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May is Mental Health Awareness month, and something that matters to us at The Alchemist’s Kitchen is the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of those we serve in our immediate community in New York, as well as beyond it.

What is Mental Health?

So what is mental health, exactly? Mentalhealth.gov defines it as “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. The state of our thoughts affects how we feel and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

When you come down with the flu, most of us don’t feel shame, and therefore there is no issue in seeking help and going to the doctor. But anxiety and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder can remain unspoken about and untreated for many years, though the experience of living with either of these disorders can be lonely, scary, and downright excruciating.

The reality is, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. And, an estimated 8% of Americans have PTSD, which is equivalent to the population of Texas.

What is PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association describes PTSD as, “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

“People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people.”

You can be any age, gender, race, or socio-economic class, and experience PTSD.

Techniques for Managing PTSD

The good news is, sacred plants, adaptogens, and CBD can be part of a holistic treatment for PTSD and anxiety. Of course, they aren’t a replacement for therapy and professional help, but they can certainly be an amazing addition to comprehensive treatment.

CBD can help manage PTSD symptoms, such as panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and overall anxiety. Echo Connection, an organization that guides those seeking the therapeutic effects of CBD, writes,“Cannabidiol (CBD) influences the body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps maintain emotional homeostasis and regulate memory consolidation, retrieval and extension.

“The cannabinoids block the continuous retrieval of the traumatic event, thus enhancing its extension and reducing its associated anxiety. This helps PTSD patients manage the three core symptoms of the condition, which include re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal. In fact, PTSD patients saw a 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms, as measured by the Clinical Administered Post-traumatic Scale, when they were using cannabis compared to when they were not.”

Considering how many people suffer from PTSD, this discovery is no small thing. Recently, San Diego Veterans Association Healthcare System began a 1.3 million dollar VA-funded study to examine how CBD could help ease PTSD. The $1.3 million VA-funded study will enroll 136 Veterans, from all service eras.

Though not a replacement for other forms of treatment, it does appear CBD products could vastly improve the quality of life for those experiencing PTSD or severe anxiety. Along with CBD, herbs such as skullcap, chamomile, and valerian root have also been shown to help calm the nervous system and ease symptoms. Meditation, phasing out processed foods, yoga, and breathwork are other forms of care that can aid in healing.

If you or a loved one suffer from PTSD or anxiety, know that you are not alone. Suffering from either of these disorders can be overwhelming, but healing is absolutely possible. And the more we, as a culture, call attention to mental health awareness, the less stigmatized it will be to seek help.

As a reminder, PTSD and anxiety can vary widely in terms of severity and mental side effects. If you are suffering from extreme depression, or dangerous thoughts towards yourself or others, consult a counselor or a medical professional immediately. Find a National Helpline here.

Raisa Tolchinsky

Raisa Tolchinsky hails from Chicago, received a B.A. from Bowdoin College, and is currently a candidate for an M.F.A in poetry at the University of Virginia. A 2019 Brooklyn Poets Fellow, she has read and edited for Tin House Books and Tricycle Magazine, and is founding editor of SIREN. Her poems, essays, stories, and interviews have appeared in Muzzle Magazine, Tricycle, Blood Orange Review, and KR Online. When she’s not writing, she’s boxing or dancing like a weirdo on her roof. Learn more about Raisa and her work on Instagram @raisatolchinsky and on Twitter at @raisaimogen.

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