Author: Kerry Burg
It’s a crazy world out there nowadays and it’s easy to get lost in the pressure of it all. We are told to eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise but caring for our mental health is often overlooked. We won’t succeed in life if we aren’t practicing emotional self-care. We tend to hold onto our emotions which can make problems arise such as digestive issues, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more. Luckily, there are a lot of herbal allies to help nourish and support our physical and emotional heart space. Various herbs can be used to soothe anxiety and mild depression, improve mental clarity and focus, and promote relaxation and sleep. Herbs that are known to help support the physical heart also have an energetic connection as well. Bringing attention to emotional self-care can have a positive impact on the entire body, but more specifically, it can impact our energy level, our immune system, and our digestive system in a positive way. Just as the physical body impacts emotions, the emotional body impacts the physical (Pivarnik).
By quieting the physical heart, one can quiet the mind and soothe the spirit. In Chinese medicine, there is strong Shen and weak Shen that describes our spiritual well-being. Strong Shen is when one is calm, strong, and well-nourished and strong Shen guides us to realize our potential as human beings, cultivates peace, compassion, and joy, and, in very tangible ways, helps us to maintain a centered sense of mental and emotional well-being in times of stress (Upton). Weak Shen is when we lose our center, becoming easily frazzled by lack of nourishment, poor diet, lack of vitality, excessive stress, and sleep disturbances. Thankfully, there are herbal allies to help balance our Shen. These herbs support the heart, mind, and spirit. The Heart, in Chinese or Greek/Arabic (Unani) medicine, includes the physical heart and the entire arterial system, but also the conscious mind (Bergner). There are a couple different categories of herbs for emotional support such as herbs for the heart, herbs for the mind, and herbs for the spirit.
Heart supportive herbs:
Crataegus spp. (Hawthorne): This is a famous “heart” tonic that is full of antioxidants and helps neutralize free radicals. Hawthorne is a diuretic, nutritive, cardiotonic, cardioprotective, trophorestorative which overall improves cardiac function. Hawthorne improves coronary circulation and increases blood supply which helps maintain healthy arteries. In Celtic mythology, Hawthorne symbolizes love and protection. Hawthorne is known as the “broken heart” herb which can bring one a message of hope and healing our heart on the emotional and physical level. Hawthorne cleanses the heart of negativity and replenishes our body through nourishment.
Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort): Motherwort is an antispasmodic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardiac trophorestorative nervine that is used for melancholy, restlessness, and disturbed sleep from physical or emotional ailments. Motherwort strengthens the heart and is also known to relieve anxiety and tension from heart palpitations and lift the spirit in times of distress. This herb works its magic in the realm of the heart physically, emotionally, and energetically.
Herbs for Peace of Mind:
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): This is one of my all-time favorite herbs. Ashwagandha is a neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, adaptogenic, and cardioprotective herb that promotes physical and mental health by supporting vitality, strength, rejuvenation, and endurance. This herb supports long life, eases the mind, and improves cognitive function. Ashwagandha rejuvenates the nervous system and enhances the body’s resilience to stress.
Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil): Holy Basil is considered a tonic for the heart, mind, and spirit. It is traditionally used to maintain emotional well-being and support a positive outlook. Holy Basil helps normalize our body’s stress response and lowers cortisol levels which therefore increases mental and physical endurance leaving one more resilient and able to combat stress and anxiety.
Herbs for The Spirit:
Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi): Reishi mushroom is a Shen tonic that nourishes the spirit. It induces a state of peaceful focus, relaxes the nervous system, and is calming to the mind. Reishi is known as the “spiritual awakening” herb. It helps you get out of your head and into your heart by activating connection with one’s higher potential and showing us the way to spiritual abundance.
Salvia officinalis (Sage): Sage is an antibacterial herb that is loaded with antioxidants which supports memory and brain function. Sage smudging can lift the spirits by removing negative energy. Burning sage is an ancient and spiritual ritual that has been around thousands of years. Sage is also known to boost cognitive function, improve sleep habits, and soothe everyday stress.
Heart, Mind & Soul Infusion
- 2 tablespoons Hawthorne (Crataegus spp.)berries, leaves, flowers
- 1 tablespoon Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) leaf
- 1 tablespoon of Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaf
- 1 tablespoon of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root
- Fill a French press or a mason jar with each of these herbs
- Pour boiling water on top of herbs, filling French press or mason jar
- Let the herbs sit anywhere from 20 minutes to an overnight infusion
- Strain the herbs, take a deep breath, and drink your delicious heart, mind, and soul blend
Upton, Roy (2006) “Reishi mushroom,” American Herbal Pharmacopoeia
Bergner, P. (2012). Herbs for the spiritual heart. Medical herbalism, 16(4), 2-6. Retrieved from http://medherb.com/eletter/Spiritual-heart-only.pdf
Pivarnik, M (2019) “Emotional Self Care” retrieved from https://theherbalacademy.com/emotional-self-care-herbs/
Holmes, Peter. (1989). The Energetics of Western Herbs: Integrating Western and Oriental Herbal Medicine Traditions. Boulder, CO: Artemis Press.
Tilgner, Sharol (2020), Herbal Medicine From The Heart of the Earth