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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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.       […]

A Visitation from a Friend


                                    A burdock plant is growing outside my counseling office.  Its broad leaves shape themselves near the fence behind the building, climbing and caressing the cedar planks.  Usually I wouldn’t think much of a weed finding a home […]

First Break Psychosis: Alternative to the Medical Model of Care

Boa constrictor, snake, vintage engraved illustration of Boa constrictor.

A short while ago I met with a friend who I have known for many years.  He told me a story of when he was young and how he had gone through a period of severe confusion and had become manic, wild in thought and overwhelmed by strange thoughts and bizarre sensations.  My friend told […]

American Ginseng Monograph: A Supreme Tonic


Hundreds of years ago American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) grew freely through much of the Eastern seaboard, shyly popping up its cluster of leaves and then flowers and bright red fruits along rugged slopes of the small misty mountains.  Ginseng hunters roamed the lands and dug the forked roots of this cousin to Asian Ginseng (both […]

In Praise of Pleasure


  As a therapist I work with many people who feel a range of emotions-  sadness, grief, anxiety, confusion, hatred and anger.  Linking all these emotions is difficulty with feeling pleasure.   Pleasure is a complicated for many of us.  Too much pleasure is often linked with addiction, and many of us are caught in […]

Collecting Nettles


I was out on the trail last weekend and able to gather some beautiful nettles (urtica dioica) and put some of them up to dry and I saved some to make a delicious nettle pesto.  Nettles are an incredibly nutritious herb that often grow in large stands on the edges of forests where theres a […]

Making a Reishi Double Extraction.


  I wrote an article a while back about how to make a large batch of Reishi tea and then put it in the freezer in ice cube trays for easy daily dosage Reishi tea.  The article details the very positive benefits of this amazing mushroom so I’ll encourage you to go there if you […]

5- HTP: A Review


5- HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan)  is one of the best selling supplements that one can buy over the counter here in the U.S. and is used primarily for improving mood, reducing insomnia and as an appetite suppressant.  5-Hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid synthesized from the Griffonia simplicifolia plant and is a precursor to both serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine/5-HT) and […]

Herbal medicine, Extreme States and Transformation


  Recently a woman emailed me to interview me about my thoughts about working with herbs to help people who have been treated poorly in the mental health system or who have been experiencing psychosis.  The term “survivor” is one that is sometimes used by people who have experienced trauma and ongoing emotional and physical […]

Reishi Cocoa


      The title says it all-  two awesome things merged together as one incredibly strengthening and healing beverage.   Both Reishi and cacao are world renowned for their healing properties and I’ll share a few of their amazing benefits before showing my way of making this fusion.    And yes it does taste […]

Modern Mental Health/ The Problem with Evidence Based Treatment


Often when I work with someone who comes to see me I am at a loss of where to begin.  Emotional distress such as depression, insomnia and anxiety often have so many tangled roots that it is hard to know where to start.   Distress often has its roots in multiple origins such as trauma, […]

Paleo Herbalism


As an herbalist I often think how my prehistoric ancestors worked with plants as medicines.  Certainly their needs were far different from mine.  Modern man tends to develop illnesses based on eating a diet rich in processed foods, sugar, caffeine and alcohol.  Obesity, inflammatory illnesses and autoimmune disorders  are common experiences that prehistoric man did […]

Acupuncture and the Aging Process


Unlike drugs and surgery, which can cause increasing complications and health risks as we age, acupuncture gently works to optimize the body’s own healing potential.  It is a gentle, effective, and safe therapy based in a system of medicine that has a written history going back five thousand years.  In the past 8 years I […]

Healing Insomnia Naturally

Alarm clock on night table showing 3 a.m.

Insomnia is one of the most common ailments in modern society  and it often develops when a number of factors occur.  There is usually some ongoing stress such as work, relationship or financial problems.  It is common that there is a dietary component where the person is consuming too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol and processed […]

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Emotional Wellbeing


Throughout America, many millions are looking to holistic ways to feel better and improve their mental health.  Perhaps they have been dissatisfied with taking medications, or simply want to improve their mood and wellbeing.  Many millions have turned to buying herbal supplements in stores and to looking at traditional styles of healing such as Traditional […]

Thoughts on Herbal Dosage


When someone suggests an herbal medicine, there is often a lot of contradictory information about how much and how to take it.  Ideas on dosage vary quite a bit depending on the advice of different herbalists and according to different cultures.  You may find that a western herbalist suggests using just a couple teaspoons of […]

Rethinking the term “Mental Illness”


In this country there is quite a debate raging about the idea of mental illness.  The modern notion of mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia are psychiatric terms that have recently been created and codified in a series of books known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), now […]

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 […]