We have all experienced stressors in our lives. Some are small and could be considered more annoyances than anything else, but some are quite big and earth-shattering. A deeply distressing or disturbing experience can be traumatic to the psyche, overwhelming our emotional operation and natural ability to process the information, release the sharp pain, and move forward. It creates a chronic feeling of lack of safety and ability to control your environment, which sneaks into every aspect of life.
Traumatic events can be quite grand, like the death of a loved one, a car accident, or physical abuse, or they can much more subtle, like poverty, racism, sexism, or chronic belittlement. Trauma from dramatic events are much more easily accepted as a legitimate struggle for most individuals, but even small events which overwhelm the brain are valid, and if left unattended, can be extremely damaging with its effects reaching far into the future, and into many aspects of life, including physical health as well as emotional stability.
Regardless of the cause of a trauma, the effects are apparent. We often associate trauma solely with the emotional end of the human spectrum, but the truth of the matter is that overwhelming stress affects both our psychological and physical wellbeing. Cognitive symptoms often include difficulty concentrating, irritability, mood swings, anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, self-loathing, shock, social withdrawal, depression, and disconnection. Somatic expressions are often insomnia, fatigue, nightmares and night terrors, high heart rate, edginess, agitation, being easily startled, aches and pains, muscle tension, reduced appetite and low weight, digestive problems, stomach aches, and headaches. Deep traumas in some individuals can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and while there’s a lot of overlap between trauma and PTSD, that’s a whole different story for a different day.
When addressing trauma and anxiety from an herbal perspective, there are three major categories that are utilized: nervines, adaptogens, and tonics.
Nervines are herbs that specifically support the nervous system. Such herbs include chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora).
Adaptogenic herbs help the body be more resilient, adapting more smoothly to stressors and triggers. Adaptogens ideal for easing trauma are ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), and reishi (Ganoderma lucidum).
The last category is tonics. As the name suggests, tonics help tone the body and its various systems, increasing longevity, vitality, strength, wellbeing, energy, and/or motivation, all depending on the specific herb. But regardless of the herb, they all help to strengthen the body. The best tonic herbs for trauma are nettle (Urtica dioica), oatstraw (Avena sativa), and raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus). These herbs can be blended into a tea and enjoyed every morning or evening, as instructed by your herbalist.
Good nutrition is vital to recovering from and releasing trauma. In addition to giving your body the best chance to heal, feeling better physically helps you feel better psychologically and emotionally, and reduces anxiousness and depressed mood. In addition to the nutritional benefits, making conscious steps to take care of yourself dramatically improves mental health and wellness.
There are several excellent therapies that have been proven beneficial for aiding in stress relief, and helping reduce traumatic memories. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or “Tapping” is a modality you can learn from a trained practitioner, then use on your own in moments of stress to help calm the sympathetic nervous system and reduce the fight-or-flight response and release overwhelming ordeals. Talk therapy, intentional self care such as good nutrition, meditation, art journaling and more are other easy “DIY” scientifically proven stress management and anxiety-relieving techniques.
If you’re struggling with releasing stress, traumatic memories, anxiety, or other damaging events, Reiki, Massage Therapy, and Kinesiology are all first-rate alternative therapies with a long list of individuals raving about their benefits. As a Reiki Master, I work with a large number of clients with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other physical-emotional-psychological traumas. A large number of these individuals attribute their vast functional improvement to Reiki and herbal support. I propose that while Reiki and herbs are wildly beneficial, the real source of healing is their choice to acknowledge that they are valuable, and worth investing in themselves in the form of good nutrition, teas, therapies, and other self care procedures. Accepting the ability and responsibility to affect change in your own life is by far the most powerful choice anyone can make.
These facts and opinions are those of a certified Master Herbalist and Dipl. Natural Health Consultant, and Reiki Master Teacher, and are for educational purposes only, and not intended to replace consult with your qualified healthcare practitioner.