HERBS FOR GRIEF, HEARTBREAK AND LOSS
Grief isn’t just about the death of someone or something we cared deeply for, grief is also about loss, the end of a marriage or relationships, lost jobs, lost homes, lost opportunities.
Grief is a very personal journey; we each grieve in our own way in our own time. Grief also brings out different feelings in each individual at different stages of their grief process, such as deep sadness, depression, teariness, anxiety, guilt, anger, resentment, relief, circular thoughts, insomnia.
The pain can be intense, we can get lost in a dark fog never thinking that there could be an end, so we try to bury the feelings, mask the pain, lock it away in a box. This is not the answer; we must allow ourselves to feel the emotion, work though the pain and then let it all go.
This does not, however, mean that we should lose the memories we have of, say, that person where the relationship just did not work out, or of the wonderful times shared with our much-missed pet or family member whose time was taken from them far too soon. Our plant friends can help us on this healing journey by helping to reopen our closed hearts and to give us the courage to address our emotions as we process them.
Western medicine is only starting to slowly acknowledge what traditional healing systems have known for thousands of years – how important our emotional wellness is to our physical health. Just as our health depends on a good digestive system, our health also depends on us properly processing and digesting our emotions.
Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin) Mimosa is my favourite plant friend for use in times of profound heartbreak. It does not extinguish or mask the pain but allows us space, perspective and respite from the intensity.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine Mimosa is known as the ‘happiness herb’, used as an uplifting remedy that is particularly good for when emotions become stuck causing irritable anger, insomnia and feelings of pressure in the chest.
Rose (Rosa spp) Rose has many medicinal benefits but perhaps its most remarkable is its anti-depressant qualities and ability to open the heart, lift the spirits and heal broken hearts. Rose is very calming and balancing; it helps to ground us so that we can address our emotions rather than just react to them.
The old saying of ‘stopping to smell the roses’ is very good advice as even just the scent of the rose can gladden the heart when overburdened with stress, sadness and grief.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp) Hawthorn is well know for its supportive and protective effects on the cardiovascular system and the heart but it also has a lot to offer the emotional heart.
Hawthorn is a calming nervine that can help us to release the anger of grief, open our hearts and find the strength to let go and move on.
Borage (Borago officinalis) Well known in herbal folklore as ‘Borage for courage’. Traditionally Borage is known as a plant friend that brings gladness, with a unique ability to bestow not only joy but also courage. The ancient Celts and the Crusaders would add Borage flowers to stirrup cups of wine before heading to battle.
Borage is a deep acting nervine. It is immensely good for people who are so run down that they lack the strength, confidence or courage to face their responsibilities or emotions.
In Herbal Medicine and all traditional healing systems, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. We are all born with our own unique constitution. A qualified herbalist is skilled at determining your constitution; taking a detailed case history to understand the effect of your grief and the emotions you are experiencing on your body, mind and soul and then selecting the most suitable supportive herbs for you at the correct therapeutic dosage.
Although powerful allies our plant friends are not substitutes for psychotherapy or counselling. Sometimes talking to our friends and family isn’t enough and professional help should be sought. Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
Deep depression with suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others requires urgent medical help.
Bibliography Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Vermont. Healing Arts Press Kiva, R. (2007).
Sweet Medicine: Healing with the Wild Heart of Rose.[online] Available at: http://bearmedicineherbals.com/sweet-medicine-healing-with-the-wild-heart-of-rose.html: [Accessed: 2 September 2018]
VPK by Maharishi Ayurveda [online] Available at: http://www.mapi.com/ayurvedic-knowledge/personal-goals/balance-the-heart-with-roses-and-ayurveda.html [Accessed: 31 August 2018] Ullian, N (n.d)
A Materia Medica for Grief. Available at: https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/2017/03/a-materia-medica-for-grief/[Accessed: 31 August 2018] Wood, M. (1997).
The Book of Herbal Wisdom. Berkeley. North Atlantic Books
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