Managing Chronic Inflammation

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac.

Systemic chronic inflammation is becoming more prevalent due to poor diet choices and lifestyle habits. Continuous exposure to environmental pollutants, toxic household and beauty products also overwhelm our bodies and contribute to inflammation.

Inflammation is a necessary, innate immune response against harmful stimuli such as infections, tissue injuries, or toxins. Stress, whether physical or mental, can also activate this response. As inflammation continues to disrupt our homeostasis, this is when it becomes detrimental to our health. Chronic inflammation causes a transient decline in tissue function which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases. One major cause in the rise of inflammation and chronic disease is due to the mismatch between a modern environment and evolutionary processes. Our environment is changing much faster than our bodies can adapt. Stone Age bodies and the realities of the modern world are fueling a paradox of greater longevity and chronic disease.

Acute or short term inflammation helps clear out debris, causing the destruction and clearing of cells that are considered to be a threat. It initiates repair to block further inflammation and restores homeostasis in a damaged area. Failure of an initial immune response leads to a failure of the body to respond to destroy and remove harmful cells. This leads to the release of toxins or foreign substances inside the cells which create “danger signals.” The immune system is then stimulated causing oxidative stress and the release of toxic byproducts known as free radicals. Over time, this eventually leads to chronic inflammatory diseases including autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and neurological disease. Chronic health conditions account for 70% of all deaths in the U.S.! Also, as we age, an imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory pathways begins to occur so it is vital that this innate immune response be switched on when needed and switched off when not needed.

There are numerous lifestyle changes, herbs, and other modalities that can help reduce chronic inflammation, but consistency and compliance are key to getting positive results. Chronic inflammation does not occur overnight, instead it is an ongoing process that took months or even years to develop. Supporting the immune system, enhancing our natural barriers, improving microcirculation, managing pain, aiding specific organs and tissues, and supporting HPA-axis are all beneficial towards recovery.

HPA-axis is is an abbreviation for a subsystem in your body called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and is known to be our central stress response system. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands constitute the HPA-axis and make up our neuroendocrine system. There is a bi-directional communication and feedback between the HPA-axis and our immune system. The HPA axis controls the adaptation response to stress and regulates many physical processes, including digestion, the immune system, sexuality, mood, and energy storage and expenditure.

Below you will find herbs, foods, and other modalities that are beneficial towards healing chronic inflammation. Nature provides us with numerous options, but start where you are. Begin by adding one or two options to your daily regime. If you overwhelm yourself in the beginning, you put yourself at risk for failure. Add what you can and try to be consistent.

Immune Support:

  • Astragalus root

  • Echinacea

  • Elderberry

  • Turmeric

  • Boswellia

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin D

  • Omega 3

  • Probiotics

  • Colloidal silver

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Ginseng

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Frankincense

  • Myrrh

  • Oregano

  • Olive leaf

  • Andrographis

  • Cat’s claw

  • Hemidesmus

  • Sweet wormwood

  • Licorice

  • Thuja

  • Sarsaparilla

  • St. John’s Wort

Enhancing Natural Barriers:

  • Wearing a scarf and hat during the cooler months

  • Acupuncture

  • Avoid allergen prone foods

  • HEPA filter

  • Goldenseal

  • Licorice

  • Meadowsweet

  • Slippery elm

  • Bitter herbs

  • Chamomile

  • Thyme

  • Fennel

  • Mullein

  • Garlic

  • Turmeric

  • Boswellia

  • Cinnamon

  • Gotu Kola

  • Grape seed extract

  • Eyebright

Microcirculation Support:

  • Infrared sauna

  • Lymphatic massage

  • Castor oil packs

  • Dark chocolate

  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds

  • Walnuts

  • Avocado

  • Pomegranate juice (fresh, no added sugar)

  • Fish oils (DHA and EPA)

  • CoEnzyme Q10

  • Reservatrol

  • Horse chestnut

  • Gingko

  • Butcher’s broom

Tissue and Organ Support:

  • Milk thistle

  • Artichoke root

  • Dandelion root

  • Schisandra

  • Boldo

  • Willow bark

  • Baical skullcap

  • Celery seed

  • Ginger

  • Devils claw

  • Gymnema

  • Rehmannia

  • Bupleurum

  • Licorice

  • Gotu kola

  • Hawthorn

  • Beets

HPA-Axis Support:

  • Regular sleep

  • Ashwagandha extract

  • L-theanine

  • Magnolia bark extract

  • Maca root extract

  • Holy basil leaf extract

  • Eleuthero root extract

  • Licorice root extract

  • Vitamins B1, B2, and B5

Pain Management:

  • Infrared sauna

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Turmeric

  • Ginger

  • White willow bark

  • Feverfew

  • Clove

  • Blueberries

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Salmon

  • Tart cherries

  • Virgin olive oil

When battling chronic inflammation, the health of your gut should be your number one concern. What we eat is 100% in our control and an easy place to start when trying to heal from inflammation. It is important to stick with organic produce as much as possible. Check out your local farmers markets to get better deals. Small farms may not be able to afford USDA organic certification, but always be open to asking about farming practices. Pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics in our foods contribute to further inflammation. Eating mostly warm, cooked meals, small portion sizes, eating about every four hours, and practicing mindful eating can help reduce the stress that is placed on our digestive systems.

Find your local Chinese or Ayurvedic herbalist who has the expertise in herbal medicine and looks at the entire body as a whole--mind, body, and spirit. Rochambo and Stone Creek are great local Milwaukee spots offering excellent tea selections. Tippecanoe Herbs and Apothecary offers crafted herbal items from organic and locally wildcrafted plants, custom formulas, consultations, & classes in Milwaukee!

Begin your healing journey today!


Herbs for Better Mood

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM

Fall is here and along with that comes seasonal affective disorder (SAD) creeping in the shadows of our daily existence. Not all of us experience lower moods in the cooler months, but many of us feel more lethargic with the days growing increasingly shorter. The sun is at a different angle and we are receiving less Vitamin D which is an important factor in keeping our moods uplifted. There are numerous herbs that can help us battle the sadness, grief, anxiety, and stress we are experiencing during this time. If you are suffering with severe depression and are on antidepressants or antipsychotics prescribed by a healthcare professional, please be aware that certain herbs are contraindicated with these drugs. If you are on medications, speak with your doctor before adding herbs to your regimen.

Herbs have a leg up in cognitive health. Try one or more of these options to help boost your mood this fall season.  

  • Cacao: Yes, chocolate! Organic, untreated or raw cacao is what we want in this case. Raw cacao is a great source of magnesium which can benefit those of us suffering from depression, irritability, and anxiety. This amazing superfood contains numerous phytonutrients that stimulate the production of our “feel good” hormones dopamine and serotonin and give us a sense of well-being, contentment, and peace of mind.

  • Ginkgo Biloba: Containing antioxidants which help with cellular stress and damage, this common herb helps support brain function including memory and blood circulation to the brain. It is also known to increase oxygen and glucose metabolism. One of its active compounds is known to help regulate the exact amount of dopamine we need in the brain providing us with increased mood and increased energy levels while maintaining a sense of peacefulness.

  • Lemon Balm: This perennial herbaceous plant that is part of the mint family is known for its anti-anxiety effects. It contains an active compound that helps stimulate GABA production in our brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps reduce or inhibit the activity of the neurons which help us attain an emotional balance. Lemon balm benefits our sleep cycles and keeps us feeling calm and collected with its sedative effects. Lemon balm is known to emotionally cleanse us so think of this herb as a mental purge of toxic thinking and stress.

  • Licorice: is a potent antidepressant containing 8 active compounds that benefit all types of depression. The root of this herb is known to nourish and regenerate the adrenals from chronic prolonged stress and enables the body to deal with existing stress.

  • Passionflower: Similar to lemon balm, passionflower has also been found to increase GABA activity in the brain. This herb is best used for menopause related depression. Due to its tranquil effects, it is beneficial for those of us experiencing restless sleep due to anxiety, depression, and menopausal-related symptoms. Tincture form is the best way to get the potency needed to experience its calming properties.

  • Schisandra: known to reduce both mental and physical stress. This berry contains adaptogenic qualities and is able to balance out the body. Schisandra is a powerful anti-anxiety herb and helps reduce adrenal fatigue by reducing cortisol levels and controlling adrenaline and serotonin levels. In Chinese medicine, Schisandra is known as “the herb that does it all.” It is a tonic herb that protects the primary energies of life nourishing the energies of the kidney, lung, and liver. It sharpens our memory and improves other mental functions. It can be taken in capsule or powder form or brewed as a tea.

  • St. John’s Wort: This herb has been found to be as effective as pharmaceutical antidepressants, but with less side effects for those suffering with mild to moderate depression. It contains hypericin, an active phytonutrient, as well as flavinoids and xanthones which work together to make dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine more available. It is known to increase GABA, a natural tranquilizer, and decrease levels of cortisol. This herb is best taken in a capsule or tincture form to treat depression. It is contraindicated if taking prescription antidepressants as it can interact and be too potent when combined.  

  • Rose: Rose is known to soften the heart and helps with emotional unhappiness usually caused by anger or bitterness. This sour fruit calms the nervous system and helps induce sleep. It contains high amounts of Vitamin C which benefit cell-to-cell communication and basic neurotransmitter synthesis. Due to its high Vitamin C content, it may cause thinning of the blood and should be consumed with caution with other blood thinning medications. Make sure to use rose hips when brewing your tea, not the rose petals. The oil can also be used in aromatherapy for its sedative properties.

  • Ashwagandha: This adaptogenic herb has been called “nature’s miracle stress fighter.” This shrub is known to protect the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys regulating the release of our fight-or-flight hormones. It protects the body against chronic stress, decreases anxiety, and improves sleep. This herb can be taken in powder, capsule, or tincture form. It is a fat-soluble herb and is best taken with food to help with absorption.

  • Rosemary: Aromatic with a piney scent, rosemary is known to improve memory and promote healthy brain function. It is beneficial for those having to work long hours or for students who need to be mentally clear, quick, and sharp. The oil of this herb can be diffused for its aromatic memory boosting properties and to promote a sense of calm. It is known to activate a relaxation response and lower cortisol levels. Rosemary can also be sprinkled during cooking for its immune boosting effects, for detoxifying the body, and for decreasing inflammation.

There is no need to suffer or watch your loved ones suffer. Check out your local herb store or visit a herbal practitioner for recommendations on which of these natural herbs would benefit you the most. Certain herbal tinctures and essential oils may be purchased online, but please be mindful of quality and sourcing as there are little to no regulations behind the production of some of these products. Herbs and their synergistic active compounds can be very potent and need to be used with caution if taking prescription medications.

Boost your mood this fall and winter season because let’s face it, who couldn’t use some extra energy! Nature is there to help us in so many ways and all we have to do is utilize what Mother Nature has so kindly and generously put on this beautiful planet for us.

Autumn Wellness: The Gut and Immunity

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM

The summer season is slowly coming to an end. School has started back up, the hectic pace of summer is beginning to slow down, and the weather may soon begin to cool off. When the seasons change, the energies within our body’s and the way those energies flow also change.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the energies of the spleen and lung are associated with this time. Soon enough we may be experiencing more fatigue, sluggish digestion, colds, and flu-like symptoms. In Ayurvedic traditions, we are entering the vata season where the elements of air and space combine to create this dosha. We may begin feeling anxious, nervous, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, and like our energy is not grounded during this time. You also may be feeling more body pains and dryness of the skin and membranes. If you are aware and sensitive to your body’s wants and needs you may be noticing these changes happening already.

In TCM, the lung energy is known as an immuno-barrier, our first layer of protection from external invasions. Its actions are similar to our mucosal linings and membranes. The lung energy also controls the opening and closing of our pores which is a gateway for the element of wind to enter our internal environment. This external wind can cause colds and flus if we are not nourishing ourselves and taking preventative measures to strengthen our immune systems.

Additionally, the energy of the spleen is an important factor during this seasonal change. In TCM, the spleen is the source of blood and Qi production. It controls blood flow and our digestive processes. It transforms and transports the foods and drinks we consume. It is associated with the element of moisture or damp where excess of this element decreases the spleens ability to function properly. The spleen also promotes immune functions and assures bodily protection against diseases.

Certain emotions are also associated with each organ in TCM. It is important to keep your thoughts positive and limit worrying as this damages our spleen energy causing abdominal bloating, loose stools, and sluggish digestion. The lung is associated with sadness so we should not dwell on the past too much and on the things in life that bring us down. Our thoughts and actions towards others truly reflect what happens to our own physical bodies and to how the energy flows within us. Try journaling to get some of these negative, non-productive emotions out. It is very beneficial and practiced by many to burn in natural fire whatever negativity or emotions you may have written down as a letting go process.

Integrative medicine is also in tune with how important gut health is to our immune systems. Our 30 foot-long GI tract contain hundreds of “good bacteria” as well as neurotransmitters like serotonin which gives us a sense of well-being. Studies have shown that 90% of our serotonin is made in the digestive tract. This explains why our mood, mental clarity, sexual drive, and quality of sleep can all be affected by what we consume. Have you ever ate something you shouldn’t have like a large portion of fried food? You may feel sluggish, bloated, sleepy, and moody after a meal like that instead of rejuvenated, energized, and productive. If your digestive tract is not functioning properly, this can result in poor nutrient absorption or even malnourishment which can lead to an array of chronic health problems. It can also impact our immune systems because the gut contains natural killer immune cells and hormonal health.

How can we balance our body and internal energy during this seasonal change? Diet is always one of the most important aspects to consider. By diet I mean lifestyle changes and a holistic plan to use food as medicine. In both Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions, it is very important to begin eating warm, cooked foods and drinking warm or room temperature beverages at this seasonal change. Our digestive symptoms work hard and by providing it with warm, nourishing, and easy to digest foods, it will make the process easier on your body. Food that is lightly prepared helps to ensure that nutrients are preserved and are more readily digested and absorbed. Beginning our days off with warm lemon water on an empty stomach is a great jump start to our day. It gets the digestive juices flowing for the day and stimulates the liver. Caffeine will aggravate the vata dosha as well as the energy of the spleen. Try incorporating spiced teas and limiting caffeinated beverages. Eating smaller meals more frequently, eating without being rushed or stressed, and chewing thoroughly are important factors to keep your lung and spleen energy strong.

Movement is important during this seasonal change as well. We need to be looking for activities that are more grounded and fluid in their movements. Remember that vata is a combination of air and space and we need to balance those energies by practicing the opposite. Meditation and holding longer poses in a vinyasa yoga class or chair yoga are great options to begin with. It is time for us to establish a new routine for the upcoming cooler months to build up our reserves like a bear preparing for hibernation.

If you are feeling any negative effects after eating including negative changes in your mood, it is a perfect time to look into your diet and begin a process of elimination. You may like to consult a holistic nutritionist or acupuncturist to help you throughout this journey. Adding in high quality probiotics, prebiotics, or digestive enzymes through a health practitioner is a good start. Probiotics form a barrier on the intestinal wall, serving as a powerful line of defense to prevent pathogens and germs from being absorbed.

In TCM, most issues begin in the earth energy of the spleen organ so make that spleen happy by eating seasonal and cooked foods!  

Below is list of recommended foods for this seasonal change. Your diet should not be limited to these foods:

Cooked whole grains, glutinous rice, oats, roasted barley, sweet rice, spelt pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, taro root, squash, carrots, corn, parsnips, yams, peas, stewed fruit, onions, leeks, garlic, turnip, shitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, daikon root, chickpeas, black beans, walnuts chicken, Chinese black chicken, beef, lamb, quail, goose, rabbit mackerel, tuna, anchovy black pepper, fresh ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, molasses, rice syrup, barley malt, dates, figs, and honey.

Foods to restrict or avoid during the cooler months include:

Salads, raw fruits, citrus, wheat, sprouts, wheatgrass, raw vegetables, tomatoes, spinach, swiss chard tofu, dairy, nut butters and other high oil foods overly sweet foods, refined sugars, high doses of vitamin C, seaweeds, chocolate, cold foods including ice water, strong tea, and wine.

Other supplementational options you may like to choose from may include:

  • Zinc: An important nutrient for digestive health, which also plays critical roles in hormone regulation, immune health, and neurological function.

  • Chinese Cardamom: Offers numerous benefits for digestion, increases antioxidant levels and boosts immunity. Also helps to combat unhealthy cellular growth and balance hormones with the compound Indole-3 Carbinole.

  • Cinnamon: Soothes digestive discomfort, improves digestive capacity, boosts immunity and balances blood sugar.

  • Ginger Root: Improves digestion, reduces inflammation, purifies GI tract, increases antioxidant levels and boosts immunity.

  • Fish Oils: Reduce inflammation and help heal GI tract lining, improve nutrient absorption, balance hormones, improve neurological function and boost immunity.

  • Protolytic Enzymes: Increase digestive capacity and nutrient absorption, boost immunity and increase vital energy.


Chinese Dietary Therapy. Liu, J. Churchill Livingston: Edinburgh. 1995. “The healing cuisine of china. Zhao & Ellis.” Healing Arts Press: Vermont. 1998.

Cryan, J. F. and O’Mahony, S. M. “The microbiome-gut-brain axis: from bowel to behavior.” Neurogastroenterology & Motility 23. 3 (2011) 187-192.