The heart beats to a universal rhythm akin to the rhythm that incites the flowers to open and the
tides to move. It is our access point to an infinite wisdom. A wisdom that is not quantifiable but can be felt in simple moments like bearing witness to the sky shifting through hues of pastels as the sun descends over the horizon and knowing with out doubt that it will rise again tomorrow. These moments that 'warm our hearts' convey the heart's message that no matter what, all is ultimately okay. The lesson is Love, not love of another or love of a thing but unconditional Love of our journey with all of its twists and turns. Our heart does not know good or bad, all just is. It begs us to greet our experiences and emotions, no matter how challenging as necessary lessons along the journey of being. When we are living with a balanced heart space we are able to embrace our experiences and welcome our emotions in. We do not need to retreat because we know that on the other side of even the most difficult times lies a lesson that brings us closer to our own humanity.
The heart space is the seat of our passion. It ignites the spark of inspiration that lights our inner fire. It is the part of us that loves nothing more than when we pour ourselves into our deepest desires and live without questioning the validity of our dreams.
Physiologically, the heart is a four chambered vessel that is central to the communication between the cells in our bodies. It is responsible for pumping our blood which carries oxygen, vital nutrients and hormones between the cells and carries away metabolic waste. From an energetic perspective this information can be considered our life force or Qi. It is directly influenced by our emotional state.
When the heart's energy is thriving we are able to feel and embrace our experiences without being victimized by them, we feel inspired and renewed by life and we are able to receive openly and share unconditionally. When its energy becomes stagnate over long periods we experience conditions like imbalances in blood pressure and heart disease.
The heart is particularly vulnerable in periods of grief, anxiety, stress, or "heartbreak". There are many tonic herbs that hold an affinity for the heart. The cardiotonics contain flavanoids whose antioxidant, anti inflammatory, diuretic, and hypotensive properties support the cardiovascular system. These tonics can be taken over long periods to support and prevent disease. Other herbals indirectly support the heart by relaxing the nervous system or by dilating the peripheral blood vessels to provide relief to an over burdened heart.
Herbs to Replenish the Heart
Hawthorn (Cratagus laevigata)
Parts Used: Berry, Leaf, and Flower
Actions: Cardiotonic, diuretic, astringent, and hypotensive
Uses: Hawthorn strengthens and elevates the heart. It is the herbal that I go to most often when addressing any imbalances in the heart including heartbreak or elevated blood pressure. It is a tonic herb which means it can be taken over long periods of time and is considered safe even for elders. It strengthens and restores vitality by increasing the energy available to the heart. It also dilates the coronary arteries which helps to regulate blood pressure. Hawthorn can be used as a preventative herb or to support the heart when recovering from degenerative cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease.
How to use: Hawthorn may be taken as a tincture, tea or a capsule. The tincture can be administered 30-40 drops 3x a day to maintain heart health or during periods of grief or when experiencing a broken or heavy heart. It is a main ingredient in our Happy Heart herbal tea and All My Heart tincture.
Cautions: Hawthorn enhances the effects of cardioactive drugs. Always consult with a trained herbalist and your physician before using Hawthorn in combination with pharmaceutical heart medications.
Linden (Tilia platyphyllos)
Parts Used: Flowers
Actions: Nervine, antispasmodic, hypotensive, diaphoretic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, astringent
Uses: Linden is best to use in cases of increased blood pressure associated with nervous tension. It soothes the nervous system which can aid the circulatory system by allowing blood to more easily. This makes it a great ally to prevent arteriosclerosis. It is an uplifting and relaxing herb that makes an incredible tea or infusion.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Parts Used: Leaf
Actions: Relaxing nervine, anti-spasmodic, emmenagogue, tonic, diaphoretic, hypotensive
Uses: Motherwort is a multi-faceted herb with an affinity for the heart as well as female reproductive health. In relation to the heart it is beneficial to relieve heart palpitations associated with nervous tension. It is a wonderful tonic to strengthen the heart. Ms. Grieve writes in A Modern Herbal, "...there is no better herb for strengthening and gladdening the heart...".
How to Use: Motherwort makes a wonderful tea and can also be used as a tincture. To utilize as a tincture, the dosage is 20-80 drops 3 times a day or as needed. It is included in our All My Heart Tincture.
Red Rose (Rosa spp)
Parts Used: Petal
Actions: Astringent, anti-inflammatory, nervine, aphrodisiac, anti-depressant
Uses: Red rose reminds us to be soft and remain open. It has long been a symbol of unconditional and undying love. Its aroma evokes our inner passion igniting our inner longings for all that is beautiful in this world. Rose is a soothing and toning herb to the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
Parts Used: Flower and Leaf
Actions: Relaxing nervine, anti-spasmodic, sedative
Uses: Passionflower is not a cardio-tonic by definition but I choose to include it here because it is such a powerful ally in times of stress, anxiety, or nervous tension. It indirectly supports the heart by relaxing the nerves and smooth muscle providing relief to the circulatory system and allowing the blood to pump freely. It can be useful for instances of high blood pressure associated with nervous tension. Energetically, passionflower teaches us that life flows like the river and reminds us to allow ourselves to flow from the Heart and release the Mind's incessant desire to cling to the river banks.
How to use: Passionflower can be used as a tea or tincture. As a tincture it should be taken at 20-50 drops every 30 minutes until symptoms improve or as needed. It is included in many of our herbal teas and tinctures, including our All My Heart tincture.
Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
Parts Used: Seeds (bean)
Actions: Diuretic, hypotensive, stimulant
Uses: Cacao is most popular for its use in the creation of chocolate. Many do not realize that the bean is a powerfully medicinal plant. It feels appropriate that in our Western culture the exchange of chocolates would be associated displays of affection and love. Cocoa contains an alkaloid called theobromine which acts on the kidneys and the heart and to a lesser degree the central nervous system. It is useful to help rid the body of excess fluid, especially fluid build up around the heart that results from cardiac failure. It also dilates to the blood vessels which can relieve high blood pressure.
How to use: You can find cacao powder at most health food stores. It is important to always buy fair trade cacao to ensure that the farmers are being paid a fair wage for their cacao beans. It is delicious added to a banana smoothie with almond milk. Cacao nibs can also be easily incorporated into smoothies, ice cream, cereals and more. There are some great recipes online for cacao. You can also find some amazing herbal hot cocoas made from cacao powder.
Cech, Richo, and Sena Cech. Making Plant Medicine. Herbal Reads, 2016.
Franks, Leslie J. Stone Medicine: a Chinese Medical Guide to Healing with Gems and Minerals. Healing Arts Press, 2016.
Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal: the Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs and Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses: With a New Service Index. Vol. 1-2. Dover Publications, 1970.
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.