Natural Remedies for Emotional Health

How easily available remedies can support us in emotional crises

Natural Medicines For the Lonely Heart’s Club Band

When you're nursing a broken heart, natural medicines can help you cope.

Valentine’s Day can be the worst time to nurse a broken heart, especially if you just got the upsetting news by email or text message. You’re left with grief, and more — a feeling of abandonment, perhaps betrayal (if your partner is now with your best friend), and shock if you didn’t see it coming. Natural medicines can help strengthen you to cope with the crisis. They don’t numb your strong feelings but rather help you step back into your witnessing state so that you can feel your emotions and rise above them at the same time.

Rescue Remedy is the most widely available. It’s a blend of five flower essences (natural medicines made from flowers) addressing different aspects of emotional trauma. It’s so gentle you can’t possibly overdose on it. (It usually comes in an alcohol base and you only take a few drops at a time, but if that’s too much alcohol for your lifestyle, look for the lozenge form.)

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It’s so gentle, though, that if you’re really upset you may not notice it. In that case use Ignatia or Gelsemium depending on how you reacted to the bad news of the breakup. Ignatia is for people who become hysterical, hyperemotional, with lots of sobbing and sighing and psychosomatic symptoms like stomachaches or headaches.[1]

Gelsemium is for people who totally shut down and go numb emotionally. These people may freeze up and have a hard time thinking through their options. They may be in such a state of shock that they feel trembly inside, even dizzy. They are just as emotional as someone who needs Ignatia, but their emotions are underground, like a river flowing under a sheet of ice. Keeping their emotions submerged takes up so much energy that people who need Gelsemium are likely to feel totally exhausted.

All of these natural medicines are available in any health food store, online, and in many pharmacies. Ignatia and Gelsemium are most commonly available in a 30c potency (strength), although you should look for the gentler 6c or 12c potency if you tend to be hypersensitive or overreactive to medications. Dissolve a couple of pellets in your mouth two to four times a day depending on how intense your symptoms are, and stop taking it as soon as you feel stronger and more stable inside.

Longterm grief states: While Ignatia and Gelsemium are ideal for people in a state of acute grief, loss, betrayal, or abandonment, people whose loss goes back many years are more likely to need another natural medicine. How can you tell if a long ago grief requires natural medication? Simple: if it is interfering with your ability to live life with full health, energy and creative fulfillment. Perhaps a chronic grief state is causing insomnia, depression, lack of appetite, or other physical symptoms. Perhaps you’ve been unable to commit to another romantic relationship because you are pining away for an idealized past relationship or because you’re afraid of being hurt again. In cases like these, a professional homeopath can recommend a natural medicine to release you from your life-inhibiting grief and your physical symptoms at the same time. Here are some examples.

“I never shed a tear”: Some people experience silent grief, in which the grief is so overwhelming that they have to shut it down in order to function. They were unable to cry at the time, and in fact they may have never cried since the loss. They protect themselves against another such devastating loss by building a wall around their heart. They are immune to another romantic relationship, but they reveal their deep woundedness by being extremely sensitive to any criticism. Holidays are especially difficult for people who hold onto long-ago griefs, as they are reminded of the missing partner. Natrum mur. is the natural medicine for people who react to grief by walling off their hearts and never shedding a tear. 

“I lost the sunshine of my life”: When a lifelong partner dies, the surviving partner may feel that he has lost everything — not only the love of his life but also his whole way of life. An elderly person who loses a spouse may also have to move out of the family home, for example. If his wife was the main connection with their social circle, he may lose contact with their friends. People who feel they have lost everything may become depressed, even suicidal, and in this extreme state Aurum may help. Made from the metal gold, it is best used for people who feel they have lost everything when they lost their partner.

“I turned off my phone”: When people who are usually very social and communicative react to grief by withdrawing from all contact, the natural medicine Phosphoric acid may be the most helpful. Phosphoric acid (as a physical substance) is often used to create the bubbles in carbonated drinks. Imagine someone who is usually the life of the party, who is now emotionally flat, drained and withdrawn. This is the type of person who can benefit from Phosphoric acid. Their hair may turn white or fall out from grief. I know this sounds impossible but I actually know someone to whom this happened to! She was a doctoral student in clinical nutrition at a university hospital where I used to work — in other words, she had a scientific orientation and knew it seemed impossible, but this young woman with the white hair told me it happened the day after her mother died.

The real proof of these natural medicines is in their clinical effectiveness, and to receive the full benefit, it’s best to work with a professional. Trying to match your own symptoms is like doing psychotherapy on yourself! Consult www.homeopathic.org for a professional near you. While some experts on these natural medicines are also psychotherapists, you don’t need to limit your search to these doubly-qualified people, as any homeopath is trained to support you with your psychological symptoms.

[1] The descriptions of these natural medicines and their accompanying physical symptoms are well documented in 200 years of clinical journal articles which have been well summarized in books accessible to a lay audience. My favorite guide to several hundred such medicines is the Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms by Roger Morrison, MD. A more succinct guide to several dozen natural medicines is Nature and Human Personality by Catherine Coulter.

While there have been no double-blind studies on the effectiveness of these natural medicines for treating grief per se, there have been studies on the treatment of depression.

Homeopathic medicines can be effective in treating depressive states. One double-blind comparison trials found non-inferiority with fluoxetine (Prozac) in the treatment of moderate to severe depression. Ninety-one outpatients with moderate to severe depression received an individualized homeopathic medicine or fluoxetine (Prozac) 20 mg/day (up to 40 mg/day) in a prospective, randomized, double-blind double-dummy 8 week trial. The primary efficacy measure was the mean change in MADRS depression scores, using a non-inferiority test with margin of 1.45. Secondary efficacy outcomes were response and remission rates. Tolerability of treatment was assessed with the side effect rating scale of the Scandinavian Society of Psychopharmacology.

Adler UC, Paiva NMP, Cesar AT, Adler MS, Molina A, Padula AE, Calil HM. Homeopathic individualized Q-potencies versus fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression: double-blind, randomized non-inferiority trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Aug 17. http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep114v1

 

Burke Lennihan, the author of Your Natural Medicine Cabinet, is a former health food storeowner and a holistic practitioner at the Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge.

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