There are many reasons a heart can break. It could be a literal break, as in a heart attack or a cardiovascular illness. Or, it could be a metaphorical break—at the end of a relationship, or after the death of a loved one or pet. No matter if these partings are amicable, tragic, distressing, or unpleasant, they all leave the heart in a vulnerable position.
When you experience a loss, physical pain in the chest can follow. This pain, though perhaps not as dangerous, is just as real as the pain experienced during a physical crisis of the heart and needs just as much time, energy, and healing.
Herbs can help heal the heart and lift the spirit; depression, anger, loss, and loneliness can result from emotional or physical heartbreak. Try the following herbs and take some time to be good to yourself—relax, breathe, and give your heart a much-needed break.
Note: if you take any medications for cardiovascular health, please consult your physician before taking any alternative remedies.
1. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.):
Hawthorn is an all-around heart tonic, serving to strengthen and tone the cardiovascular system, lower cholesterol levels, and manage blood pressure. On an emotional level, the idea of a stronger, more resilient heart may allow us to spring back from heartbreak and venture forward on a new path without so much fear and heartsickness.
Typically with hawthorn preparations, we use the berries of the tree, but the flowers and leaves can be included, too. When I create blends for emotional upset, I prefer to use the flowers (something about the metaphor of the flower opening and turning to the sun) and save the berries for physical disruptions. But really, any part of the herb can work.
Try a hawthorn tincture and drop a dose into warm water or tea. Warm beverages are especially soothing for nervous complaints. Or, if you can find dried berries, steep a half teaspoon of crushed berries in a cup of hot water. Wait 10 minutes, sweeten, and sip quietly.
2. Rose Petals (Rosa rugosa):
The rose has long been identified with love and matters of the heart. Just as the red rose can be the symbol of love’s beginning, the white rose can signify the end of a life. Any flower with such range over the emotional spectrum is a necessary addition to a home heart-repair kit.
Rose petals can calm the nerves, relieve insomnia and mild depression, drive away mental and physical fatigue, and soothe feelings of anger or resentment. Roses can open the heart and lift the spirit; they can be used to overcome grief, or to ready the heart for a new beginning.
Try rose petal tea. Steep a tablespoon of rose petals in a cup of water for five minutes. Add a light-flavored honey, so as not to mask the delicate flavor of the rose.
3. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis):
Lemon balm is a wonderful herb for treating insomnia that stems from worry and heartbreak, nervous tension, stomach upset due to stress, and even skin outbreaks (including rashes) resulting from stress and tension.
Try lemon balm tea. Steep two teaspoons of dried lemon balm per cup of water. Add sweetener and a splash of lemon juice for flavor. You can also try combining lemon balm and rose petals for a warm and sweet tea with a bit of lemony zing.
4. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca):
This is an excellent remedy for a racing heart caused by stress, tension, and general emotional upset. A soothing herb for the nerves as well, motherwort can settle a racing mind and bring back the restorative balm of untroubled sleep.
Try a motherwort tincture and squeeze a half teaspoon or so into a cup of hot water or tea.
Important note: Avoid motherwort while pregnant.
5. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
One of Ophelia’s most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is, “There’s Rosemary. That’s for remembrance.”
Traditionally, rosemary was believed (and still is!) to strengthen the memory. As such, it became a symbol of fidelity for lovers.
Even if fidelity is a painful subject at the moment, and even if your heartbreak was so painful that you welcome the idea of forgetting, it might behoove you to lean a little on this herb.
Keep the memories that serve you and learn from those that don’t. Memories are long and potent and can poison over time. Allow rosemary to sweeten your memories and guide you gently to a place of forgiveness.
Physically, rosemary strengthens the circulatory system, inviting us to warm up and get up. Its woodsy scent reminds us that there is life beyond our pajamas. Rosemary inspires action and motion—perfect therapies for a broken heart.
Try a mild rosemary tea. Steep a few teaspoons in a cup of water for about five minutes. Add sweetener and a bit of non-dairy milk, if you like. Also try combining with rose petals for a light and complex flavor.
No matter what makes your heartache, just taking time for yourself, holding onto a warm cup of tea, and either sitting quietly or feeding your soul with nurturing company—be it in the form of books, friends, or films, are the first steps toward healing your heart center.