A’ Tishoo A’ Tishoo we all fall down! The Effect of Stress on Health & Immunity – A different approach

Both from a clinical and social perspective, people develop infections from exhaustion and nervous depletion. We become susceptible to illness when dealing with chronic stress and work. Sayings such as ‘run down’ ‘too much on my plate’ & ‘stressed out’, all mean lowered immunity due to high levels of stress.

Scientific lingo Psycho-Neuro-Endocrino-Immunology (PNEI) is the study of effects of chronic stress on human immune tissue. Research has shown remarkable instances of tissue damage and immune deficiency with continued stress. Studies in Molecular Psychiatry and Immunology have shown chronic excess levels of cortisol production weakens activity of immune function, opening the way to inflammation and infections.

Neuroendocrine-immune interactions are regulated by corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) indirectly, through activation of stress directly and through pro-inflammatory actions on peripheral immune functions. The indirect effects of stress on immune/inflammatory responses occur via the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic/adreno-medullary system. Glucocorticoids and catecholamines affect Th1 and 2 immune cells and mediators.

Stress influences the development, course and pathology of acute and chronic health conditions such as infections, allergies, autoimmune, and inflammation. The psychological and behavioral consequences of stress have additional effects by increasing health-impairing behaviours e.g. poor diet, sleep, lack of exercise, substance abuse and mood disorders.

Medical herbalism offers a different approach, with the cooler changes ahead. Know your body and recognize the signs of exhaustion and stress. Enjoy rest, recreation, gentle exercise, sunlight (Vit D), healthy protein, Vitamins (A, B’s & C) and minerals (Zinc, Selenium, Magnesium).

Allow immune tissue to naturally respond to colds and flu, by utilising the wonderful benefits of pharmaceutical grade herbal medicines. Treatment is safe, effective and prescribed professionally.

Neuro-protective and Immune-modulating are terms used in this area of herbalism to describe Holy Basil, Withania, Siberian ginseng, Reishi and Rhodiola. These help the body adapt to stress and prevent infections and serious illness.

Immune-stimulating- modulating, Anti-inflammatory and Anti-microbial herbs include; Echinacea spp., Thyme, Boneset, Manuka, Andrographis, Cats Claw and Golden Seal.

Tonic and recovery effects are assisted with Codonopsis, Astragalus, Oats and Licorice Root. Respiratory and lung herbs effectively treat chest infections and severe coughs. These include; Inula, Ribwort, Licorice, Mullein, Pleurisy root, Hyssop and Wild Cherry bark.

General resistance herbs include; Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Olive leaf, Fenugreek and Turmeric to maintain health. Herbal medicine has clinical and scientific efficacy helping to strengthen and nourish body tissue, invaluable in preventing infections. Treatment may be before, during or after illness.

Peeling off the Layers – Bio-Regulatory Medicine

Bio-regulatory Medicine (BRM) is overall, an evolution of scientific exploration and the art of prescribing to aid the body’s natural healing abilities. It takes into consideration techniques that can induce a self-regulatory reaction in our innate healing mechanisms and attempts to influence the body directly and indirectly, using saline and medicinal stimulants, so that the body’s own regulatory process can restore the disruptive functions back to normal. It has very minimal side effects, but is powerful and gentle at the same time encouraging healing by peeling off the layers, mentally, emotionally and physically. This ‘unwrapping’, can be directed by the practitioner and client and can be short, medium or long term and is what i specifically love about this treatment.

Bioregulatory Medicine is considered to be a bridge between the natural healing mechanisms of the body and the medicines and techniques that all health care professionals seek to optimise. It focus on the systemic effects of imbalance within the person. Whether it is an imbalance of mental, physical, emotional or spiritual matter.

Within this model, dis-functions or diseases of the body/mind are considered to be ultimately caused by toxins, whether toxic chemicals, bacterial exotoxins, biological endotoxins, post-traumatic cellular debris and also byproducts of the bodies metabolic processes. Furthermore, disease symptoms are said to be the result of the body’s attempt to heal itself and should not necessarily be suppressed.

Homeopathically manufactured single or combination products are designed to work with the body’s defence mechanisms and facilitate the body’s elimination of toxic substances. When used in combination formulations which contain measurable amounts of homoeopathically-prepared active ingredients, they can be utilised by the practitioner to treat specific indications.

The focus of treatment is on tissue type and integrity, as well as congestion and inflammation around that site or in the body generally. For example, nerve damage or sciatic pain has wonderful results using Colocynthis Homaccord, furthermore it provides health care solutions which may be used alone or with Bio-puncture, body therapies, counselling and homoeopathy. Other natural medicine strategies, such as nutritional, herbal medicines and flower remedies can also help manage the client’s health furthermore it can complement orthodox treatment without drug interactions.

Bio-regulatory medicine (aka Homotoxicology) studies the influences of toxic substances in humans, where symptoms and disease are seen as a result of the appropriate biological resistance to these toxic substances (homotoxins). Therefore disease is recognised as a healing process within humans (and animals) and anti-homotoxic preparations are therefore designed to deal with the distinct stages of an illness.

Evidence based theory Bio-regulatory medicine is a sophisticated modern form of homoeopathy and is the most prescribed form of natural medicine in Germany, where it has been used for over 50 years and is practiced by conventional doctors and natural therapists alike. In fact, 80% of orthodox doctors in Germany prescribe homoeopathic or anti-homotoxic preparations for their patients. The efficacy and safety of this medicine is supported by close to 100 clinical trials and provides health professionals with medicines that complement orthodox treatments and provide the patient with better health outcomes than they can achieve through orthodox medicines alone. The guiding diagnostic and prescriptive tool used in BRM is known as the Six Phases.

The Six Phases

According to the theory, there are six stages or phases to the ability of the body to cope with toxins. These are represented in the Six-Phase Table:

  • Excretion: In this phase, the body is able to cope adequately with the toxins through excretion. Examples of this phase are runny nose and diarrhoea.
  • Inflammation: A fever is the best example of the inflammation phase. A fever is the natural attempt of the body to neutralise toxins that it cannot adequately removed by excretion.
  • Deposition: The body stores the toxins if they still cannot be removed. Usually asymptomatic, when the proper treatment is administered, however, one of the first signs that it is working is symptoms of disease. This is said to be because these toxins are being eliminated out of the body.
  • Impregnation: After a period of time, the toxins build up and the body becomes “impregnated” by this. They become part of the connective tissue itself and may cause tissue damage. During this stage, severe symptoms can occur.
  • Degeneration: During this phase, organ degeneration occurs as the built up toxins start destroying large cellular groups within the organs.
  • Differentiation: At this stage, toxic cellular groups start to “differentiate” or distinguish themselves as distinct cell forms. At the extreme end of this phase, Malignancies such as tumours start to form.

Rhodiola rosea

Common names: Golden root, rose root, arctic root.

Botanical Family: Crassulaceae. Part used: Root

As part of my series on Nervines or herbs exerting a positive action on the nervous system, I would like to introduce Rhodiola. This is fast becoming one of my favourite herbs due to its unique actions and its ‘super-herb’ abilities.

Russian scientists and Western researchers have accumulated an impressive amount of scientific research to validate its abilities as neuro and cardio-protective, ie protecting brain, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Also it has tonic, immune-modulatory, adaptagenic and antioxidant properties. In other words in enhances physical, emotional and mental performance, particularly in times of severe stress. The saying of adaptagens in herbal medicine is ‘by taking these herbs particularly through stressful periods allows one to handle more crap for longer ‘ and not pay the price as often happens due to adrenal exhaustion.

Rhodiola boosts immune function, increases concentration, memory and energy.

It increases resistance to altitude sickness, assists with depression, anxiety and nervous system disorders. Interestingly, it assists with sexual dysfunction, anaemia, and chronic infections including post-viral syndromes, fibromyalgia and aspects of thyroid dysfunction.

Mode of Action

  1. Rhodiola has a balancing effect on the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal) axis and has been shown to favorably impact cortisol levels and modulate the stress response.
  2. It also modulates the levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins.
  3. The potent antioxidant activities of Rhodiola contributes to its adaptogenic effects.
  4. It modulates the immune system and improves physical stamina by increasing the production of ATP and has been shown to improve mental capacity under stressful circumstances.

Clinical Trials

A recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials found Rhodiola to be safe with beneficial effects on physical performance, mental performance and in certain mental health conditions related to stress.

As a tonic, I mix it with Withania, Bacopa, Astragalus, Rhemania, Schisandra and St Johns Wort, Magnolia or Passionflower and Skullcap, to assist clients; immune function, exhaustion, nervous debility, depression, anxiety and mental fatigue.


Chen, T.,S.,Liou, S.,Y., & Chang, Y., L.,(2008),Antioxidant evaluation of three adaptogen extracts, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 36(6), 1209-1217.

Hung, S.,K., Perry, R., & Ernst, E., (2011), The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine, 18(4), 235-244.

Panossian, A.,G., (2013), Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of North American, 36(1), 49-64.

Panossian, A.,G.,wikman, G., & Sarris, J.(2010), Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): Traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 481-493.

Ross, S., M., (2014), Rhodiola rosea (SHR-5), part 1 Holistic Nursing Practice, 28(2), 149-154.

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion; the Dance of our Hormones

Stress, Exhaustion and Depletion – The Dance of our Hormones 

Stress, exhaustion, weight issues, gut/immune and mood disorders are common presentations in clinic, existing as single presentations or as very complex problems. Generally clients have gone through extreme stress or have ongoing stress or trauma; they also have a feeling of ‘burn out’ or profound apathy.

Stress factors can be; physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Issues such as; loss, grief, accidents, illness, toxicity, overtraining, dieting, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, separation, financial, family problems, housing, intimidation or abuse to name a few.

The three stages of stress or General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) include:

Alarm response – flight or fight phase

Adaption phase – characterized by adaption (resilience), coping with the threat (stressor)

Exhaustion phase -when capacity for adaption becomes overwhelmed. Therefore, the more stress we endure the more we deplete our glands and hormones, so they are unable to function for normal biological processes.

The dance of the human hormones begins when people adapt to their stressful lives and stress is ongoing. If left unresolved or when chronic stress perpetuates, the adrenal and thyroid glands become chronically depleted. If the thyroid gland only is treated and the adrenals are not supported, clients can ‘burn out’ or ‘become chronically fatigued’.

The body is resilient: When prolonged stress occurs, the Hypothalamus (brain), Pituitary, (governing gland) Thyroid and Adrenals (response glands) will function constantly, performing numerous tasks that include feedback loops to keep us going. While the thyroid sets our ‘idle’ levels or baseline, the adrenals act as an energy ‘accelerator’, when requirements are greater. Prolonged elevations of cortisol -secreted by the adrenal glands during stress can affect the thyroid gland by:

  1. Inhibiting thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and conversion of the thyroid hormones, Thyroxine (T4) into triiodothyronine (T3) which mostly takes place in the liver.
  2. Decrease the liver’s ability to clear other hormones such as excess oestrogen’s (add in the Pill and HRT) from the blood.
  3. Increase of Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG). TBG’s are proteins that thyroid hormones attach to as they are transported through the blood and to the tissues. If TBG levels are high, they will bind more thyroid hormones, decreasing the free hormones available in the body, thereby leading to thyroid symptoms.
  4. Sending TSH levels up higher where eventually the receptivity capacity of the thyroid gland is reduced causing thyroid hormone resistance, particularly if there is inflammation through the gland such as Thyroiditis or Hashimoto’s Disease. Inflammatory mediators have been shown to suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.1 Thyroid hormone is knocking on the cell’s door, but the cells don’t answer. Iodine, vitamins /minerals or thyroid hormones help but cannot counteract this condition.
  5. General pathology tests (only TSH) and the reliance of medicating with thyroid replacement hormone (T4) or medications to suppress the thyroid, are both unreliable and confusing when it comes to understanding and treating the complexities of thyroid and adrenal problems.
  6. It is necessary to manage and deal with the stressors and assist the adrenals so the body doesn’t fall into this chronic depletion.

We all experience stress in our lives but ongoing, unresolved chronic stress can lead to:

Low thyroid symptoms: decreased body temperature, joint /muscle pain, fatigue, nodule or goiter growth, dry skin/hair loss, moodiness and weight gain.

High thyroid symptoms: racing heart, anxiety, weight loss, nodule growth, tiredness or feeling ‘wired’.

Adrenal fatigue: fatigue, moodiness/depression/anxiety, sleep disorders, craving salt and stimulants, apathy, reduced libido.

The Answer

The adaptagenic herbs are a favourite of most naturopaths when it comes to adrenal fatigue and stress. These include:

Rhodiola, Rhemannia,Siberian ginseng, (Indian Ginseng) -Withania, American ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Holy Basil and Schisandra.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17910527


Skullcap (Scutellaria Latiflora)

Skullcap is one of the most widely used herbs for anxiety and nervous conditions. It is a traditional herb used for soothing a frazzled nervous system and appears to work via the GABAergic system, often through an interaction with the benzodiazepine site on GABAA receptors for its anxiolytic (assist with anxiety) activities. Also Skullcap has demonstrated neuroprotective qualities via significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions (lohani et al, 2013).

A recent placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study involving 43 healthy volunteers consuming 350 mg of Skullcap in a capsule three times a day for a period of two weeks found this intervention to significantly enhance global mood without reducing energy or cognition involving. Another study of 19 healthy subjects obtained similar outcomes, noting a significant reduction in perceived anxiety without impairment of intellect or vitality (Wolfson & Hoffmann, 2003).

In clinic Skullcap is used to treat:

  • Nervous excitability, restlessness, wakefulness, anxiety
  • Physical or mental tiredness
  • Headache, depression
  • Epilepsy

Do you have Undiagnosed Thyroid Problems?

An increase of (mostly) women are presenting with undiagnosed or ‘subclinical’ thyroid problems. Their symptoms can be subtle or obvious; they present with one or more symptoms; their thyroid gland maybe over or under- active or fluctuate between. They are generally tired, moody and carrying extra weight, or thinner with heart racing, trembling and anxious.

When clients present to the Doctor, often pathology tests come back ‘within the normal limits’. TSH -thyroid stimulating hormone has to over 3.5 or under 0.3mU/L to be considered a problem-a very wide range. T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) the main thyroid hormones are not tested initially. When TSH is over 3.5 mU/L, (hypothyroidism) the medical treatment is T4, which helps initially but is just substituting a hormone, not dealing with the ongoing problem. If TSH is under 3.5 and not a ‘medical condition’, the symptoms still exist and become increasingly frustrating, as the thyroid gland regulates heat production in the body and the whole body’s metabolism slows down.

This is a complex situation as thyroid hormones are regulated and constantly adjusting to a very sensitive feedback loop involving the hypothalamus (brain), pituitary and adrenal glands. Big contributors to this common condition include; stress, worry, pregnancy, trauma, tap water (fluoride and chlorine), soya, but seems mostly due to inadequate dietary intake of iodine and selenium.

If you have 1 or more symptoms contact Vanessa for a Thyroid check or treatment options.

  • Fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings
  • Cold or heat intolerance
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Tremor and/or heart racing
  • Memory loss or poor concentration
  • Hair loss or thinning, dry skin, sore eyes
  • Infertility or menstrual disorders, low sex drive
  • Muscle / joint pain/carpel tunnel
  • Slow or fast metabolism, digestion problems
  • Goitre/swollen throat region/ nodules/enlarged thyroid gland


Deep Complex Emotional Issues

As a naturopathic practitioner and counsellor, tucked away in quiet Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, my specialty is to assist people with deep complex issues, injuries and trauma. There is no way on Earth I would be able to do my work without the wonderful assistance of the Australian Bush flower Essences (ABFE). Although all of these essences are remarkable for their own healing and life changing abilities and although a client’s journey is personally unique, I experience similar and repetitive patterns in people’s behaviour, their situation and inner emotional states. For example, levels of attachment, being stuck or being so traumatised it becomes impossible to move forward as well as the big issue of exhaustion and ‘burn-out’, to name a few.

I am incredibly grateful for the support of Waratah if someone is suicidal and only thinking of the way out of his or her plight through death. This remedy is indeed prescribed for ‘the black night of the soul’ and they can present with ‘frozen’ parts, such as the shoulders. I often begin these clients’ healing with this one powerful remedy to allow their spirit to reconnect before any other work is undertaken. I fully appreciate why this is the symbol for the ABFE.

Accessing the guidance from Boab when a client is enmeshed in terrible abusive, family situations assists them to understand insights of a bigger karmic family picture. In turn, they can live their lives in accordance with their own commitments and purpose whilst not carrying these negative traits into their own families or self.

Red Grevillea is invaluable in assisting clients, both male and female to be able to leave chronic difficult or abusive situations. Alternatively those that live lives of boredom or co-dependency and cannot be true to themselves, or people putting up with tyranny and intimidation, can feel brave and courageous, enabling them to take the steps to move forward, whether this be in work or at home.

Fringed Violet is remarkable in healing physical, emotional and mental distress as a consequence of the terrible abuse people experience. These have included cases of ‘date rape’, domestic violence, psychic and even spiritual abuse. This remedy works effectively alongside Wisteria, Billy Goat Plum and Wild Potato Bush. Also, I often prescribe Fringed Violet alongside Homeopathic Arnica if a client has been through a traumatic surgical/medical experience.

Macrocarpa, is one of the main remedies I use for physical, emotional or mental ‘burn-out’. As the cost of our ‘driven’ society is often placed on women, more and more clients are fatigued, exhausted and suffering a plethora of adrenal and thyroid related conditions. Alongside Banksia Robur and Old Man Banksia, these remedies firstly allow the need for rest, then consequently assist and uplift during times of stress, which in turn enables nurturing and repletion of lost energy stores. In conjunction with naturopathic medicines such as, herbs, vitamins and minerals this prescription provides very efficacious treatment for these conditions.

Bottlebrush helps clients enormously in letting go and breaking habits or offering assistance where there is resistance to changes. As we know emotional imbalances and feelings of being overwhelmed or resistance can create pain, restriction, tension and various other physical ailments.

Combined with Fringed violet, Bauhinia and/or Boronia these remedies are vital in my work, alongside Homeopathic and Bio-regulatory medicines in the treatment of pain, trauma and injuries. Additionally after healing occurs, these flowers can help deal with the ‘memory’ of the trauma that is often locked in the tissues and the energy field.

 Sturt Desert Pea, works very quickly for old deep emotional wounds and pain. This pain can also be locked up in and around the energy field of the client, dis-enabling them from achieving emotional maturity or personal growth. Often elements of anger and disappointment in males and females or deep hurt and regrets can lead to a lifetime of projecting that pain and hurt onto others. This remedy often with the help of Pink Mulla Mulla and Mountain Devil, allows the client peace of mind and a level of forgiveness that teaches them to trust, interact easily with others and move past these hurts and sorrows.

Another state of crises I often assist with is the raw grief and emotional intensity when a relationship has ended or couples are going through difficult times and transitioning. Red Suva Frangipani, is a necessity when a partner or loved one has died, or divorce and separation are inevitable and healing is required to help clients move past this stage and continue on without them. This remedy is often combined with Emergency Essence or Sturt Desert Pea and Boronia to assist with obsessive thoughts and pining for that loved one.

Dog Rose is another favourite remedy often prescribed when a client is terribly fearful and full of insecurities. This pattern generally presents itself with weight issues, accompanied by comfort eating or eating disorders. Combined with Five Corners and Kapok Bush, this formula helps clients to gain confidence in their journey of ‘who they are’ as well as their individual purpose. With the help of tools such as, counseling, encouragement and mindfulness, clients are able to gain insights into their phobias, fears and anxieties. This generates a broader picture, enabling them to understand the self-sabotage mechanisms at play in their lives and consequently gain personal self -love and acceptance to achieve their ideal weight.

Thank you Ian for such wonderful essences, so that practitioners like myself are able to assist and support clients to heal wounds and lead emotionally fulfilling lives for themselves and their families.