Within current orthodox medical protocols, trauma and metal health issues are deemed to reside within the realm of cognitive or psychological therapists and are marginalised to these areas, in part due to limited drugs option available, mostly manipulating neurotransmitters or sedating patients in an effort to reduce symptoms.

By contrast, this research presents examples from clinical practice of how trauma can be assessed and treated physiologically. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is a tally of different types of abuse and neglect. It is a measurable and reliable predictor of the likelihood of the development of autoimmune disease which is 60% higher in those individuals with a high ACE (above 4) to a low. It is a direct way to demonstrate reliably the health impact of traumatic life experience .

A second assessment tool is allostatic load, which refers to the culminative effects that chronic stress has on mental and physical health. It records the decline of an individual’s physiological capacity to cope with their experience. It uses a specific grouping of serum testing and physical measures. It includes assessment of neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems. Allostatic load demonstrates the health impact that trauma has throughout the body. It forms part of an initial intake assessment in clinical practice and could also be used in research to evaluate treatment. 

Examining medicinal plants for their physiological, neurological and somatic effects through the lens of polyvagal theory offers new opportunities for trauma treatments. Where polyvagal theory recommends activities and exercises to enable parasympathetic activation many TEM herbs also enact these responses. Traditional or Indigenous European herbs show potential to support polyvagal tone, through multiple mechanisms. As the ventral vagal reaches almost every major organ, plants that have actions on these tissues can be understood via their polyvagal actions, such as monoterpenes as agents to improve respiratory vagal tone, cyanogenic glycosides to reset polyvagal tone, volatile oils rich in phenyl methyl esters improve both sympathetic and parasympathetic tone, bitters activate gut function and are able to strongly promote parasympathetic regulation.

Auricular Acupuncture uses a system of somatotopic mapping of the auricular surface overlaid with an image of an inverted foetus with each body organ and system featured. Given that the concha of the auricle is the only place on the body where the vagus nerve neurons reach the surface of the skin, several investigators have evaluated non-invasive, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) at auricular points.

Drawn from an interdisciplinary evidence base and developed through clinical practice, these assessment and treatment tools and are example of practitioners in the field innovating out of necessity for the best outcomes of patients. This paper draws on case studies to direct future research.


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