In a vision I saw a rose bloom in my heart. The soft, tender petals gently softened my own heart, releasing the hardness that had formed like a shield. The rose opened, and invited my own heart to open. But before vulnerability to set in, a wall of thorn rose up around my heart space, protecting the soft center, allowing it to remain open without fear. This is my rose medicine.
In times of great distress, whether it be personal heartache, or greater events that we experience as a people, heart-nourishing herbs can be wonderful allies. The herbs that support our heart centers, both physical and emotional, should be in everyone's materia medica. These plants cannot take away our pain... we still need to move through it, process it, but they can soften the blow, help us feel protected and supported under a weight that bears heavy on the heart.
Our hearts are our primary organs of perception. The felt sense we experience in heart communication, whether that be with other humans, animals, plants, or the land itself, informs us and makes us wiser than our mental communication ever could. But keeping that heart communication open requires keeping our hearts open. When we are hurt, traumatized, or simply living through crisis that seem unbearable, we may wish to close our hearts down to protect ourselves from feeling further pain. But this also serves to close off our heart communication with the living world around us. Keeping these lines of communication open is not only important for our individual health and well-being, but it is essential for the well-being of the planet. For only people with wounded, closed-down hearts can possibly act destructively to the life support system of our living world without inflicting pain upon themselves in the process. For this reason, I consider the heart protectors to be among the most important medicine in herbalism.
Roses have been a symbol of the heart for ages. We give roses to show our affection for someone. But the heart medicine of rose goes much further than romantic love. Roses help us to keep our hearts open, especially when we are wounded by trauma, so we can stay connected to those around us, allowing them in instead of shutting them out. But rose is also protection medicine (those thorns are no joke). In order to remain open and safe at the same time, we need good boundaries. Rose helps us learn where we need to set our boundaries... who we can allow in, what we will put up with, what we will say yes to, and when we need to say no.
Rose petals can be added to teas, or taken in tincture form (they make an especially lovely glycerite). I love to distill roses into a hydrosol for internal and external use. A cooling spray of rose water can be especially lovely in the summertime.
Hawthorn is also in the rose family, and also contains thorns. Hawthorn's heart medicine is well-know among herbalists. It nourishes, tones, and supports our physical heart, helping with all manner of cardiovascular issues from heart palpitations, to poor circulation, to high blood pressure. But hawthorn is also medicine for the emotional heart. Hawthorn's medicine can help us through times of grief, stress, and anxiety, holding us in a sacred heart space of healing (again, with strong boundaries of protection).
Hawthorn leaves and flowers can be added to teas. The berries are lovely in syrups and jams, but I usually use them in tincture form, either alone or in combination with other herbs in a formula.
It has been said that motherwort is the plant that mothers the mother. I think all mothers everywhere can relate to times when we've felt that we have given all we have to give, but have not received what we need. Motherwort is the medicine for these times. We are reminded to take time for self-nourishment and self-love, to fill our cups, so that we have reserves to do our loving work in the work, whether that be caring for children, the community, or simply nurturing a project. We all have good work to do in the world, but we need make sure we are not running on empty. Motherwort is all about giving ourselves permission to meet our own needs, with love.
Motherwort is very bitter and not often used in teas. The tincture can be used alone, or in combination with other herbs in formula. This year I made my first hydrosol of motherwort. The fragrance is very earthy and green. Spraying the aura and pulse points gives a subtle and lovely dose of motherwort's energetic medicine.
Getting to know the medicine of these three heart healers can be so valuable. We need heart helpers, perhaps in these changing times more than ever.
These statements are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please do your own research before using herbs.
April Coburn, herbalist and founder of Nettlejuice.
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