Humans are emotional beings, though, in our modern society, we often place importance on the physical body. This focus can lead to ignoring the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages from our emotional body. While it may feel easier to put attention on the physical body, tending to emotional self-care is necessary for overall vitality. It’s impossible to not be challenged by the constant bombardment of information and news; sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to do with those racing thoughts and emotions.
In this article, I will share three herbs with you, along with some simple recipes, that can be used to tend to the spiritual heart.
What is the Spiritual Heart?
In Unani and Chinese medicine, the heart is known as the seat of the spirit or conscious awareness.
The spiritual heart establishes boundaries along with a sense of protection and safety from abuses. This natural protector often influences our personal integrity and strengthens our courage. When the spiritual heart feels supported, it is then that love, openness, kindness, compassion, and connection thrive.
This seat of consciousness has the ability to know without the use of logic or mental stimulation. Through openness and ability to recognize truth, the spiritual heart can receive guidance, inspiration, and wisdom (Bergner, 2012).
Herbalist Alexis Durham expresses that with 40,000 neurons, the heart, in a sense, has its own nervous system and can independently make decisions, receive information, and hold memory (Durham, 2017). Through the vagus nerve, the heart communicates with the brain, sending more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart (Durham, 2017). This is an intelligent system that goes well beyond the physical.
Herbs for Emotional Self-Care
Considering the emotional body is an important aspect of overall wellbeing as it has a great impact on more than just our mood. 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.
Self-care is not always as beautiful as we see on social media. Moving emotional blockages can often be a hard, sweaty, and long process. However, using herbs for emotional self-care can help bring moments of sweetness and softness to the process through aroma, taste, touch, and sight.
Emotional self-care herbs often fall into the categories (sometimes overlapping) of heart exhilarant, heart protectant, heart relaxant, heart strengthener, or heart opening/softening. While there are many herbs to support the emotional heart, in this article, we will dig deeper into three herbs you can bring into your emotional self-care routine.
- Linden (Tilia spp.) flower and bract as a heart relaxant
- Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) berry, leaf, and flower as a heart protector
- Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaf as a heart exhilarant
Below, I will expand on these three emotional self-care herbs and how to use them in simple preparations. I have included two aromatic herbs in this article because aromatic herbs have a relaxant effect on the muscles surrounding the arteries, allowing for more blood to flow from the core to the extremities, and have shown a positive impact on heart rate variability (Masé, 2013). Because there is less stress on the heart, we are more open and more relaxed both in our physical and spiritual heart.
3 Herbs for Emotional Self-Care
Linden (Tilia spp.)
Known to unwind and unknot tension, linden is a heart relaxant—soothing distress and sorrow. Linden is also known as aromatic, mucilaginous, astringent, cooling, and relaxing (Easley & Horne, 2016). It acts as a nervine and calms the heart on a physical level. Historically, linden trees were a gathering place for communities to find resolution and peace.
With its heart-shaped leaves, you can almost guess that this herb would support the heart and be helpful for emotional self-care. Linden, with its opening qualities, is indicated for people who are stressed, overwhelmed, and agitated and works to soothe an overworked system.
Linden is fairly abundant and at home in most climates. The linden tree is loved by bees, and on summer days near the Summer Solstice, when the linden flowers are in bloom, you can hear the treetops abuzz with insect life. With a breeze, the sweet aromatics are a pleasant gift to deeply breathe.
Linden is a gentle herb with profound impact, and it can be incorporated into a daily herbal tea or bath preparation. A simple linden infusion is called a tilleul which enhances love and an open heart.
Linden Bath Tea
1-2 cups of organic linden (Tilia spp.) flowers and bracts
1 undyed muslin cloth and string
- Fill muslin cloth with linden flowers and bracts and tie the end of the cloth with a string.
- Toss your “tea bag” into the bathtub.
- Fill a bathtub with water at a temperature to your liking.
- Soak and enjoy the velvety nature and sweet aromatics that linden adds to the water.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
Some of our herbs for emotional self-care have thorns, thus providing protection and boundary in one plant. Thorns offer us the opportunity to notice how fierceness and kindness can exist together. Thorns ask for respect. Thorny trees, shrubs, and bushes often yield soft and sweet fruits—again combining that fierceness and compassion in one.
Hawthorn can feel like a big hug in times of deep need. It is a heart protector, and I think of it as providing nourishment, protection, and a sense of strength to our innate self. The strength is not from a hardness or rigidness, but from a place of boundary where, in fact, there is a greater gentleness sourced from that strength and confidence. According to herbalist Rebecca Altman, hawthorn allows us to fully feel our grief while feeling held at the same time.
Hawthorn is a part of the rose family and offers flowers, leaf, and berry as nourishment. It is safe for long-term use and is a great addition to an overnight infusion (Easley & Horne, 2016). When extracted with water, hawthorn offers the body several supportive actions for emotional self-care. First, it is nutritive. Nutrition is an important piece to cultivating balanced emotions. Through the berry’s micronutrients, we are able to nourish our nervous system. It also acts as a nervine and is said to calm the heart when overly excited. The berries are moistening and nutrient dense (Easley & Horne, 2016), and the leaves and flowers are calming and nourishing as well. Combining all three parts of this plant (leaf, flower, and berry) can create a lovely physically and emotionally grounding daily tea.
Hawthorn Overnight Infusion
2 heaping tablespoons of equal parts organic hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) leaf, flower, and berry
1 pint-sized canning jar
- Fill a pint jar with 2 heaping tablespoons of equal parts hawthorn leaf, flower, and berry mixture.
- Pour just-boiled water over the herb, and let it sit overnight.
- Stain in the morning and enjoy throughout the day at room temperature or warmed up.
Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Another aromatic herb, tulsi is a traditional herb used in Ayurveda and Western herbalism that acts as a heart exhilarant. Tulsi is a substance that inclines the spirit towards joy by inciting vitality into the spiritual heart.
Tulsi is known as a heart tonic, nervine, relaxant, adaptogen, aromatic, and digestive, among other attributes. It is also a warming and drying herb (Winston & Maimes, 2007). Its ability to help the body adapt to stress, which is often at the core of wellness concerns, allows for the enlivening of the spirit and body as well as experiencing openness and receptivity. Tulsi helps to strengthen our sense of self and keep out what does not support our innate self-ness (Altman, 2018b).
Tulsi has a multitude of actions, however, its effect on stress and overwhelm may allow for the softness within to shine. What happens when stress and overwhelm are calmed? We release fear. We are less agitated. Our digestion and immunity may improve. By supporting these systems within the body, and specifically the nervous system, we have the opportunity to move through our days with less emotional weight and feel our vitality rise.
Morning Tulsi Enlivening Tea
1 heaping tablespoon of tulsi leaf
1 pint-sized canning jar
- Fill a pint-sized jar with 1 heaping tablespoon of tulsi leaf.
- Pour just-boiled water over the herb, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
- Strain and sip throughout the morning to experience enlivening and focus.
An Herbal Formula for Emotional Self-Care
Emotional self-care can become a regular part of your routine and these herbs are a great place to start. Using linden, hawthorn, and tulsi, you can experience the heart relaxant, protectant, and exhilarant subtleties all at once. As touch is an important aspect of our humanness, these herbs can feel like a gentle hug to support your emotional well-being throughout your days.
Spiritual Heart Infusion
1 tablespoon of linden (Tilia spp.) flowers and bracts
1 tablespoon of hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) leaf, flower, and berries
1 tablespoon of tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaf
- Add 1 heaping tablespoon of each of the three herbs above into a quart-sized jar.
- Pour just-boiled water over herbs, filling the jar.
- Let the mixture sit for as little as 30 minutes or as long as an overnight infusion. The longer the infusion macerates, the stronger it will be.
- When finished, strain and compost herbs, and sip throughout the day for a heart relaxing, exhilarating, and protective treat.
We can all use emotional self-care. We all deserve tenderness and the opportunity to focus on more than just the physical body but the emotional body as well. Herbs for emotional self-care can gift us the space for forgiveness, help us to let go of anger, find acceptance, and come back to the core of who we are. Aside from these pieces of emotional self-care, these herbs also taste and smell delicious! Enjoy!
Altman, R. (2018a). On boundaries and thorn medicine. Retrieved from https://mailchi.mp/kingsroadapothecary/on-boundaries-and-thorn-medicine?e=48ae1122d8
Altman, R. (2018b). Tulsi and the changing seasons. Retrieved from https://mailchi.mp/kingsroadapothecary/tulsi-and-the-changing-seasons?e=48ae1122d8
Bergner, P. (2012). Herbs for the spiritual heart. Medical herbalism, 16(4), 2-6. Retrieved from http://medherb.com/eletter/Spiritual-heart-only.pdf
Durham, A. (2017). Herbs for the heart and emotional healing. Retrieved from the Traditional Roots Herbal Conference: https://traditionalroots.org/files/2017/04/Herbs-for-the-Heart-and-Emotional-Healing.pdf
Easley, T., & Horne, S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Masé, G. (2013). The wild medicine solution: Healing with aromatic, bitter, and tonic plants. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Winston, D., & Mainmes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.