Managing Mood with Herbal Medicine: Understanding Mood Holistically Part 1
By Stephanie Hazel, Accredited Medical Herbalist
PART ONE – UNDERSTANDING MOOD HOLISTICALLY
Mood disorders are on the rise throughout the western world at an alarming rate. Depression, bipolar, anxiety and panic disorders are now common high school topics. Severe and ongoing stress seems to be a part of the human story.
A certain amount of sadness, despair and stress is arguably a healthy response to the state of the world. But when we can’t overcome these feelings, and despite taking positive action our despair persists out of proportion to the challenges of life, then we know something is out of whack.
We’re all looking for quick-fixes, but the reality is, there is no herbal ‘substitute’ for Prozac. There is no magic herbal tea that will make all your days feel wonderful. What herbal medicine does offer us is a practical way to support our physical health, all the while acting on the deeper soul connection to plants, the earth and spirit. This is because herbs are both a collection of active chemicals, and fully living beings with their own spirit and kind of awareness. They interact with humans both through chemistry and through soul.
Holistic herbal medicine does not treat specific diseases. It treats individual beings with their unique pattern of balance and imbalance. What is happening in the mind, is also happening in the body. There are different patterns of symptoms that point to different body types. Each indicates different body systems that are not functioning well and need to be supported to come back into emotional balance.
The key to successfully managing your mood with herbs is to know who you are – what is the major imbalance in your body type?
In this 3 part series, I will give you a basic understanding of the energetics of different mood disorders from a holistic herbalism perspective, and then walk you through the major body types in different mood imbalances, and outline some herbal coping strategies for each type.
The energetic patterns of mood disorders
Emotional depression is often linked to lowered functioning (aka depression) of the cells, tissues and metabolic processes. It is a condition of slow, cold, and deficiency. There are different types of body imbalances inside this, but generally a depressed body needs to be warmed up, strengthened and stimulated. The immune system, the circulation and the nervous system can all be ‘depressed’ alongside the emotional aspect.
Anxiety is a state of overactivity of the nervous system. Thoughts race, the heart speeds up, and the nerves become extra sensitive to light, sound, feelings and touch. In many ways it is the opposite of depression. Similarly, the body is overactive. The metabolism is fast, burning through food quickly, and digestion is incomplete. Loose stools, undigested food and low appetites are common.
This overactivity can quickly lead to exhaustion, overwhelm and burnout.
Bipolar is essentially a disorder of rhythm. Our bodies work on a cycle of sleep and wake, day and night, activity and relaxation. In bipolar disorder, this rhythm is out of balance, and the body and mind both swing between extremes of activity and inactivity. In fact, some leading researchers argue that bipolar disorder is a form of sleep disorder. People often have irregular eating habits and insomnia. Their physical symptoms are also changeable and unreliable.
Traditional Western Herbalism is founded upon the use of constitutions or inherent body-types to understand how disease states work in different individuals. In the next part of this series, I’ll help you tap in this ancient wisdom to understand your mood personality.
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Written by Stephanie Hazel, Traditional Western Herbalist