With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, themes of love and romance abound. Cartoonish hearts in varying shades of pink and red, bouquets of roses, and boxes of chocolates seem to be everywhere. Interestingly enough, these themes are intertwined in more ways than one! In both the physical and emotional realms, it is of great importance to heal, strengthen, and care for our hearts. Only when we are able to open our heart without reservation can we truly give and receive love and share in meaningful connection to others.
Here are 5 lovely herbal allies to aid us on our heart opening journeys.
Rose for Joyfulness & Softening
Roses (Rosa spp.)! No other flower speaks so fluently to the heart, and perhaps this is why they have become synonymous with Valentine’s Day. Rose, in herbal medicine, is considered a nervine– soothing to the nervous system and uplifting to the mood. In the Unani Tibb (Greco-Arabic) system of herbal medicine, Roses are classified as a heart “exhilarant,” which help fill the emotional heart with joy. Rose is also known to have toning, anti-inflammatory, menstrual regulating and digestive properties as well as being an aphrodisiac. Rosehips, the fruit of the Rose, are an excellent source of bioflavanoids and vitamins C and E. European sailors often carried dried rosehips on long voyages to stave off scurvy; in addition, Roses were grown in WWII “Victory Gardens” for the medicinal value of the hips. As a flower essence, Wild Rose “helps reawaken our interest in life. In a positive Wild Rose state we are happy-go-lucky. Instead of apathy we feel a sense of purpose that brings increased happiness and enjoyment.” Enjoy Rose as a blooming flower, a rosehip, a flower essence, a tincture, a tea, or an oil.
Cacao for Invigoration & Passion
Cacao (Theobroma Cacao) has become a superfood buzzword in today’s commerce, but the fruits of this magical tree have been celebrated and revered as a “Food of the Gods” for thousands of years by indigenous Mesoamerican communities; the earliest evidence of human use date back to about 1900 BCE. Modern studies have shown that it is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, as well as having beneficial actions on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular function. Recently, Cacao ceremonies have become popular in the New Age sector, often touted as heart-opening and ecstatic experiences. Indeed, Cacao works to open, excite, and heal the heart with its complex chemical makeup which includes components like Theobromine and Caffeine, with similar invigorating effects, Magnesium, which aids in full body relaxation, and Anandamide, often referred to as the “bliss chemical.” Enjoy cacao as roasted nibs, in powder form mixed with water or milk as a fortifying drink, as a tincture or extract, or in slightly more processed modalities as syrup or chocolate– another Valentine’s staple, and for good reason!
Hawthorn for Heart Health & Resilience
Hawthorn (Crataegus mongyna) is wonderful heart medicine, and can be used for ailments such as heart disease, reduction in cardiac function, and arrhythmia. Though Hawthorn is an ancient remedy native to Europe, in our modern, Western world, it came to be widely revered after being prescribed by an Irish doctor in the mid 1800’s, who used an alcohol extract of Hawthorn to treat heart illnesses with great success. It was used in the U.S. until about 1930, but still features in over 215 European herbal formulas for heart health. On an emotional level, Hawthorn is especially healing in times of grief, when the heart feels broken. As a Flower Essence, Hawthorn offers both protection and encouragement, allowing one to re-open the heart to even deeper and more powerful love after a period of sadness or discouragement. Hawthorn berries, leaves, and thorns can all be used when making a tincture, or alcohol extract; alternately, Hawthorn berries can be boiled over several hours (decocted) to drink as a tea. Hawthorn berry powder can be added to drinks and food.
Motherwort for Setting Boundaries & Receiving Love
Motherwort’s (Leonurus cardiaca) affinity for the heart is so profound as to be present in its botanical name, containing the Latin “cardiaca” which literally translates to “heart.” Old accounts write of Motherwort’s unparalleled heart strengthening and gladdening properties, as well as its effectiveness against palpitations, neuralgia, and other heart-related disorders. Like other heart tonic herbs, Motherwort affords one comfort, tranquility, and strength– often described as akin to receiving a warm, comforting embrace from a mother. Motherwort can also help to heal trauma from difficult maternal relationships, and aid a person in allowing themselves to “be mothered” or shown care. It’s also an effective remedy for new mothers who are feeling frazzled, nervous, or worn out; motherwort shows them how to step into their new role. Motherwort is a bitter herb, and has digestive actions, but due to its taste, is not often prepared as a tea. An alcohol tincture or a syrup are wonderful preparations; for emotional support, low doses of the tincture or a flower essence can be taken to “invoke openness, acceptance, and peace,” as Herbalist Robin Rose Bennett writes.
Reishi for Strengthening the Heart-Mind Connection
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), a darling of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has been renowned for millenia for its longevity promoting properties, earning it the title “mushroom of immortality.” In TCM, Reishi is considered a “Shen” tonic, though it supplements all 3 treasures: Shen, Jing, Chi. “Shen” lives in the heart and is analogous to the “Spirit” or “Mind” and the heart-mind connection associated with our intuition, consciousness, mental functions and health, vitality, and presence. Reishi is said to elucidate and nourish this heart-mind connection as well as open the heart and clear “heat” or inflammation and excitation from the nervous system. On the physical plane, Reishi has been proven to be an immunomodulator, a mood enhancer, and able to reduce and reverse heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. Overall, Reishi is an elegant heart tonic that offers unparalleled protection, levity, and sustenance to the spirit, mind, and heart.
As always, know your sources when sourcing these herbs. Please, when possible, use organically and sustainably grown and harvested herbs in your practice, and work with businesses that use fair and equal opportunity employment and trade policies. When in doubt, consult with a trained herbalist!