I’m quite sure few would disagree that keeping a light heart has been challenging over the past few months. There are so many reasons a heart can feel troubled, either literally from illness or metaphorically from the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, a parting of ways, or the result of disheartening current events. No matter what the circumstance, there are times when the heart—and spirit—are heavy.
Whatever the loss—emotional or physical—it can manifest itself as quite palpable, physical pain in the chest. Many of us know that emotional pain can feel just as crippling, just as real, as the pain experienced during a physical crisis of the heart. Whatever the cause, when in pain, we need time and energy to heal.
And, as I so often say—there’s an herb for that.
Today, let’s look at five herbs to help the heart and lift the spirit, confronting the depression, anger, loss, and loneliness resulting from heartbreak. Explore some of the herbs to follow, and take some time to be good to yourself—relax, breathe, and give your heart a much needed break (so to speak…).
**Note: if you’re pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications for cardiovascular health (or any medications at all, for that matter), please consult your physician before adding any herbals to your routine.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.):
Usually, the berries are used in hawthorn preparations, but the flowers and leaves can be included as well. The flowers can be a lovely assist for emotional upset (something about the metaphor of the flower opening and turning to the sun), and the berries useful for physical disruptions of the heart.
Historically, hawthorn has been used as an all-around heart tonic, helping to strengthen and tone the cardiovascular system, lower cholesterol levels, and manage blood pressure. On an emotional level, simply the idea of a physically stronger, more resilient heart may help us to rebound from heartbreak, moving forward without so much fear and heartsickness.
Try a hawthorn tincture and drop a dose into warm water or tea (warm beverages are soothing for the nervous system). Or, if you can find dried berries, try a half teaspoon of crushed berries in a cup of hot water. Steep 10 minutes, sweeten, and sip.
- Rose Petals (Rosa rugosa):
No surprises here—rose has long been identified with love and matters of the heart. We turn to red roses to symbolize love’s beginning, to white roses to honor the end of life. Any flower with such range over and through life’s emotional spectrum is a clear and necessary addition to a home heart-repair kit.
But rose is remarkably versatile. Try it to help calm nervousness, relieve insomnia and mild depression, dissolve mental and physical fatigue, and soothe anger or resentment. Roses can, metaphorically, open the heart and lift the spirit; they help us overcome grief and ready the heart for new beginnings.
Try rose petal tea: steep a tablespoon of rose petals in a cup of water for five minutes. Add a light-flavored honey, so as not to mask rose’s delicate flavor.
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):
Lemon balm is a wonderful herb for insomnia, nervous tension, stress and stomach upset due to worry and heartbreak. This lovely, lightly flavored herb lends itself beautifully to tea: steep two teaspoons of dried lemon balm per cup of water. Add sweetener of choice and a splash of lemon juice for flavor. You can also try combining lemon balm and rose petals for a warming, fragrant tea with a bit of lemony zing.
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca):**
You can see it right there in its Latin name: leonurus means “lion”; cardiaca means “used for conditions of heart.” As for its common name, I like to think of motherwort as exactly that—the comfort that can come only from the strong embrace of a mother figure.
As an herb, motherwort can be useful in helping alleviate a racing heart caused by stress, tension, and general emotional upset. A soothing herb for the nerves as well, motherwort can settle a racing mind and call back restorative, untroubled sleep.
Try a motherwort tincture and squeeze a half teaspoon or so into a cup of warm water or tea. **Note: avoid motherwort while pregnant.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
“There’s Rosemary. That’s for remembrance,” reads one of Ophelia’s most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Traditionally, it was believed (and, in fact, still is today) that rosemary strengthens the memory and, as such, has long been a romantic symbol for lovers and fidelity.
No matter what the cause of the heartbreak, however, leaning a little on rosemary can help us to keep the memories that serve us and learn from those that don’t—as we no doubt can all testify, memories are long and potent and have the potential to poison us slowly over time. Rosemary can energetically sweeten our memories, grant us emotional perspective and space, and guide us to forgive ourselves and others.
Physically, rosemary strengthens the circulatory system, warming us from the inside-out. Its piney, woody scent is invigorating, inspiring action and motion—a perfect, energizing antidote for a heavy heart.
Try a mild rosemary tea: steep a few teaspoons in a covered cup of water for seven to ten minutes. Add sweetener, if you like. Alternately, try combining rosemary with rose petals for a lighter, more complex flavor.
No matter what makes your heart ache, just taking time for yourself, holding on to a warm cup of tea, sitting quietly, and feeding yourself with nurturing company are the first steps toward healing your heart.
~Amy Holt, Writer/Editor