“The heart possesses
its own intrinsic nervous system—a network of nerves so functionally
sophisticated as to earn the description of a ‘heart brain.’” – HeartMath
There is an
intelligence that runs through all things—through the earth, the plants, the
animals and through humans. A web of intelligent energy that must be felt in
the heart and soul, as it is not a thinking thing.
Plants are living
“beings” and therefore have a spirit. The spirit of the plants came into that
specific form with the intention of helping and healing the Earth, animals and
As herbalists, when we
think about heart health, a handful of herbs routinely come up, and at the top
of the list is always hawthorn. Indigenous people around the world honored this
beautiful plant, and often when it came into harvest, children would make
hawthorn preparations and present them to the village elders as a gift of the
heart and for the heart. Their intention was to honor the elders’ wisdom and
offer this gift of a strong heart and continued health so they would live long,
healthy lives and continue to share their wisdom.
There is a class of
plants called amphoteric (brings to balance), and hawthorn is definitely one of
these, as it “brings the heart back into its right rhythm.” Hawthorn is traditionally
used to improve heart function, help reduce blood pressure, relax and repair
vascular walls, help reduce bad cholesterol, and is a general tonic for the
heart and circulatory system.
Anxiety and panic
attacks are something herbalists have been seeing a huge increase in over the
past few years, and as with all imbalances, nature has an herb to help. The
amazing herb motherwort is incredibly helpful to help slow
down a racing heart or racing thoughts due to stress or anxiety. It is an
herbal nervine, which helps to feed and nourish the nervous system.
Motherwort’s botanical name, Leonurus cardiaca, means “lion hearted.”
When you need the heart of a lion or when you need to be strong but calm, something
we could all use, this herb shines!
Another wonderful heart-healthy
herb that has gained popularity in recent years is the beautiful hibiscus flower.
Herbalists have been using hibiscus flower throughout history to help reduce
blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol; boost the immune system; and speed
wound healing. According to the Dr. Axe website (DrAxe.com/nutrition/hibiscus-tea): “Hibiscus is full of
antioxidants that fight free radical damage caused by poor diet and constant exposure to
dangerous chemicals. These are found mainly in the anthocyanins of the plant,
the natural pigments that give this flower its red color.”
If your diet is not as “clean”
as you would always like, and whose is, then try cinnamon. It contains a
polyphenol that is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, two
enemies of the heart. It may also help with abdominal fat, lower triglyceride
levels, and improve LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Adding cinnamon
to your cooking is one great way to get started, but adding it to a heart-healthy
tea makes all the sense in the world. And it tastes delicious!
Cinnamon-y Hibiscus Brew
2 oz hibiscus flowers,
½ oz motherwort herb,
½ oz mixed hawthorn
berries, flowers and leaves, dried
2 large cinnamon sticks
or 1 oz cinnamon chips
Local honey to taste
To make: Mix all your herbs in a pot and fill with eight
cups of water, cover, and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Take off heat and
let steep, covered, for several hours (if you can wait!). When the tea becomes
room temperature, add your honey to taste (probably one big heaping tablespoon).
Let this blend well for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain into a pitcher and store
in the refrigerator for six to seven days. Enjoy hot or cold.
As a side note, we know
that cardiovascular health and oral health are closely related. Try adding a
drop of cinnamon essential oil to your toothbrush. It might help avoid tooth decay
and even make your breath sweeter!
These medicinal plants
are relatively safe, and that gives us room to mix and match and play with them
right in our own kitchen. If you are not comfortable enough to experiment with
them on your own, you can pop into your local herb shop and talk to one of
their herbalists to help guide you. Either way, try incorporating these into
your daily routine—your heart will love you for it.
Madalyn Johnson (le�ft) and Kathleen Gould (right)
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are
proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist
for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more
information, call 480-694-9931 or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.