Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that triggers anxiety following a traumatic event, such as an accident, physical abuse, or sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how long PTSD will last and every person experiences the condition to varying degrees. ¹
Traditionally, two forms of treatment are used in order to combat PTSD symptoms: medication and psychotherapies. While the combination of these treatments is usually effective, some people prefer to take a more natural route to recovery.
In recent years, holistic treatments for PTSD have garnered a lot of attention. This involves a similar process to traditional treatment methods – incorporating all-natural alternative medication with therapeutic practices.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the most effective measures of holistic treatments for PTSD. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Following a traumatic event, there’s a chance someone may develop a type of anxiety known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of this condition usually appear within 3 months of the accident and can become so severe that they complicate day-to-day necessities, such as work, school, and relationships.
It’s estimated that 1 in 11 people will struggle with PTSD at some point in their lives. With 3.5% of U.S. adults currently struggling with the condition. In accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) V, you must exhibit a minimum of the following in order to receive a PTSD diagnosis:
- One re-experiencing symptom
- One avoidance symptom
- Two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- Two cognition and mood symptoms
The symptoms that are divided into each of these categories are as follows:
Re-Experiencing PTSD Symptoms
When one re-experiences the trauma that eventually led to their PTSD. This includes:
- Flashbacks (reliving the traumatic event)
- Frightening thoughts
Normally, the person struggling will have something that triggers re-experiencing symptoms. For example, if a person develops PTSD after getting in an accident with a red car, cars of that particular color may trigger re-experiencing symptoms.
Avoidance PTSD Symptoms
Following up on re-experiencing symptoms, a person may avoid things that can trigger their PTSD. Symptoms of this category include:
- Avoiding places, people, events, and objects that trigger symptoms
- Avoiding thoughts and emotions that trigger symptoms
Being the nature of these symptoms, an individual may change their daily routine to accommodate to their PTSD. For example, if they experienced a traumatic event on their college campus, they may opt to continue their career online and from a location far from campus.
Arousal and Reactivity PTSD Symptoms
This set of symptoms doesn’t usually require a trigger and can happen at any given moment. They include:
- Angry outbursts (irritability)
- Being easily startled
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
Ultimately, such symptoms will lead to a stress that the person struggling may not have experienced before. In turn, this stress can complicate various aspects of their day-to-day life.
Cognition and Mood PTSD Symptoms
While these symptoms may be associated with an injury, it’s likely that the weight of the traumatic event is causing them. Cognition and mood symptoms include:
- Difficulty remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
- Distorted emotions (i.e. guilt)
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Negative thoughts and feels about yourself and the world
Cognitive and mood PTSD symptoms are perhaps some of the most devastating. Not only can they make people feel alienated from those around them but they can also lead to other mental health conditions.
PTSD Risk Factors
Anyone of any age can develop PTSD. Those most at risk are those who have experienced a traumatic event. What a traumatic event is varies depending on the individual’s concept of trauma. ² However, the most common types of trauma include:
- Community violence
- Disasters (i.e. earthquake, hurricane, etc.)
- Early childhood trauma (emotional, physical, or sexual abuse)
- Intimate partner trauma
- Medical trauma
- Physical abuse
- Refugee trauma
- Sexual abuse
It’s not entirely understood why some people develop PTSD following a traumatic event and others don’t. However, it’s assumed that those who do are either more prone to anxiety risk factors or simply experienced an event so traumatic, it’s difficult to avoid certain PTSD symptoms.
5 Best Holistic Treatments for PTSD
Traditionally, treatment for PTSD incorporates medications with psychotherapy. The most common medications for PTSD are antidepressants with the most common psychotherapies being some form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), such as exposure therapy.
While these therapies are usually effective, there are two difficulties some individuals may run across:
- Even with the best treatment, they may find it difficult to overcome their PTSD.
- Medications can be addictive and if taken improperly, can cause more problems than PTSD itself.
For the above two reasons, many are turning to holistic treatment methods in order to combat PTSD symptoms. These methods involve a similar structure to traditional treatment – incorporating all-natural herbs and supplements with holistic forms of therapy.
The following is a review of the most effective holistic treatments for PTSD. However, it should be noted that these alternatives haven’t yet been proven to be more effective than traditional treatment. With that said, anyone who decides to participate in them is doing so at their own risk.
1.) Massage Therapy
Massage therapy has been found to be effective in relieving symptoms from a number of mental health conditions. This is thanks to the overall nature of the practice. By manually handling soft body tissue, practitioners are able to relieve stress and promote an overall wellness.
In one study, it was found that veterans who had received massage therapy along with other integrative therapies saw a significant decrease in the following: ³
- Physical pain
Other studies have found that massage therapy may also be able to help people struggling with dissociation which, as mentioned, is a prominent cognitive and mood PTSD symptoms. ⁴
The combination of these studies suggests that massage therapy may be applicable in relieving certain issues associated with PTSD. However, there is no conclusive research to suggest it’s more applicable than traditional treatment.
Acupuncture is when you inset thin, tiny needles into various points on your body. Through this, it’s believed to help return the body’s flow of energy to a state of homeostasis. This is primarily thanks to the stimulation certain nerves, muscles, and connective tissue receive.
In one study, 60 veterans received acupuncture and it was found to improve their ability to sleep at night. ⁵ Even though all the veterans didn’t struggle with PTSD, those that did also saw improvement in their sleep.
Traditional exercise is great for promoting endorphins which have been found to help lower stress levels. ⁶ Yoga takes traditional exercise and incorporates mindfulness into it in order to promote an enhanced wellbeing.
A 2015 study found that yoga was able to help reduce some symptoms in 80 individuals diagnosed with PTSD. The study suggest yoga may be able to be an alternative treatment route for those struggling with the condition. ⁷
Like yoga, meditation is another practice that seeks to promote mindfulness. However, a major difference in meditation involves very little physical activity and is more centered on focusing on the present.
To get yourself to this state, it’s likely you’ll learn to develop certain techniques that help with clarity, positivity, and concentration. One of the most common is deep breathing exercises.
While there aren’t many studies looking into PTSD and meditation, there has been positive findings. One study found that those with the condition saw an improvement in both PTSD and depression symptoms when practicing meditation. ⁸
Reiki is a unique alternative therapy that’s often referred to as “energy healing.” It involves a practitioner placing their hand on your body and through different hand shapes and movements, decreases the overall stress you’re feeling.
One study found that individuals with PTSD who received Reiki treatment saw a reduction in overall symptoms. Not to mention, many felt an improvement in their well-being. ⁹
5 Best All-Natural Herbs and Supplements for PTSD
As mentioned, all-natural herbs and supplements may also prove to be beneficial alongside holistic treatment paths. Of course, there isn’t enough research to confirm that an all-natural protocol is going to cure your PTSD. Rather, there are many preliminary studies and self-reports that claim the following alternatives could help:
1.) Kava Root
While there is some controversy behind Kava Root, there’s no denying it’s ability to relax muscles and overall anxiety. In fact, studies have found it can be effective in reducing generalized anxiety disorders and help individuals who struggle with panic attacks. ¹⁰
Kava can be purchased in a number of forms, from teas to tinctures to capsules. While it’s quite easy to access in the United States, you may want to consult your doctor before taking Kava Root. Especially if you’re currently on any other medication.
2.) Green Tea
Like Kava Root, green tea can help to relax muscles and, in turn, reduce PTSD symptoms. More specifically, L-Theanine (an amino acid found in green tea) has been found to induce changes in rats’ brains that have been effected by trauma. More particularly, rats experienced less anxiety and stress along with enhanced mood. ¹¹
To further this, green tea can benefit the body in a number of other ways. For example, it’s been found to help balance out hormones, the nervous system, and strengthen a weakened immune system. ¹² Naturally, when our bodies are able to experience such healing, they’re less likely to succumb to stress and anxiety.
3.) Dong Quai
Studies have found that Dong Quai is able to manage the body’s adrenal glands. ¹³ In turn, it can help to reduce anxiety and panic attacks that are associated with PTSD.
Furthermore, Dong Quai has been found to contribute to a healthy nervous system. ¹⁴ This is notable when it comes to PTSD as many patients struggle with overactive and over-sensitive adrenals glands and nervous system. ¹⁵
Many have found chamomile to be beneficial for reducing anxiety symptoms and overall levels of nervousness. Not to mention, some have been able to use it as a means of getting a better night’s sleep. ¹⁶
While chamomile can come in many different forms, it’s most popularly brewed as a tea. Some prefer to have it in the morning in order to ease daily anxieties whereas others may only take it when an attack is appearing.
In places where it’s legal, cannabis has become one of the most popular alternative medicines for PTSD. In fact, it’s so noteworthy that it’s often applicable for medicinal cannabis cards (in the majority of states).
While studies are limited, the current literature suggests cannabis can help with a number of different PTSD symptoms. Most notably, it may be able to help patients reduce nightmares, overall anxiety, get a better night’s sleep, and fight against daytime flashbacks. ¹⁷
If you find that the psychoactive effects of THC only worsen your anxiety (or you simply don’t want to give it a try), cannabidiol (CBD) may be an effective alternative. Beyond the fact that it’s federally legal and non-psychoactive, studies have shown it can help reduce symptoms of PTSD. ¹⁸
Other Alternative: Ayahuasca Retreats
Another alternative that has garnered a lot of attention are ayahuasca retreats. Ayahuasca is a psychoactive plant that contains high amounts of N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which causes individuals to experience powerful hallucinations, euphoria, and out-of-body consciousness.
Scientists have discovered that DMT can have long-term benefits to our brain health. ¹⁹ With this, some people believe that ayahuasca may be able to help treat PTSD and it’s associated symptoms. More particularly, some studies indicate ayahuasca may be able to help PTSD patients overcome traumatic memories. ²⁰
Unfortunately, the research on this is extremely lacking. More so, some people who undergo such a strong psychedelic experience end up developing further anxiety. For this reason, ayahuasca is a risk when it comes to using it for PTSD.
When it comes to treating PTSD symptoms, holistic therapies and natural supplements may be the answer you’ve been looking for. However, being the lack of research concerning these methods, it’s difficult to tell how effective they are in comparison to standard treatment.
More so, there are no guidelines when it comes to treating PTSD in this manner. There’s no protocol when it comes to dosage amount, how often one should participate in therapy, how long treatment should last, etc.
With that, anyone who’s interested in this alternative is forced to experiment around before truly understanding how these supplements and therapies effect them. Many have found it beneficial to participate in these natural alternatives alongside traditional treatment in order to further curb PTSD symptoms.
Whichever route you decide to take is ultimately up to. We wish each of you the best of luck in your PTSD recovery.
Still have questions concerning holistic treatments for PTSD?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
² U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: PTSD Basics
³ National Library of Medicine: Promoting reintegration of National Guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies
⁴ National Library of Medicine: Dissociation reduction in body therapy during sexual abuse recovery
⁵ The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: Acupuncture for Treatment of Persistent Disturbed Sleep
⁶ Frontiers in Psychology: Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety
⁷ Hindawi: A Yoga Intervention for Posttraumatic Stress
⁹ Hope for the Warriors: Reiki Provides Relaxation Treatment to Those with PTSD
¹⁰ Trials (BMC): Kava for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (K-GAD)
¹¹ The Scientific World Journal: Effects of L-Theanine on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Induced Changes in Rat Brain Gene Expression
¹² Chinese Medicine (BMC): Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review
¹³ Pharmacological Reviews (American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics): Botanicals and Their Bioactive Phytochemicals for Women’s Health
¹⁵ Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma
¹⁶ Journal of clinical trials (HHS Public Access): Long-Term Chamomile Therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
¹⁷ The Mental Health Clinician: A review of medical marijuana for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: Real symptom re-leaf or just high hopes?
¹⁸ Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.): Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series
²⁰ frontiers in Pharmacology: Hypothesis: The Psychedelic Ayahuasca Health Traumatic Memories via a Sigma 1 Receptor-Mediated Epigenetic-Mnemonic Process