  Acupuncture has been especially helpful for people who are detoxing from drugs and alcohol as well as those who have experienced a high […]

Inpatient Hospitalization: An Inside Perspective


This article was published in MadInAmerica.com, a site for exploring alternatives in mental health care   When someone is in severe crisis due to feeling emotionally overwhelmed, one of the main access points for receiving care is an inpatient hospital setting.  People come for mental health care in a hospital when they are feeling suicidal, […]

What is Holistic Mental Health Therapy?


As a holistic mental health therapist, I am often asked how that is different from a regular counselor.  While there is some overlap, there are also some differences. The main difference is that a holistic therapist spends quite a bit of time focused on health and well being.  That means I look at diet, lifestyle […]

Taking Superfood Herbs Daily


  Here at Hearthside, we highly recommend taking herbs on a daily basis to tonify and rejuvenate the system.  Herbal tonics help repair tissue, strengthen the nervous and immune systems, help the body to stay more refreshed, alert, adapt to stress better and ward off colds and illness.  These are essentially superfoods that help people […]

Somatic Wisdom Technique Part 2


In the first part of the discussion about developing “Somatic Wisdom”, we used a technique that involved scanning the body for any distress and then using a four part process to describe it and name it.  In this post, I will discuss how we can access the body’s innate wisdom to learn ways to transform […]

Somatic Wisdom Technique Part 1


Here at Hearthside, we believe that the human body is not only a physical entity but also carries emotional and spiritual energy as well.  Our joys, fears, sadness, humor and love are not just intellectual concepts or part of a chemical soup located in the brain.   They are indeed matrices of energy that can […]