Archive Monthly Archives: June 2019

Cannabinoids: A New PTSD Treatment Paradigm

The PTSD treatment paradigm, currently reliant on a spectrum of medications, has been increasingly challenged for the dependence it facilitates and its artificial approach to healing a complex, integrated system. Emerging from this has been a cry for increased research on holistic alternatives, namely cannabis and/or CBD use. Legal complications have tied up the field for a while but new research should be emerging soon as a Phase 2 study on the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana for PTSD symptoms in US veterans is completed. cannabinoids


In the meantime, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine recently published the first study investigating the clinical effects of CBD for people with PTSD. It does need to be supported by randomized, controlled studies, as it was performed on a small sample of 11 patients who were also exposed to psychiatric medications and psychotherapy at the same time, but it is an optimistic opening for this field of research.


Over the course of 8 weeks, the study participants took CBD orally (either in pills or a liquid spray) once or twice a day. They completed the PTSD checklist (PCL-5) at the beginning of the study and again after 4 weeks and 8 weeks. The PCL-5 assesses symptom severity on a scale of 0 to 4, which allowed the researchers to study both the overall impact as well as the effect on specific symptoms.cannabinoids


The average baseline score for the participants was 51.82, which then dropped to 40.73 after 4 weeks and 37.14 after 8 weeks, showing an overall decrease in the severity of symptoms. Of the 11 participants, 10 experienced a decrease in their score by the fourth week, with an average of a 21% drop. While 3 of the 11 participants experienced increases in their symptom severity (an average increase of 8 points) from weeks 4 to 8, 10 of the 11 still experienced an overall decrease from the baseline, with an average of a 28% drop.


One of the symptoms most impacted by the study was sleep. Of the participants who responded to the question assessing “repeated, disturbing dreams of the stressful experience” with a score of 3 or higher, 50% reported an improvement in their nightmares. In all participants, 38% remarked improvement in the quality of their sleep. Other symptoms for which participants expressed benefits were anxiety, focus, and mood.


While more clinical studies are necessary to investigate the intricate effects of different types, dosages, frequencies, and conditions of cannabis usage on PTSD symptoms, this research sits on a strong foundation of theory. In fact, we are beginning to understand that there are innate systems in the body designed to respond to compounds found in cannabis as well as to regulate symptoms associated with PTSD.


The connection between PTSD symptoms and the effects of cannabis seems to be based on the compound anandamide – the “bliss molecule”. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, meaning that it is produced internally (“endo”) and stimulates a system of cannabinoid receptors in the body. These receptors, along with the cannabinoids that stimulate them, comprise the endocannabinoid system, which maintains homeostasis through regulating appetite, immunity, memory, mood, motor control, pain, reward, fertility, and temperature regulation. Interestingly enough, there are compounds in cannabis with similar structures that can also trigger cannabinoid receptors in the body. THC, responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis, activates the same receptors as anandamide.


As we currently understand it, there are two cannabinoid receptors in the body – CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain and central nervous system and mediate emotional learning, stress adaption, and fear extinction. These receptors are understimulated in those with PTSD, for their signaling “deactivates traumatic memories and endows us with the gift of forgetting”.  cannabinoids


The use of phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD to stimulate CB1 receptors shows promise in balancing the endocannabinoid system and restoring its ability to regulate fear, anxiety, and joy. By allowing the system to have breaks from the constant stress it finds itself in when experiencing PTSD symptoms, cannabis use can reeducate the body to respond to stress as it does to acute stress. While endocannabinoids are broken down under chronic stress, under acute stress they are actually released to allow for return to baseline stress levels. What this means in terms of concrete response to symptoms, only the clinical trials will tell us, but there is reason to believe that cannabis users will become better equipped to respond to the stressors and symptoms that come with PTSD. cannabinoids


Although alternative treatments like CBD and medical marijuana still need conclusive evidence, our current approach to PTSD treatment has also yet to show any meaningful, consistent impact. In fact, PTSD United has shown that “in the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50%”. Many movements have emerged to raise awareness and funding for the cause, but, as organizational theorist Kenichi Ohmae recognized, “rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” The structure toward which this increasing energy is being devoted must be willing to evolve. We must seek new methods, challenge our current understanding, and form a more nuanced approach to treatment that includes a variety of techniques and is responsive to individuals and their unique needs. We will never know what could be achieved unless we open our minds and try it.


“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” – Thomas Jefferson


About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.


Alex Brooks, Psychology Intern

Makin Wellness

10 Summer Essential Oils to Work into Your Summer Routine

There are a variety of benefits and ways to use essential oils to support summer wellness. Calming the mind, cooling the body, and soothing the skin after long hours in the sun, are just a few ways essential oils can be used to support the mind and body. summer

Therapeutic grade oils provide the best benefit and can be used in the form of diffusing, inhaling, or applying topically. The skin is our biggest organ, therefore applying topically can have a vast range of benefits internally. Citrus oils, like lemon, need to be used sparingly in summer since they are photosensitive – meaning they can lead to sun damage when applied topically.

Inhaling and diffusing essential oils helps to purify the air, providing healing effects to the mind and body. Oils like eucalyptus can be diffused into the air to support lung health.

Here are 10 essential oils you can easily work into your summer routine: summer


Lemon citrus oils are loaded with antioxidants, can be used as a antiseptic, antidepressant, and diuretic. Lemon oil can also be used to reduce cellulite when diluted with a carrier oil.


Grapefruit helps to balance mood, heal wounds, relieve water retention, and support liver function. Adding a few drops of therapeutic grade oil like Young Living Essential Oils, to your water can provide various benefits to the mind and body.


Lavender can be used as an anti-anxiety, sleep aid, and antibacterial for wounds and burns. It can be used topically for bee stings, insect bites, dry skin, and eczema.


Patchouli can be used to boost mood and confidence and to support dry or cracked skin. One drop is all that’s needed with this highly concentrated oil.


Applying peppermint oil can provide sinus support, reduce fevers, and provide a cooling effect after a workout or long hours in the heat.


This oil helps to release toxins through sweat ducts, helps support the liver, and reduces cellulite. It also helps balance female hormones, and reduces menstrual pain.


Frankincense is known as the king of oils, creating a grounding effect, and providing support for skin and immunity. Using this oil with lavender can support the skin after spending a lot of time in the sun.

Tea tree

Tea tree can be used as a bug repellent. It can also be used as an antiseptic, and to provide relief after a bee sting.


Palmarosa gives a cooling effect, is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and has cellular regenerative properties. It can be used with peppermint to cool down or patchouli to reduce redness.


Cypress is anti-inflammatory, supports digestion, sinus congestion, and provides relief for sore muscles. If you live an active lifestyle, cypress is one oil to keep on hand!

Makin Wellness uses therapeutic grade essential oils to provide support for overall wellness, offering custom made essential oil blends. Contact us today to purchase essential oils to support your wellness and feel your best this summer! summer

About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.


Overcoming Oxidative Stress

Given the amount of psychological and physiological stress to which many of us are exposed, it’s no shock that dis-ease runs so rampant in our population. What is often puzzling, however, is from where exactly these conditions emerge and what we can do to combat them without combing every part of our lifestyle and environment. One process that can explain both is oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Since it is dependent on these two forces, it has the potential to be both degenerative and restorative. Understanding of this process provides insight both into the danger of excessive free radicals in the body as well as to the healing powers of antioxidants. oxidative stress


Oxidative stress refers to the overabundance of free radicals, unchecked by antioxidant levels. The danger of this imbalance is that free radicals are highly reactive molecules. Because they have an unpaired valence electron, they travel the body searching for an electron with which to pair. However, they often achieve this stability by pairing with an element in an already stable compound, leaving that compound as a free radical itself. This process is called oxidation – free radicals oxidize compounds in the body. It is the same process by which metal rusts and becomes brittle and by which fruit browns and loses nutritional value.


Free radicals are produced naturally by the body through functions like breathing and digestion and even serve a constructive role when in balance, acting as a part of the immune system. However, they are also produced by exposure to radiation, pollutants, medications & antibiotics, overtraining, emotional & physical stress, and dietary factors (like oxidized fats, processed sugar, pesticides, herbicides, and additives). When unchecked, free radicals will damage DNA, cell membranes, lipids, and enzymes. By this process, oxidative stress leads to an array of diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and aging.


The hero of the story is the antioxidant. Antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals, stabilizing them and terminating this otherwise lengthy and exhausting process. Some antioxidants are produced by the body, but there is a large dietary burden to consume plants that produce antioxidants of their own. Of highest importance are vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, and more. These are plentiful in the following sources, some combination of which is absolutely necessary for human vitality:

  • berries
  • grapes & red wine
  • citrus fruits
  • dark leafy greens
  • broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, and all brightly colored fruits and vegetables
  • olives
  • fish (primarily cold-water fatty fish) and nuts
  • green and white tea
  • cocoa
  • ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary
  • onion, garlic


For those of you that feel constant fatigue and poor recovery, it may be as simple as this: you may not have enough warriors fighting for you! Nourish these antioxidant warriors with lifestyle choices like eating high-antioxidant foods, exercising (without overdoing it), watching out for exposure to harmful chemicals (and, if you can’t, following a protocol like the heavy metal detox), and getting plenty of sleep. So treat yourself to some red wine, chocolate, and a summer nap and listen to the balance it brings.


About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.


Alex Brooks, Psychology Intern

Makin Wellness

Summer 2019 Wellness Trends

Summer is a season full of energy, abundant activity, and of course, increased heat! In reaction to heat, the body may sweat to maintain normal body temperature. Staying hydrated and protecting yourself from too much sun exposure is necessary in preventing irritability, sunburn, or more serious conditions like heat exhaustion. summer

Whole foods like cucumber, celery, and pineapple help keep the body hydrated with their natural water content. Summer foods such as watermelon, tomatoes, bell peppers, and papaya help to naturally protect the skin from UV-rays. Celery juice is the latest trend to stay hydrated, improve liver function, reduce free radicals, and increase energy!

Nourishing the gut with a proper balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates is vital to immune health, weight, and disease prevention. Improving gut health is still a trend in 2019, and rightfully so. Gut health is essential to balancing hormones in charge of mood, hunger, sleep, and stress. Simple ways to boost gut health include cutting back on highly processed foods, eating nutrient dense whole foods, and prioritizing stress reducing techniques.

Eliminating inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy has also been a large trend in 2019. This comes as no surprise with inflammation being the root cause of many chronic conditions. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce inflammation and reduce risk of disease. Popular foods like fresh ginger, turmeric, walnuts, spinach, and kale all help to reduce inflammation. Staying hydrated, reducing stress, and regular physical activity are others important ways to reduce symptoms of inflammation.

Camel milk is another wellness trend with its ability to improve cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and decrease insulin resistance. Camel’s milk has shown to be beneficial in reducing free-radicals and works as an anti-inflammatory.

IV drops are also gaining popularity in wellness routines. Nutrients are better absorbed as they’re delivered intravenously since they bypass the body’s digestive system. IV infusions aid in boosting immunity, improving digestion, muscle recovery, and enhancing your skin’s glow. Vitamins, minerals, and amino acids can quickly get into the bloodstream through IV at increased levels. This on-the-go treatment has been used by functional MD pioneer Frank Lipman for nearly 20 years, and is becoming more popular as a quick fix.

Being mindful our bodies needs is essential to wellness. No one else can tell you how you’re feeling. Being in tune with your body and listening to your intuition will help you to be more aware of your bodies unique needs. Mindful, or intuitive eating is simple eating when you’re hungry, and stopping when you’re full. This ensures you’re getting what you need, and avoids emotional eating. Mindful practices help promote sustainable wellness and longevity.

Summertime is the perfect season to detox and incorporate other natural approaches to wellness, helping your body function at its best. To receive support with a holistic approach to reach your summer wellness goals, contact us today at Makin Wellness to speak with our Holistic Nutritionist and receive a free consultation! summer

About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.

Laura Stewart, B.A., CHN

Language & Patterns of Thought

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Lao Tzu patterns of thought


With an estimated 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, the mind gets so many repetitions that the patterns in which we think are cemented very effectively. While we can easily become trapped in these patterns, letting these thousands of thoughts drill them deeper and deeper, we can also use these repetitions to train new patterns and remodel our mental landscape to be more conducive to our dreams.


Though thought is often automatic and inaccessible, our internal language mirrors our external language, over which we have much more control. Most forfeit this control, letting environmental and internal influences (patterns) control how they speak. However, with a respect for the gravity of word choice, we can identify our current patterns and beliefs as they show up in our language and deliberately transform this mental landscape.


Let’s jump right into the most significant mental battlefield and observe the way in which we speak about our dreams. Ask your friends and family “What do you want to be?” and you will find great variety in people’s attitudes and relationship with their answer. When someone says “I’d like to be a veterinarian”, their answer is not just “veterinarian”- it is not the same as someone who says “I want to be a veterinarian”. “I would” creates distance from the dream – almost as if it is in a different world. You would like to … but what? If what? This conditional language is a sign of a limiting belief that is not directly vocalized, but is reinforced through this hypothetical speaking. By addressing their dream as coming from a separate world, this person is cementing themselves in their current world.


What about “I’m going to be a veterinarian”? This one is really interesting to me because it responds to a question about the future with an answer about the present. “I am going” is a comment on the person’s path and where they are right now. There is certainly a clear destination – becoming a veterinarian – but this type of thinking grounds this person in the present and what they are doing right now to get there. The opposite response would be “I will be a veterinarian”, in which the dream is further down the path. Neither is inherently better, but the first person is living their dream right now where the second sees it as something to achieve.


A middle ground would be simply “I dream of being a veterinarian”. While it is phrased in the present, making the dream a part of the person’s present, daily experience, it again creates a distant relationship by treating the dream as otherworldly. There is upside to this in that it makes the dream very alluring and exciting, yet the distance could be an excuse to keep dreaming (as long as you can count on being able to access it when you fall asleep, it doesn’t matter what you do when awake).


There are so many more options for responding to this question. Another common one is “I think I want to …” Say this and see how it makes you feel. Do you feel? Does it make you retreat to your brain? Do you say “I think” because you are afraid of what you feel? Does it make you timid? Do you feel open?


Ask these questions of yourself and the people around you as you observe how they respond to things like “What do you want to be?”. A good way to start this practice is to find one question to become an expert on. “How are you?” “What are you doing today?” “When are you free?” Pick a question, ask around, and observe all the ways of responding. Think about the relationships each choice creates. Think about the relationship you’d like to cultivate with your answer to this question and choose verbiage that communicates that. Then use your repetitions to practice your response and make this relationship a reality.


About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.


Alex Brooks, Psychology Intern

Makin Wellness

Holistic Treatment for “Summertime Blues”

“Keep your eyes lifted high upon the sun–and you’ll see the best light in everyone.” – Tess Guinery

Summertime is full of outdoor activities, spending time with friends, cookouts, and more. Planning a weekend getaway or other summer events may be on your bucket list. While many find this season to be an exciting time of year, others may find themselves dreading the change of pace. Large crowds, extra socialization, and pressure to have that “summer body” may leave some feeling discouraged with unmet expectations of how things “should be.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is common in the fall and winter months, but may also present itself in summer months. Anxiety about events in large crowds, or depression over unmet expectations may result from increase in activity during the summer. Medication is often prescribed for depression and anxiety, yet natural, holistic treatment options are also available! holistic treatment

Focus on Your Diet

Low levels of serotonin can increase the chance of developing depression. While antidepressants may normalize serotonin levels, simple diet change can help to increase serotonin levels. Avoiding excess caffeine and sugar is essential. Eating foods with protein, healthy fats, fiber, and greens work to improve mood, energy, and overall wellness.

Soak up the SUN!

Spending 15-30 minutes in the sun each day is the best way to get vitamin D, helping to boost mood and immunity. Remind yourself that it is good for your health if you find yourself struggling to get motivated. Grab an all natural sunscreen, sunhat, and spend a little time outdoors each day. Doctors are even treating depressed patients with a light box, or good ol’ natural sunlight.

Get Moving

Taking time to stretch in the morning is a great way to start your day. Deep breathing while stretching has shown to reduce anxiety, anger, and depression. Exercise releases endorphines, also known as “feel-good chemicals” which act as a natural antidepressant.

If you are interested in support with holistic treatment options, Makin Wellness offers a natural, holistic approach incorporating individualized, customizable therapy, nutritional counseling, aromatherapy and other holistic treatment options. Contact us today for a free consultation and start your wellness journey today! holistic treatment

About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again.  Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assited treatment and relationship counseling.