Depression cuts the ground from under one’s feet!

 (I wrote this article originally for Herbgeek.com)

Through my work as a herbalist, I have noticed that many of my patients and especially those suffering from depression, anxiety and stress seem to lack what we call in France ‘ancrage’. Literally translated this means anchoring, which I prefer in a way to the word ‘grounding’ as anchoring conjures up more than just a connection to the earth but the feeling of being nestled deeply and securely in oneself, the solar plexus is the home to the centre of one’s being, the place of inner calm, peace and centeredness. Having one’s feet firmly on the ground and living in the physical body seems to be harder than it looks for people today, there is a general disconnection with oneself and nature…we are part of the natural world are we not? ImageThis disconnection results in a loss of self that is highlighted in many forms of depression, vital life energy, that which ‘animes’ or in English, ‘brings to life’, dwindles and the depressed person has trouble finding enough of this energy to dress and feed himself, let alone create his life.

An extreme case of this lack of ‘ancrage’, that I witnessed in one of my patients was a thirty year old woman who just wasn’t there, she was unable to take hold of anything that was said to her, I could feel her absence it was palpable, as if she was hovering above her body, when asked a question her replies were off the subject as she was so not there she wasn’t able to really hear what was being said to her. This person had lost her mother in an accident at the age of fourteen and the shock had pushed her out of her physical body, a survival technique that had its use at the moment of the shock, however sixteen years later, she was still disconnected from herself and the world in which she lived, what had been a survival technique at the time was now preventing her from ‘living’. This is a severe case, where the person was completely removed from her physical self, however many people live out their lives in their minds. I would say we are all to some extent suffering from this disconnection to ourselves as our lives move further and further away from nature and evolve more and more around virtual communication, stationary activities, sterile environments, we look for sense outside ourselves and forget to hear that inner, unique resonance that is ‘I’.

“The more we stay in our minds the more we think, the more we think the more we stay in our minds, the more we are in our minds, the less grounded we are, the less grounded we are, the less happy we are.”

The feeling of being ‘anchored’ in oneself is not as ‘subtle’ as it may appear, once grounded and reconnected there is a real and tangible feeling of being in one’s rightful place, at home in oneself and really here on earth. This feeling brings about a more positive outlook and more confidence in life. A distance appears from what is ‘oneself’ and the thoughts, actions, noises and stresses of life, a distance that helps one to let go of things and thoughts more easily and at the same time accept life, there is less resistance and as we all know ‘what resists persists’.

So, how to go about helping a depressed person to feel more grounded and centred within themselves?

There are many different techniques for ‘grounding’, such as dance, gardening, walking in nature (preferably bare footed), meditation, yoga, Tai chi, massage, swimming in rivers or the sea, to name but a few. These are things that can be slowly integrated into work on lifestyle changes with someone recovering from depression.

However the depressed patient, who hasn’t yet got to the stage where he or she is ready to take on new activities (low motivation) but may greatly need to feel that base foundation of connection with self, could benefit from plant medicines that help to ground, centre and align. Plants that stimulate and re-activate adrenal action are also recommended as adrenal exhaustion is often linked to a lack of grounding in the physical body. The adrenal gland’s contribution to our physical health and general vitality is very important, they are connected to the root chakra, a lack of grounding means that the natural energy cycle that triggers the adrenals into action lacks conviction and there is a gradual depletion and imbalance of adrenal energy.

These propositions would of course be part of a long-term treatment that addresses the different aspects that make up this complex state of imbalance, known as ‘depression’.

 Plants that ground and align

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

The name valerian comes from the Latin word ‘valère, meaningI am worth.

It took me a long time to really get to know this plant; in retrospect I think I was approaching it in the wrong way. I was surprised when I did eventually make the connection to find that it was a lot more subtle and gentle with a certain finesse to its action that I was not expecting.

I use valerian root for people who are mentally all over the place, people who cannot sleep because their mind is running or who are overly nervous or even hysterical with uncontrolled thoughts and panic. It gently brings a person back into their body, gathering up dispersed consciousness and calmly bringing it down to a safer place within (antispasmodic action on the solar plexus region), where the phase of deeper sleep is increased and an appeasement is found.

Wilhelm Pelikan in his work called ‘Man and medicinal Plants’ based on his studies with Rudolf Steiner states ‘Valerian brings the cosmic down into earth and not the earth into the cosmic’.

The roots are the part used and my experience is that they connect us very much to our own roots (both in the sense of physical grounding and our genealogical roots) enabling us to contact a deeper, more solid sense of ‘ancrage’.

Tincture of the fresh roots;

5 to 10 drops in the morning (to be repeated during the day if necessary) for depression and stress.

5 to 30 drops before bed for insomnia.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica, Angelica sylvestris)

ImageAlthough most people talk about Angelica archangelica when talking and writing about this plant, I use the latter for making tinctures and hydrosols (Angelica sylvestris)as it grows wild around my home and the former I buy as an essential oil. Angelica has similarities with valerian in that it has a long hollow stem that leads us down to the roots, the signature for plants with this structure is often considered as plants that help in ‘journeying’. I see them as plants that help align, making the connection between the lighter part of ourselves connected to our original source (essence) and our roots or material grounding. Like valerian, angelica helps those people who have difficulty coming into their physical bodies, I use the essential oil of the roots for this, a drop every morning for 21 days, rubbed into the sole of the foot and one drop rubbed between the hands. The grounding effect is more or less instant, as if suddenly the body recognises the connection (the plug has been put back into the socket) and at the same time it seems to strengthen both the physical body and the spirit, bringing vitality back to the organism!

Angelica root tincture or hydrosol can also be used internally.

*Do not use the essential oil on the skin before going out in the sun, as it can be photosensitive. Read the rest of this entry »

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