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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

The Heart of It

Jan 31, 2020 12:00PM ● By Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
“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 Institute

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 humans.

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 ( “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, dried

½ oz motherwort herb, dried

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 or

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