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  • Begin your path to optimum wellness.

    Traditional Chinese Medicine is a fully integrated system of theory, diagnostics and treatment that can address virtually any health condition.

  • Health

    A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being beyond merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

  • One of the side benefits of my treatment at Oregon City Acupuncture is the holistic view they have of care. I am not just treated for pain or inflammation. I am treated as a whole person and when I leave, I feel more centered and in tune with who I really am. — CC

  • For the first time in many, many years, I am able to really be comfortable in my body throughout my day and find joy in life.  I have an extensive history with western medicine, having had many surgeries and been treated by many doctors.  However, nothing has given me the benefits I receive from acupuncture and Chinese herbs. — CC

  • From the first visit, we noticed improvement. Each session for each of us was fashioned for our individual needs at that time, in a relaxing atmosphere. The results were encouraging, often giving us flexibility and release from pain. — J & G


Not feeling the Bern? Unthrillary about Hillary? Do you feel like your brain has been in a blender this election season? Are you just a little anxious about wars and rumors of wars, April 15th taxes, global warming, and terrorist living on your block?  If you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and frustration, your local acupuncturist has some help for you.

Anger, irritability, stress and frustration are all signs your liver Qi is not flowing smoothly. In turn, too much of these feelings in our lives can cause the Liver Qi to become stuck, resulting in issues such as the symptoms listed below.

Signs and Symptoms that may be associated with Liver Qi stagnation:

  • Pain or discomfort anywhere along the sides of the body
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sighing
  • Hiccups
  • Frustration
  • Inappropriate anger
  • Sensation of a lump in throat
  • Difficulty swallowing                                                                                                                                    Stressed
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Stomachache that improves after massage
  • Stomachache that worsens with anger
  • PMS with irritability and/or swollen breasts
  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Poor appetite
  • Churning sensation in stomach 

Your liver is one of your hardest working internal organs. It filters over a liter of blood every minute. It is responsible for detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing blood. It also acts to energize you by releasing stored sugar. And it recombines amino acids to create the protein our bodies need to grow and repair tissue. From the standpoint of Chinese Medicine, the symptoms we associate with “Stress” are seen as “The Branches”. In Chinese Medicine, we also treat “The Root”. In many cases  when it comes to STRESS, a “Root” is Liver Qi Stagnation.Foods Used to Address Liver Qi StagnationThese are just some of the herbs and foods that are believed to help Liver Qi stagnatio  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the liver is associated with the element “Wood” and spring time. When thinking of the association of Wood with the Liver, imagine a thicket of golden stemmed, leafy green bamboo sprouting and expanding upwards and outwards in the spring sun. The bamboo gracefully moves and bends with the breeze. If the bamboo and its roots somehow become bound and constrained, imagine the frustration of this growth.   When the liver’s energy or Qi is free to flow unbound, you feel flexible, bending with the breeze. When liver Qi is “stuck” you feel frustrated, irritable, moody, even depressed. . All those things we mean when we say, “I’m stressed-out.” Spring is the ideal season to pay attention to your liver and liver Qi stagnation.     An important function of the livers is regulating the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) throughout the body and moderating our emotions. When this Qi does not flow smoothly it is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation, one of the most common imbalances treated by acupuncturists.

Foods Used to Address Liver Qi Stagnation

  • Turmeric
  • Milk Thistle
  • Dandelion
  • Garlic
  • Cherries
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Red and black dates
  • Caraway seed
  • Mint
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon Balm
  • Oregano
  • Red beans
  • Sweet basil

Acupuncture treatments and traditional Chinese herbal formulas are excellent ways to address “Liver Qi Stagnation”.   Finding and treating the “Root Cause” of your health care concern is a hallmark of Chinese Medicine. Oregon City Acupuncture offers you De-stress acupuncture sessions this spring at a 50% discount from now to June 1st. Call today 503-653-1468 for your appointment and get that Liver Qi moving again.

Adaptogens: Herbs to Build Vitality and Immunity

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom

It is the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that one cares for and nourishes the Qi (vital energy) of the Kidneys in winter. Our adrenal glands are thought of as part of the Kidney in TCM. It is the adrenals glands that play a key role in stress hormones.

We can no longer wait until disease appears and then begin treatment. Everyone is under stress, and the treatment for well-being and optimal health starts with prevention before the symptoms arrive. Twenty years ago the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) rejected the need for a daily multi-vitamin and has recently reversed its position. Today JAMA recommends the use of daily vitamins to everyone for maintaining good health. There is no doubt that with the emergence of stress as the new cause of disease, a daily adaptogen is necessary today and its endorsement cannot wait twenty years.

A recent development in herbal medicine is the notion of adaptogenic herbs. The concept of adaptogenic herbs came from Russian research into ginseng in the 1940s and 1950s. Although herbs such as ginseng have been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years, their actions to enhance immunity to disease and strengthen the physical response to and recovery from stress have only recently been scientifically identified. An adaptogen is a substance that allows the body to adapt as whole to non-specific stress.

Various medicines and inoculations might protect against this season’s flu virus. An adaptogen will protect against a whole range of stressors such as sleep deprivation, overwork, trauma, heat, cold, infections, even radiation. An adaptogen does this not based on its own chemical constituents, but by strengthening the body’s innate response mechanisms to stress and disease. And while the class of herbs called adaptogens can strengthen the body’s responses to stress and disease, each has its own specific and unique actions as well and it is essential to match an adaptogenic herb to the individual’s needs and constitution. The following is a list of applications for some well-known and easy to find adaptogen herbs.

• Asian Ginseng:   Stimulating herb for adrenal exhaustion.
• American Ginseng:  Mild central nervous system stimulant and nourishing
to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
• Ashwaghanda: Calming adaptogen. Relieves muscle pain.
• Astragalus:  Immune tonic. Heart tonic.
• Cordyceps:  Lung and kidney tonic. Immunity modulator.
• Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng):  Immune tonic. Adrenal tonic. Enhances performance.
• Holy Basil (Tulsi):  Supports normal cortisol and blood sugar.
• Reishi: Immunity modulator and calming to the spirit.
• Rhodiola: Immunity modulator. Cardio protective.

As with any herbal medications, adaptogens have their own cautions and contraindications when taken with pharmaceutical medications. Consult a licensed professional such as a Naturopathic Doctor or your local Acupuncturist to match an adaptogenic herb or formula to your needs and constitution.

To learn more about these herbs, read:
“Adaptogens: Herbs For Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief”, Winston and Maimes. Healing Health Press, Rochester, Vermont 2007
“The Healing Power of Ginseng & The Tonic Herbs: The Enlightened Person’s Guide”, Bergner. Prima Publishing. 1996

Bone Broth for Winter Health

Soups or broths are excellent for supporting the Lungs in the fall and winter.

Bowl with beef broth, boiled bones and fresh vegetables.

Bone broth with fresh vegetables.

In Chinese medicine bone broth nourishes our Kidneys—the internal organ associated with winter season–supports our qi and builds blood. Bone marrow is the source of essence (our genetic material), blood, and qi which all come from kidney energy. Kidneys are in charge of bones (including teeth) and joints so it is reasonable that we nourish those with similar food.
In our bodies the adrenal glands sit on top of our kidneys and in Chinese medicine they are considered part of the Kidney energy system. Bone broth may be a very potent source of nourishment to take us from “survive” to thrive.
You can use any kind of bones – fowl, beef, pork, even fish. Beef bones are often easy to find at a local butcher shop or super market.
If you choose to use beef or pork bones you may want to roast them first. Get the best bones you can, such as grass fed & organic.
There are probably as many recipes for bone broth as there are people who make it. Here is a basic beef bone recipe.

Two pounds of beef bones per gallon of water. Many people find the broth even more delicious if the bones are roasted in the oven at a medium heat for 30 to 60 minutes before simmering.

You’ll also need some organic vegetables for flavor. These are actually optional but add extra flavor and nutrition. All vegetables are rough chopped 1 onion

4-5 cloves garlic
2 large carrots
2 celery stalks
Mushrooms, such as shiitakes. Shiitakes support the immune system.
1 cup parsley

Put the bones in a big pot with water, add 2 Tbsps. Of apple cider vinegar (it helps release minerals in the bones) and whatever veggies you want. Simmering in a crock pot is an excellent method for making bone broth. Bring to a boil, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer for 24 hours.
The bones should be soft when the cooking is done. Cooking those helps release the collagen and gelatin that you want for your skin and joints. The soft bones more easily release all the minerals into the liquid.
Skim off the foam as it develops and add more water as needed. Strain the broth through a colander or strainer and reserve the cooked vegetables. They are delicious, too.
Let cool in refrigerator and skim off congealed fat.
Bone broth can be frozen for 3-4 months or canned in mason jars.
Bone broth is capable of providing some deep nutrition and can be a prominent part of our nutrition plan. It’s so easy to make. Everyone is unique and it’s fun to play with veggies and seasonings to make an awesome meal, snack or daily supplement.

Inflammation In Your Mouth Effects the Rest of Your Body.

This months Special Guest Blog is written by our favorite dentist, Candace Krause, DMD, from Gladstone Family Dentistry.

toothy grinI recently attended a seminar at OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) entitled “The Impact of Periodontal Disease on General Health”

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) about half of the adults in the US have periodontitis, the advanced form of periodontal (gum) disease, where usually irreversible changes to the bony and connective tissue support of the teeth have taken place. Left unchecked, tooth loss is inevitable.

What the dental community has long suspected, this inflammation going on in our mouths from the gum disease is also affecting the rest of the body and vice verse.

The systemic effects of periodontal disease most researched show:

1. Worsened glycemic (blood sugar) control and an increase in complications associated with diabetes.
2. Increase risk of heart disease and stroke.
3. Increase risk of respiratory diseases like bronchitis and pneumonia
4. Increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes like premature and/or low birth weight deliveries.
5. Increase in oral and pancreatic cancers.

Also discussed were the risk factors for the development of the periodontal disease beyond poor oral hygiene. These include smoking, refined sugar consumption, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The take-away message is that a healthy lifestyle needs to include taking care of our oral health as well as all the things we do for the rest of our body.

Your dental checkup should include a thorough periodontal examination of your gums as well as the xrays and exam of your teeth.
Candace Krause, DMD
Gladstone Family Dentistry

Fall. Time to gather your nuts for winter.

Nutty Squirrel2There is a chill in the air. The days grow shorter. Just as squirrels gather fall nuts for the long winter, we too need to prepare for winter. Seasonal changes affect the immune system. With the wind, rain and snow comes colds, flu and aches and pains. Here are a few tips to staying healthy this winter.

Wash your hands –Studies show one of the reasons we catch colds and flu in winter is that we are indoors and closer to others. Protect yourself by washing your hands regularly and try not to touch your face.

Sleep – The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for warming your body in cold weather.

No Stress – According to Chinese medicine, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can play an important part in throwing the immune system off. Find a way to relax and de-stress on a daily basis. Stress management may include yoga, meditation, biofeedback,simple relaxation therapy, herbal remedies or acupuncture.

Herbal Medicine – A thousand year old Chinese herbal formula called Jade Windscreen is a handy complement to immune boosting acupuncture treatments. It is made up of just three powerful herbs which combine to tonify the immune system, strengthen the digestive system, and fortify the exterior of the body to fight off wind-borne viruses and bacteria. This handy formula comes in pill, capsule or liquid form and can be taken for a few days each month to stave off colds, flu or when there’s a challenging work-load or sleep loss.

Acupuncture for Prevention- Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help prevent colds and flu by building up the immune system. Inserting needles into just a few acupuncture points can strengthen the circulation of blood and energy, consolidating the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (Wei Qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter the body. The ultra-thin needles don’t hurt, are inserted just under the skin, and are removed within ten to twenty minutes. As you transition from one season to another, a visit to your acupuncturist can help keep you healthy in those cold winter months.


Fall and winter are cold and flu season. It may be impossible to avoid catching a cold, but doing the cold clipfollowing will certainly increase your chances of being cold free this fall and winter.

Wash Your Hands. Your best protection against the cold virus is to wash your hands with soap and water often. Be vigilant with hand washing during cold season if you work with kids or if you are around someone with a cold, especially someone in your own household. If you can’t always get to a sink, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping some alcohol-based gel cleanser with you and using it often.

Keep Your Hands Away From Your Face. Because cold viruses like to get into your body through your mouth, nose, and eyes, keeping your hands away from these body parts is essential.

Use Your Own Stuff. Don’t use a cold-sufferer’s phone, keyboard, pen, drinking glass, or other items.

Do Some Disinfecting. Viruses are hardy creatures that can live up to three hours on objects. Use a disinfectant that specifically targets cold viruses to clean common areas.

Avoid Crowds. Because cold viruses are so contagious, you improve your chances of not getting one if you stay away from the pack.

Get Adequate Sleep Every Night. Get at least seven to eight hours sleep nightly.

Eat Healthily. Healthy foods such as vegetables, fruit, grains, etc., are an important part of keeping your body nutrition at its optimum. Processed, fatty, and sugary foods don’t give the immune-boosting protection that healthier food does. Sugary foods can decrease immune function for up to five hours.

Get Regular exercise. Exercise has immune-system enhancing effects that can help ward off illness. Don’t overdo exercise though, as too much strenuous or excessive exercise can leave you prone to illness.

Reduce Stress. Stress can harm the ability of your immune system to work optimally, and people who are stressed tend to catch colds more than less stressed people.. Manage your stress well.

Keep Hydrated. Dehydration inhibits the immune system’s functioning. Drinking water may also help wash cold and flu viruses from your throat to your stomach where they cannot survive.

Avoid Cigarette Smoke. Or quit if you already smoke. The smoke from cigarettes irritates airways and this can lead to increased vulnerability to colds, including passive smoke..

Keep Your Immune System Strong. Eat right, exercise, and manage stress to keep your immune system at its best to help you fight off any cold bug. Consult with your local Acupuncturist/Herbalist for immune enhancing herbal formulas, or remedies to take at the first sign of a cold.

NAET: Hope for severe allergies.

It’s Allergy season again.

What’s that you say? “I thought that was in the spring”.

Actually Fall is the season of the Lung and this is the perfect time to be addressing your allergies.

Get your immune system up to par so next spring isn’t such a disaster. Imagine being outside and taking a deep breathe enjoying the flowers, trees.

Sounds good right?

Now imagine someone who has such an extreme allergy that it can send them into anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. It can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to, such as a peanut or the venom from a bee sting.

The flood of chemicals released by your immune system during anaphylaxis can cause you to go into shock; your blood pressure drops suddenly and your airways narrow, blocking normal breathing. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting. Common triggers of anaphylaxis include certain foods, some medications, insect venom and latex.

This means using an Epi-pen and going to the emergency room. More and more we hear of kids reacting to peanuts or peanut butter when someone brings them to school and they share their treats. This is a terrifying experience for everyone involve. If the reaction itself isn’t scary enough, the hospital experience can give them nightmares.

Now imagine a process that will reduce or eliminate these extreme reactions. Wow. Kids can just be kids. Adults can eat at any restaurant and not worry about peanut sauce or other substances that can be life threatening.

That process is here and it’s called NAET – Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Techinique. I recently spent 3 days in California at our annual symposium talking about and reviewing the research and experiences NAET practitioners have had addressing anaphylaxis in patients. It is a life changer. Even just being able to feel safer in the presence of these challenging substances and not having to use an Epi-pen or go to the ER is incredible.

This technique can be used on anyone, any age. It does not require needles so you can release that fear. Want to know more? Please call Oregon City Acupuncture and speak with Carol. You can also check out the NAET site online – and see what it’s all about. We have practitioners around the world. It’s been around for over 30 years. It’s not new, just amazing. Check it out.


Miso Soup with Scallions – A tasty cure for the common cold

miso soupDid you know that Miso Soup with Scallions is an ancient Chinese herbal remedy for colds? In 300 AD famous herbalist, Ge Hong, writes about Miso Soup with Scallions in a book called, Bei ji zhou hou fang or Emergency Formulas to Keep Up One’s Sleeve. The soup is indicated for the onset of a cold when a person is just beginning to feel a headache, stuffy nose and a slight fever with chills. Drink a cup or two of hot miso soup and wrap up in a warm blanket!

So, the next time you feel a cold coming on, be sure to have your miso! Miso is available at your local Asian market or health food store.

 Miso Soup Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Miso (usually sold in the refrigerated section). Instant miso packets are also available.
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 3-4 slices fresh ginger


Dissolve the miso in a little bit of boiling water.   Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add the ginger & scallions.  Simmer covered for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, top with some chopped scallions and serve.


You can add various other ingredients soup, such as tofu, fresh mushrooms, cooked shrimp, snow peas,bean sprouts, cooked rice noodles, or paper-thin slices of fresh ginger. Ginger & the white parts of scallions as a tea alone works very well, too, for a cold with chills.


Stay Cool As A Cucumber This Summer

cucumber eyesThere’s a reason we say “Cool as a cucumber”. Cucumbers have been around for about 10,000 years. They started out as a tropical plant but have been hybridized over time to grow quite well in more temperate areas. They pack a lot of fluid in them but also have a lot of nutrients include Vitamins A, C and folic acid in the list. They also have caffeic acid (not caffeine) which along with the Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may help prevent water retention. This is why you should put cucumber slices over your puffy eyes, burns and itchy skin, even if it does look funny. They are considered sweet and cold in Chinese medicine.  Kick back after a long, hot day with a:

Cool as a Cucumber Infusion

  • 4 cups of chopped cucumbers put in herb cloth, cheese cloth or strainer or let it sit in the bottom of the container. Peel them or get organic as these tend to be sprayed and waxed a lot.
  •  Plain cucumber tastes great by itself. But you can add chopped watermelon, chopped mint if you wish. Both are herbs commonly used to clear summer heat in China. Both herbs are sweet and cool which makes you drink more and drain the heat.
  • Pour water directly over all of it and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir occasionally.Add more water as you drink it up.

Makes at least a quart.

Cool Scrubs

Now let’s take care of your dry, itchy, burnt skin.

If you are using your sunscreen use spf 30 or higher. Apply generously every 2 hours.

At the end of a day out in the sun it’s nice to get that stuff off and nourish the skin with something.

Try making your own sugar or salt scrub. It’s not hard at all.

Salts are usually coarser crystals and will be used more on feet, elbows and knees.

Sugar tends to come in smaller crystals and is gentler for more of the body. Use which ever you prefer. If you only have salt, don’t scrub so hard. Sugar, scrub harder.

Start with about ½ of scrub material. Apply to dry skin.

In ½ cup of oil (jojoba, almond, olive, coconut) mix any of these options:

  • 1T dried lavender + 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or a mix)

If your skin is damp when you apply this it will dissolve the crystals and you won’t get the scrub effect. The crystals don’t dissolve in the oil and the oil won’t just rinse off when you wash off.

Stay chilled with infusions and scrubs that keep you soft and cool as a cucumber this summer.

Drug Free Alternatives for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Drug-Free Alternatives for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Mary M. Ernsberger

HERB503 – Advanced Herbal Materia Medica II

American College of Healthcare Sciences



Stress is a primary causative factor that scientific research has shown leads directly to physical and psychological disease and disorder. For our military servicemen and women, it goes without saying that the daily stress they are under can easily develop into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by the time they return home. Current treatment options for PTSD are counseling and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, the pharmaceuticals bring with them an enormous risk for dangerous and deadly side effects. In most cases, both nervine and adaptogenic herbs are able to respond to the symptoms of PTSD without side effects. This paper explores herbal treatment options for PTSD that can replace SSRI medications that support stress reactions within the body, balance the stress response in the body, relieve the symptoms of PTSD, and allow servicemen and women to return to normal lives without dangerous side effects.

Drug-Free Alternatives for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Scientific research has identified stress as a causative factor for many modern day illnesses. When the body is stuck in a ‘fight or flight’ mode, especially following a traumatic incident, the cortisol released through the adrenal glands can cause serious physical damage. Considering the type and amount of traumatic incidents that our servicemen and women are subjected to as they battle terrorism around the world, it is no wonder that so many of them come home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Conditions or presented symptoms of what is now called PTSD dates back to the Civil War when an army surgeon diagnosed soldiers with an ‘irritable heart’ if they were experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, irritability, depression or disturbed sleep patterns (Evenson, 2002). Ever since, times of war have renamed these same symptoms. In World War I, it was known as ‘shell shock’. In World War II and the Korean War, it was ‘battle fatigue’ (Evenson, 2002). In addition to their experiences in ‘theatre’, the soldiers that fought in the Vietnam War had more to contend with once they arrived home. The negativity attached to the conflict left many soldiers ignored and often hated by the general public. Help of any kind was hard to come by so many soldiers turned to alcohol and drugs which presented an even larger spectrum of symptoms. In order for the Veteran’s Administration to provide free treatment to these soldiers, a single classification had to be created. The American Psychiatric Association and a group of veterans joined forces and petitioned Congress. As a result, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was added to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 3 (DSM-III) (Evenson, 2002). Further revisions of the DSM stretched the diagnostic criteria for PTSD to approximately 175 combinations of symptoms making some feel as if those that have truly experienced severe trauma were being overlooked for those experiencing everyday traumas (Evenson, 2002).

The failure of the medical community to put together a clear diagnostic definition for PTSD has made it difficult to get an accurate count of the number of veterans who return from service with this disorder. In the PTSD Manual, Parrish (2008) estimated that 20% of veterans that served in Korea and/or Vietnam suffer from PTSD. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs website (2014), approximately 12% of the veterans engaged in Desert Storm and 11% to 20% of soldiers who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have or will return with PTSD.

Twenty-first century treatments for PTSD include psychiatric counseling along with prescription antidepressant medications or serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) to relieve the feelings of sorrow, anxiety and worry. Formally, the FDA has only approved Zoloft and Paxil for PTSD along with their black-box label forewarning of an increased risk of suicide for 18-24 year olds, the most common age group for young army recruits (Rosch, 2012). From 2008 to 2012, mental health disorders, including PTSD, were the leading reason for the hospitalization of active-duty servicemen and women with symptoms of nervousness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, and increased feelings of depression and, sadly, suicide rates which increased 80% from 2008-2012, with the numbers exceeding 6,500 per year (Rosch, 2012).

There are a number of herbs that have historically, and through clinical studies, shown to have antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and sleeplessness properties that restore balance and relieve the primary symptoms presented with PTSD without the side effects of pharmaceutical medications. Therefore, it is proposed that replacing SSRI medications, utilized in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, with herbs that support stress reactions within the body, balance the stress response in the body, relieve the symptoms of PTSD, and allow servicemen and women to return to normal lives without dangerous side effects.


Research on this topic was conducted by using the database search for full-text, peer-reviewed articles written in English from 2005 to 2015, Google Scholar, and the Google search engine using key words: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; PTSD AND herbs; Herbs for PTSD; PTSD AND Veteran’s Administration; PTSD treatments; herbs for anxiety; adaptogens; PTSD AND Gotu kola; Rhodiola rosea; and stress management. The text book, “Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffmann (2003) was referenced.


The wide range of symptoms that modern medicine is attempting to treat when PTSD is diagnosed makes it truly impossible to single out a set treatment protocol that can be guaranteed to work for each person diagnosed. Symptoms may present as if the individual is reliving the event in the form of a nightmare or a flashback that may occur following a sensory trigger that causes a recall of the event. Attempts to avoid these triggers can place the body in a constant state of stress (VA, 2014). What used to be the fight or flight syndrome has been expanded to the fight, flight or freeze syndrome. The freeze phase is used to describe that same constant state of stress. The body’s reaction to stress involves the release of several hormones which affect the brain, more specifically the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and the autonomic nervous system. The brain releases hormones into the blood stream; they travel to the adrenal glands, completing the HPA axis. Once there, the release of epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine is triggered (Coltrera, Benson & Casey, 2013). When the system that releases these hormones fails to shut down as the stressful situation winds down, these excess hormones can cause physical damage within the body including high blood pressure and immune system suppression. Psychological effects are presented as depression, anxiety, irritability, nightmares, sleeplessness, flashbacks, angry outbursts, inability to concentrate, suicidal thoughts, drug or alcohol addiction, withdrawing from family, friends or the general public, and hypervigilance (Coltrera, Benson & Casey; Parrish, 2013; 2008). Prior to the Iraqi War, soldiers were sent into battle with a six month supply of pharmaceuticals based on the assumption that the situations they are placed in would require some treatment.

Over 180 phytochemical, clinical and pharmacological studies have been published, since 1960, on the adaptogenic properties of Rhodiola confirming its ‘health-promoting’ qualities. Rhodiola rosea has the ability to increase serotonin in the mid-brain and hypothalamus parts of the brain (Brown, Gerbarg, Romazanov, 2002). A three week, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study with 60 participants participated in a water based kava extract. The results of the study determined that aqueous extracts of kava provided noteworthy antidepressant and anti-anxiety action without the safety concerns of kava extracts in an alcohol base (HWHW, 2007).

Sarris, McIntyre and Camfield (2013) conducted a literature review seeking out preclinical and clinical trial data on plant based medicines for anxiety. Fifty-three plants were identified in the 1,525 papers with 21 of the plants having human clinical trial evidence. The clinical trial evidence identified Kava kava, Chamomile, Ginkgo biloba, Skullcap, Milk Thistle, Astragalus, Passionflower, Gotu kola, Rhodiola, Echium, Thryallis and Lemon balm effective with continued use for the treatment of anxiety.


The side effects, complications and contraindications fail to present until the individual has been taking the drug for a period of time, much longer than is required during the clinical trial phase necessary to demonstrate its efficacy and safety. As a result, nearly 50% of PTSD patients quit treatment due to the side effects of these medications (Rosch, 2012). The military has spent in excess of two billion dollars on pharmaceutical medications for the treatment of PTSD since 2001. Despite these frightening statistics, the Veteran’s Administration continues to spend more and more money on dangerous pharmaceuticals.

The use of natural therapies, including herbal formulations, may provide a side effect free alternative to medications. Depression and anxiety, at varying levels, are measured on the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D). Herbs commonly used to treat stress induced depression, potentially through the HPA axis, include American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and milky Oat tops (Avena sativa). Additional herbs, specific for the category identified as stagnant depression, which includes PTSD and chronic situational depression include Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), and Mimosa bark (Albizzia julibrissin) (Winston, 2014). Severe symptoms with a score over 20 on the HAM-D scale may require the addition of a nervine or adaptogenic herb, including Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), and/or Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) (Winston; Guthrie, 2014; 2014). Upwards of 50% of individuals who present with depression will also present with symptoms of anxiety, which is a constant or sudden state of worry, anticipation, or unwarranted inner turmoil. Herbs with an affinity for anxiety include Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Kava kava (Piper methysticum), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), milky Oat tops (Avena sativa), Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri), and Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), (Hoffmann; Winston, 2003; 2014). These lists are by no means inclusive, but as such note should be taken on the overlap. Many single herbs have the ability to serve those in various degrees of psychological need.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Nervine herbs have an affinity for the Central Nervous System (CNS) and are available in three primary categories: Nervine Tonics, Nervine Relaxants, and Nervine Stimulants. Lesser categories include hypnotics, antispasmodics, adaptogens, antidepressants and analgesics. The range of symptoms that make up the PTSD disorder confirms the potential for nervine herb formulations as a method of treatment. The second category of herbs that have shown efficacy for the treatment of PTSD are adaptogenic herbs. To be considered an adaptogen, an herb must meet three criteria: 1. It is nontoxic, meaning it is safe for everyone; 2. It builds up the whole body’s resistance to stress, instead of having an affinity for just one body system or organ; 3. These herbs restore balance to bodily functions, no matter where the disruption began. In other words, an adaptogen operates in the body like a tuning fork does for a musical instrument. It helps bring the physical and mental aspects of the body back into homeostasis. An adaptogens influence comes from the synergy of all the constituents within the herb. Therefore, the whole herb, or a whole herb extract, is much more potent and effective than a standardized formula (Guthrie, 2014).

Unlike pharmaceuticals currently prescribed for PTSD, the majority of nervines and adaptogens identified previously are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) when taken according to directions. Unlike pharmaceuticals prescribed based on average statistics, herbal formulas can be individualized to meet each individuals needs. A primary adaptogen-nervine base formula could be created using the following herbs (Winston, 2014):

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus); Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) or Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa); Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis); Milky Oat seed (Avena sativa); Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum); and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea). Eleuthero, licorice, wild yam, schisandra and milky oats are adaptogens with an affinity for the adrenal glands. Holy Basil is anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and neuroprotective, specifically effective for stagnant depression, including PTSD and rhodiola stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This herb strengthens the central nervous system adapting to both the increase and decrease of nervous system activity.

Additional anti-anxiety herbs may be added to the base formula (Winston, 2014):

Kava (Piper methysticum); Gotu kola (Centella asiatica); Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). All of these herbs are relaxing nervines and/or adaptogens shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia and mental exhaustion.

For veterans diagnosed with PTSD, alternative treatment options that do not come with a laundry list of side effects should be available. This type of herbal formula can easily be turned into whole herb capsules, extract, tincture, infusion or decoction – whichever type of formula works best for the individual. The restorative capabilities of the herbs in this formula may reduce the number of veterans who are hospitalized after returning from combat. With over 6,500 servicemen and women taking their own lives each year, many as a result of the pharmaceuticals they have been prescribed, imagine how many lives could be saved.

It should be noted that serious, chronic depression can compromise and even threaten an individual’s life to the point of becoming a disability. A qualified medical practitioner should always be consulted when attempting to incorporate an herb or any natural approach into a treatment plan as an alternative to prescribed medications.


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Our Guest Blogger this season is Mary M. Ernsberger, M.Ed. is a clinical herbalist, hypnotherapist and author of the forthcoming book, “un-Broken Children – Removing the Label, Restoring Health& Wellness”.

She is the founder of Nature’s Simple Remedies, a company that offers drug-free alternatives to support health and wellness. Her product line is created using certified organic whole herbs and essential oils. Mary utilizes her formal education background in both traditional, complementary and alternative medicine and education, in addition to her more than nine years of practitioner experience, to aid her clients in identifying the most effective and SAFE natural therapies to restore balance to their lives. She lives in Titusville, FL and can be reached by via email at or by phone at 360-525-8533. Call to schedule a FREE 30 minute consultation. Be sure to LIKE her Facebook page at Nature’s Simple Remedies and visit her website at