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Heart-Based Plant Medicine: Herbs to Support Grief

I don’t think I need to spend much time convincing you that our hearts, as a collective, need soothing. Humanity has been struggling with really unkind, traumatic and concerning events and trends for a long time. I don’t know about you, but systemic oppression, racism, patriarchy, sexism, plus a world-wide pandemic is really just too much for this girl on some days! Sometimes we just need a little extra heart-balm to soothe the spirit. In case you didn’t know this already, herbs don’t only work physically in the body, they can also be emotional remedies to offer a little extra support when we need it. 

Loss or significant change (and the grief that comes with it), can come from all sorts of life experiences:

  • Changing or losing a job
  • The end of a romantic relationship
  • Loss of pet
  • Becoming a parent (and grieving the loss of individuality and who you were before having a child)
  • World-wide events (wars, conflict, political events, events that showcase racism, oppression and violence) 
  • Experiences of systemic oppression & discrimination (racism, ageism, sexism, ableism, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, religion etc)
  • Traumatic events (whether that be in childhood or as an adult)
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Environmental grief related to the destruction of nature on our planet
  • And the list goes on... 

The heaviness of grief can be all-consuming. I’ve often compared the grieving process to  being stuck in the ocean during a storm. The waves of grief can hit you so hard, then subside, just to come back full-force again. It's hard to make out what's up and what's down, you’re trying to tread water, but the waves keep plunging you under, everything is foggy, there’s rain pouring down on your face,  and it’s hard to see the way out. But every storm passes. Eventually, the rain starts to lighten, the waves become smaller, you get your head above water and the rays of sunshine start to poke through the clouds again. 

Note: Grief is a totally normal and healthy emotional process. It’s important to feel the grief, to acknowledge it and get support. When we stuff down grief, and simply “move on” without allowing space for our emotions to surface, we’ll be more likely to numb and distract ourselves in other ways: watching way too many shows on Netflix, scrolling through social media, over-consuming alcohol or drugs of any kind (including cannabis), overeating, being too busy (with no down time), constant dating and the list goes on and on.  You see- the grief doesn’t go away, it just gets locked into our cells and bodies, and may later manifest as physical symptoms such as asthma and respiratory issues (in Traditional Chinese Medicine grief is associated with the lungs), anxiety, depression, and ultimately is a form of stress on your nervous system.   

Having said that, grief is not an easy emotion to feel. Hence, our desire to not feel it. But be brave, my sweet. Feel the feelings. Let it out. Look at what your loss is bringing up for you. Look at what your grief is teaching you (often grief is there to show us what we truly care about). Get support and come out the other side stronger for it. Easier said than done, I know. But you’ve got this. You can go through hard things. You have the capacity for hard emotions, which ultimately gives you a greater capacity to allow in the positive emotions on the other spectrum as well. 

And for the times you feel like you can barely stay afloat, when the grief takes over your heart so much it hurts (which will inevitably happen)- you don’t have to go through it alone. Not only is it a good idea to lean on at least one person you fully trust during your difficult time (a close friend, family member or caring professional such as a counsellor or psychologist), but your herbal allies are here to offer some love and support as you navigate through some tender and difficult moments. 

To help soothe your heart while you ride the waves of grief, here is my herbal formula to gently lighten the load on your heart, so you have the courage to continue through your grief process until you gradually get to the other side. 

This herbal formula will: 

  • Lift your spirits (to counter some of the heaviness grief can bring)
  • Nourish your nervous system to calm anxiousness & restlessness 
  • Gently support sleep (which can become disturbed when grieving)
  • Open the heart 
  • Encourage compassion both to self & others 
  • Instill a sense of courage 

My “Uplifted Heart” Formula for Grief 

1 part- Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

¼ part- Rose (Rosa spp.)

1 part- Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis)

1 part- Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) 

1 part- Oats (Avena sativa)

1 part- Linden (Tilia europaea)

If making a tincture add: 

5 drops Borage flower essence* 

5 drops Rescue Remedy flower essence* 

*These flower essences can be taken separately as well, if you’re making a tea. 

Tincture Blend Instructions: Mix all tincture parts together in a bottle, shake well and take 5-10ml daily to soothe your soul, calm your nerves and uplift your spirits. 

Tea Blend Instructions: Mix all dried herb parts together in a bowl and store in an air-tight container out of direct sunlight. Add 2 tsp of the blended herbs into a mug and pour 1 cup of boiling water over top. Let steep with the lid on for 5-10 minutes. Drink 2 cups daily, while sitting quietly with yourself to calm your mind and soothe your spirit. 

Herbs & Flower Essences That Help With Grief 

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Hawthorn is a classic herbal remedy for the heart, not only to tonify and balance the whole cardiovascular system physically, but to also soothe the emotional heart. The flowering tops have a mild sedative action, which act to calm the nervous system and soothe the nerves- something often needed when we’re going through grief. 

The energetic properties of Hawthorn, helps us to give and receive love, which can be hard to do when our heart hurts so much. It helps to keep the heart open when it might otherwise want to close. It can also help to encourage self-love and self-acceptance. (2) Depending on the type of loss or grief, we can be hard on ourselves, blame ourselves for what happened (or is happening), and lose sight of who we truly are. Hawthorn helps us to develop courage through heart-ache, so we can show up with strength through the dark times. In fact, the word courage comes from the latin word cor, which means heart. I love this because it shows us that being courageous isn’t an act of willpower or forcefulness, it’s a quality that emanates from the heart. 

Rose (Rosa spp.)

Rose is a beautiful flower that has been used for centuries to alleviate heart-ache and uplift the emotional heart. It’s useful to promote unconditional love for self and others, something that can be difficult when we’re in a grieving process. It can be hard to see the forest from the trees (the big picture) when we’re grieving. Sometimes we can get resentful and blame ourselves or others for the circumstances, which adds to the heaviness of it all. Rose can help us keep our hearts open by encouraging feelings of compassion and acceptance, both to ourselves and other people through the process. (3)

Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemonbalm is a lovely member of the mint family that offers an uplifting and gently invigorating energy to the body. It acts centrally in the nervous system to gently calm anxiety, lift depressive states and help the body cope with grief. If sleep is affected by the grieving process, Lemonbalm can help to ease sleep troubles, as well. 

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) 

Holy basil (Tulsi) is an adaptogen, which means it helps your body cope more effectively with any kind of stress, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. In Ayurvedic medicine, tulsi is known as “The Incomparable One,” “Mother Medicine of Nature” and “The Queen of Herbs,” and is revered as an “elixir of life” for both its medicinal and spiritual properties (4). It’s an herb that is viewed to be deeply sacred (hence the latin name “sanctum”), and has been used for thousands of years to bring mental clarity, uplift the spirits and calm anxiety. In fact, “the psychotherapeutic properties of tulsi have been explored in various animal experiments that reveal that tulsi has anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties, with effects comparable to diazepam and antidepressants drugs.” (4) Needless to say, this is a powerful plant ally along the emotional journey of grief. 

Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats are a wonderful remedy to restore, rejuvenate and nourish the nervous system on a deep level (when we’re grieving, this is a body system that absolutely needs to be supported). Not only do oats calm an over agitated nervous system, which is useful for anxiety, but the seeds are thymoleptic, which means they have a mild “antidepressant” and uplifting effect. 

Linden (Tilia europaea)

Linden is another herb that’s been traditionally used for physical and emotional imbalances of the heart. It’s gently sedative and calming to the nervous system, which helps to ease any anxiousness, restlessness, overworry and sleep disturbances that may come through the grieving process. 

Borage Flower Essence

I love this flower essence and always remember how it works by this phrase: “Borage for Courage”. It helps to shift the heavy-heartedness that comes with grief, can shift depressive tendencies towards a buoyancy of the spirit and helps strengthen self-confidence when facing difficult circumstances or emotions. It’s an excellent all-purpose balm and toner of the heart when the heart feels too heavy, and when it needs “the healing forces of light, upliftment and renewal”. (1) 

Rescue Remedy Flower Essence

Also known as “5 Flower Blend”, this remedy is made up of the flower essences of Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum and Clementis. It’s used for emergency situations or times of increased stress, which can bring with it feelings of anxiety, fear of losing control and/or panic brought about by loss, grief, or traumatic events.  

Never heard of flower essences? They’re wonderful remedies that specifically help to shift emotional patterns that affect our psyches and spirits. Learn more about what flower essences are here. 

May you be gentle with yourself through your grief, may you always be supported and loved in your grief and may you know that there is always sun after the storm. 

With all my compassion and love, 

Bree xo 


References

  1. Kaminski. P. (Flower Essence Services). Cor Kit: Twelve Flower Essences to Nurture and En-Lighten the Heart Booklet. 
  2. Freed. M. Traditional Roots. Hawthorn: Heart Healing from Physical to Spiritual
  3. Green, M. Heart and Soul of Rose: Remedy for Chronic Sorrow
  4. Cohen, M. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons

2 comments

  • Hey Kelsey, yes I can put this together for you :) You can send me an email or DM on instagram. I’ll reach out as well!

    Bree
  • Hey Bree! Are you selling the heart-grief blend? If so I’d love to purchase. I don’t have the time or energy to find these herbs and put together.

    Kelsey

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