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 […]

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 […]

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 […]


From wikipedia

In the last few years there has been an explosion in the use of an herb known as kratom here in the U.S.  Kratom comes from a tree common to South East Asia where it has been traditionally used for centuries.  Mitragyna speciosa comes from the same family of plants as coffee (Rubiaceae) and has […]

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 […]

Dissociation- On finding the way home


I was talking with someone recently who talked about hearing voices for much of her life.  She talked about how the voices had started when she was young and had been through extreme suffering at the hands of her father.   While he abused her, her mother neglected her and she was left feeling deeply […]

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 […]

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 […]