Natural Approaches to Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Table of Contents

Part 1

Let’s talk about Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Earlier this year, I took a fall that resulted in a concussion.  Something the medical people called a closed- head, traumatic brain injury. In my case it was exacerbated by a bleed in the frontal lobe of my brain. The whole thing felt surreal because it didn’t feel bad at the time. Even a day or two later, being discharged from the ICU, I didn’t feel badly. Instead, as time passed, symptoms morphed, becoming more difficult, and lingering for about 12 weeks.

My Dr. said I had a mild injury and that complete healing could take over a year, with the first 3 months being the most significant. 

My experience of the injury

Directly after the injury, I was responsive, but very tired, with a lingering headache. Pressure developed over the first few days behind my right eye that trailed to the back of my head. Mostly I wanted to sleep.

In the days after my fall, I began to experience several persistent unpleasant symptoms. First, I was ANGRY! AT EVERYTHING! Thank goodness that one passed quickly. Following came a range of symptoms that lasted about 2 months, including tiredness, sensory sensitization (like sounds echoing and double vision etc.). As I write this, I am about 12 weeks out from the incident. Most of the symptoms have cleared. Yet I still struggle to focus from time to time and sometimes tire easily, especially in the afternoon.    

As I recover (and I really feel healthy and great most of the time), I am inspired to research about this type of injury. Hopefully the work will support others who have either suffered from a head injury themselves or those who are helping others.

Summary of Presentation

This work will be delivered in three parts for easier assimilation. Brain injuries as it turns out can be quite complicated and involved. 

  • First, part 1, will include the details about Traumatic Brain Injuries, symptoms, the medical description, prognosis and first aid.
  • Part two is about long-term recovery and coming to a full recovery using wholistic and herbal protocols
  • The third part focuses on Yoga Therapy as a tool to assist you in recovering from the injury. 

About Traumatic Brain Injuries

Throughout human history, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) have been, and continue to be, one of the most common causes of death and disability. In the United States alone, an estimated 1.2 million emergency room visits are associated with TBIs. In the past, only the most severe head injuries were of consequence. Not anymore. Every day we learn more about the workings of the brain and possible, long-lasting side effects connected to head injuries. Even mild ones. 

Everyone experiences TBIs a little differently. Some are more severe from the beginning, others are slower to cause problems. The brain is a complex organ and is responsible for many crucial functions of our physical, mental, and emotional body. It is made up of several parts (called lobes). Each lobe has a specific role and operation, each controlling different life functions. 

Sometimes seen as the body’s central processing system, the brain controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger, and every process that regulates our body. More than controlling our physical body, the brain helps balance, modify, and regulate all levels of mind, emotions, and spiritual senses. From the cranium it extends to the spinal cord to make up the central nervous system. Click here for more information about brain anatomy.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

When we think of a brain injury, most of us think of a blunt trauma to the head, like falling or hitting the head. However, traumatic brain injuries include any trauma that damages the operation of the brain. This includes concussions, shaking, striking blows, contusions, hemorrhages, hematomas, stroke, penetrating injuries and more.

The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke define traumatic brain injury as a form of acquired brain injury that occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. The brain is jostled inside the skull, damaging, and stretching brain cells causing chemical changes and cell death, thus, disrupting normal functioning. 

Inflammation is a huge concern. Studies show post injury swelling is responsible for much of the significant damage from a blunt head trauma. After any injury, damaged tissue tends to swell. But, because the cranium affords little room for swelling, pressure builds up easily. Resulting pressure can choke blood flow to some areas. Limited blood flow means lower levels of oxygen and nutrients to brain tissue, causing brain cell malfunction and death.  

Causes of TBI

The most common causes of head injury include car accidents, falls, and sports injuries. High-contact sports like football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, and wrestling can put athletes at a greater risk. For younger children, accidents like a fall on the playground or off a bicycle can cause a concussion. Penetrating injuries are caused when an object penetrates the skull. 

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Doctors classify the severity and prognosis of a brain injury according to the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS).  That is mild, moderate, severe, or a persistent vegetative state. The GCS is a way to categorize neurological function and identify where and how medical interventions may be applied directly after the injury. 

It is important to note that healing and recovery is possible even with the most severe injury. Even mild concussions effect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance, and muscle coordination.

Most of the time, a single concussion isn’t likely to cause permanent damage. A second injury, however soon after the first can have very strong, lingering and even permanent consequences. Multiple head injuries, even mild ones, can cause significant long-term problems beyond neurological functioning. An article written by Vijay Krishnamoorthy, MD, MPH, PhD; and Monica S. Vavilala, MD, linked mild, moderate and severe TBI to be associated with increased risks of coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, obesity, and neuropsychiatric disease. The problem multiplies with recurring injuries. 


Remember, each person experiences a head injury differently. Some common symptoms are listed below. More specific symptoms are often associated with the lobe of the brain that sustained damage. 

Common symptoms

At the time of the injury:

  • Some people lose consciousness, others do not.
  • There may be no outward sign of injury, or there may be bruising, bumps and even skull fractures.
  • Many do not remember directly before or after the injury.

After the injury and for up to several weeks, symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Heightened or altered senses
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Sluggishness/easily tired
  • Feeling unusually irritable or angry
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Delayed verbal response
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Behavioral changes
  • Mood swings or uncontrolled emotional responses

Click here for more information about specific symptoms related to different areas of the brain.

When to see a Medical Professional

A concussion, although not usually life threatening can be serious. When in doubt, go to the hospital. Go to the emergency room immediately if you lose consciousness, are on prescription medications like blood thinners, or if there is vomiting, confusion or seizures. Inflammation is one of the biggest concerns and can increase over several hours.

In my case, I went to the hospital right away because I was on prescription blood thinners for a different issue. It was a good thing. A small blood vessel had broken in the center of my brain and did not stop bleeding. At home this would have been a life-threatening event. You never know what’s going on inside the skull. Even CT scans are not always accurate in assessing the damage. 

If you choose not to go to the ER, make sure you are with someone who can watch you closely for several hours. Have them talk with you to be sure your speech is intelligible, your eyesight is good, and your eyes are responding well. Be sure you have voluntary muscle control. A trusted person is needed to be sure you are lucid, know where you are, and understand what happened.

Pharmaceutical Medicines and TBI

Drugs are sometimes given following TBIs to limit symptoms and prevent possible complications. Some Pharmaceuticals that may be prescribed include:

  • Anti-anxiety medication to lessen feelings of nervousness and fear
  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and improve blood flow
  • Anticonvulsants to prevent seizures. These are standard and are usually prescribed for the first week.
  • Antidepressants to treat symptoms of depression and mood instability.
  • Diuretics to help remove fluid that can increase pressure inside the brain.
  • Muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms and to relax constricted muscles.

Natural Treatments for Traumatic Brain Injuries

Protocols for TBI’s are based on the severity of the injury and the symptoms one is experiencing. Mild injuries, such as a concussion, may not need specific intervention but should be monitored closely for persistent, worsening, or new symptoms over time. 

Herbal First Aid

Herbal protocols can begin once it is established that the head injury is mild, that a hospital stay isn’t needed and that there is not a skull fracture or neck injury. The following are some ideas that may help.

RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate

Try placing Ice, frozen veggies, or a cold compress on the site of the injury. This may help limit inflammation and slow any internal bleeding. Additionally, warming the feet in either a foot bath or by a heater may also help by diverting circulation away from the head, hopefully decreasing inflammation in the cranium.

Arnica (A. cordifolia or montana)

Homeopathic or low dose Arnica is known to support an energetic shift after a traumatic event. Homeopathic Arnica is much safer to use internally and has significantly fewer contraindications than its tinctured counterpart. It is used as a first aid treatment for all types of traumatic injuries, cerebral contusions, strains, soreness, bruised feelings, aggressive attitudes,

sensitivity to external stimuli, delirium, and confusion. Whole Arnica tincture 1:2 100% can be used in drop dosages internally when you are sure there is no internal bleeding. Use 3 to 5 drops in 4 to 6 oz of hot water and sip slowly.

Arnica, tinctured or as an ointment is an excellent and safe external treatment for bruises, strains, swellings and pain. 

Yarrow (Achillea millifolium)

Yarrow is a blood mover that regulates and normalizes healthy blood in the body. Decreasing the flow when it is too strong and increasing when not enough. When I think of a “traumatic” or “violent” injury, I think of Yarrow.

Probably most head injuries fall into this category. Externally the herb is used as a powder, wash, tincture, compress, or oil to help alleviate bruising, pain, inflammation, and stanch bleeding wounds. Internally, it is used to regulate blood flow. It is also used to bring that which is deep to the periphery so it can be released. Yarrow is classified as an anti-inflammatory, bitter diaphoretic, alterative, digestive, astringent and antipyretic (for fevers).

Suggested Dose 1 or 2 dropper fills of the tincture 1:2 40% in warm water, drunk as tea. 1 cup every hour or two for 4 to 6 hours. 

Tips to Begin Healing

  • Rest/ Relative Rest – Rest is probably the single most important factor for recovery. Take it slow. Limit your physical and cognitive activities. Prolonged or intense concentration may be difficult. Take several breaks as needed throughout the day. Listen your body, and to your inner self (that quiet inner voice).

Do not listen to the mind or patterning that tells you to keep going. Do take the time you need to slowly move back into normal daily activities.

  • Stay off screens – that includes TV, social media, your phone, computer, tablet etc. Screens stress sensory performance and concentration. My Dr told me to avoid all screens for as long as possible. When I listened, I felt better; when I didn’t, there was a noticeable and immediate return of symptoms I previously thought were long gone.

Dietary and Supplement Recommendations

Eat for health and healing

Eat lots of protein and colorful vegetables. Colorful veggies contain flavonoids and antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-allergenic, and antibacterial properties. They help increase memory, improve neural functioning, support recovery, and help prevent blood clot formation. Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

Blueberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

The fruit and leaves of the blueberry plant help reduce inflammation and vasodilation, thus decreasing swelling and edema. Blueberries are also neuro protective and may help reduce cellular damage and disfunction in the brain. The frozen fruit contains the highest level of flavonoids. The suggested dose is ¼ to ½ cup of frozen blueberries per day or 2 to 4 cups of blueberry leaf tea.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are essential for neural membrane fluidity. They are highly effective in reducing the neuronal damage, reducing brain oxidative stress, and lessoning possible secondary effects of TBIs (called post concussive syndrome). They act as neural protectors to down regulate inflammatory signals in the brain and reduce neurological damage. Omega 3s help maintain the structural balance of cellular membranes, especially in the brain, retina, and spermatozoa. 

EFAs are found in many foods. I like to combine flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Then I freshly grind a few tablespoons to add to my morning oatmeal. Other foods that contain EFA’s include dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and broccoli. Omega 3s are present in walnuts, soy and soy products, barley grass, wheat grass, seaweed, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and trout.

Look forward to more information about herbs and nutritional supplements that support healing of Traumatic Brain Injuries in part 2 of our series.

Many Blessings


Suggested Products

Read More


Proefrock, Kenneth ND; Naturopathic approaches to the treatment of Cerebral Palsy, Strokes, TIAs, Concussions and Concussion Syndrome; SWCBM 2014

Telkes Nickole; Materia Medica for Head Injuries, Acute and Long-Term treatments; Plant Healers Herbal Clinician, Plant Healer Magazine, Gila NM,reducing%20the%20brain%20oxidative%20stress.,treatment%20of%20many%20CNS%20disorders.,1%2C3%2C5%5D.



The statements and ideas presented here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. All ideas presented are for the sole purpose of education. To help you take control of your own health. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. We suggest that you always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.