Herbs for Grief & Loss

Losing a loved one changes you. For me, it’s as though a piece of my heart is missing, and this causes physical pain. Sometimes it’s difficult to breathe. After my beautiful daughter, Christina, died, one of my lungs collapsed. I often wonder if the heartache and difficulty breathing contributed to that collapsed lung.

The plethora of emotions and levels of grief are too numerous to list. But a few to mention are: insomnia, apathy, depression, loneliness, anxiety…

There’s no ‘right’ way to grieve.

Grieving honors the lost relationship and creates a tender yet gut-wrenching journey for those left behind. Mourning is often a lonely time even though friends and family are near. The experience of loss affects each family member uniquely, the way one family member manages their grief could be the reverse of how another family member will manage. I appreciate those in my life who give me the time and space to feel the full spectrum of emotions without demanding I behave differently.

Get over it!

Do you feel like others just want you to ‘get over it’? Get back to your former self? Those of us who grieve know this isn’t possible. We have been transformed.

I experience waves of grief that suddenly come crashing in. My dreams reveal that grieving is continuous. I embrace it. It reminds me to slow down, quiet my mind and allow the emotions to flow through… these can be like a gentle stream, and then again, a raging river.

Talk about Those who have Gone before Us.

I’m eternally grateful to those friends who aren’t afraid to acknowledge the sadness I may be feeling during the holidays and other special occasions, and to those who mention Christina’s name often. I love to talk about her (even if I cry).

Herbal Allies and an Alternative Method of Healing

Being a lover of herbs, I turned to herbal allies that support the heart and mind during times of grieving. These lovely plants have a long history of use for heartache, loss and sorrow. Strong emotions are healthy when they move through the body. Herbs can help this process.

Herbs won’t mask or cover-up our feelings like some pharmaceuticals do, but rather, they support the body and mind as we experience strong emotions. When you drink a cup of herbal tea it’s a good practice to sit quietly and observe the effects of your herbal ally. You’ll love this quiet meditative experience, and the nourishment of plant medicine.

I have a special affinity for Hawthorn & Roses. Do you have an affinity for a specific herb? My guess is you do and perhaps don’t even know it. Take a moment and think about the plants/flowers that inspire, energize and/or excite you. These are YOUR herbs. In this case, explore their therapeutic benefits and then include them as your herbal allies.

Historically, Hawthorn has been used to support the physical and emotional heart. The Hawthorn tree is part of the Rose (Rosaceae) family, and since I love roses it’s not surprising that I love Hawthorn. The berries have a slightly sweet taste making it a pleasant addition to an herbal tea and other treats. Tinctures made with the berries are quite tasty, too. Use the berries or the flowers to support your heart. Hawthorn has a direct effect on the cells of the heart muscle. It’s known as a heart tonic, providing nourishment and a sense of well-being. Hawthorn dilates veins and arteries, which allows blood to flow freely. Rosemary Gladstar suggests in Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health “Hawthorn is a wonderful remedy for ‘broken hearts’”.

Rose is another an herb for healing and supporting the heart… but you already knew this, right? Its fragrance lifts your mood and thus, softens and opens the heart. A therapeutic rose is a wild rose, a delightfully simple 5 petalled flower. Be sure to use an organic source of wild rose when using internally to avoid pesticides, etc. Rosalee de la Forêt says in Alchemy of Herbs “Their scent, their physical beauty, and their medicine fluidly address our physical and emotional health, making it a wonderful medicine for the whole heart”.

I often use Rose (Rosa spp.) in herbal oils and other skin care products. Its fragrance is one of my favorites, and its calming and soothing properties are too wonderful not to include in a skin care product. It’s also wonderful in an herbal bath. Important to note: its fragrance calms the nervous system.

Another lovely herb for heart health is Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), a member of the mint family. Interestingly, Leonurus cardiaca translates ‘lion-hearted’, which instantly instills a sense of power and strength in my mind. Equally interesting is the latin name cardiaca (cardiac). Another heart tonic that nurtures and supports the heart muscle, as well as the circulatory system. Maud Grieves claims, there is “no better herb for strengthening and gladdening the heart”. Motherwort supports women’s health. It’s not the tastiest herb, so best in a tea with more palatable herbs or in tincture form. The tincture can be added to a Rose Elixir. Yum!

Linden is relaxing herb (nervine) as well as a heart tonic. It is known to prevent thickening of the walls of arteries and high blood pressure. Its relaxant properties and tonic effect on the circulatory system is helpful not only for the heart, but also migraine sufferers. Include this flower in your herbal infusions to aid in heartache and anxiety related to loss. Linden can be added to your bath, too. Have you taken an herbal bath? If not, try Linden for your first experience with an herbal bath. You’ll love it!

Herbs are our allies, they don’t mask our feelings, they support us as we navigate through the grieving process. Our bodies are supported in gentle ways by the herb’s active ingredients. We are designed to live in harmony with nature and her many gifts.

Have you tried herbals teas, tinctures, baths or elixirs to support your times of loss or stress? I’d love to hear from you. Share it in the comments below.

Resources:

Medical herbalism, Hoffmann, David 2003 

Alchemy of Herbs, Rosalee de la Forêt 2017

Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, Rosemary Gladstar 2008

The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook, James Green 2000

www.studiobotanica.com/hearts-ease-tea-recipe-for-grief-support/

www.blueridgeschool.org/blog/2015/02/13/heart-opening-in-the-thick-of-winter

www.theherbalacademy.com/herbal-grief-tea/?ap_id=GrowingUpHerbal

www.herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/2017/03/a-materia-medica-for-grief/

www.herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1024  

www.herbs.motherearthliving.com/motherwort-leonurus-cardiaca/

www.herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/4084

Disclaimer: The information written in CRY Herbals’ emails, blog & website is for creative and educational purposes only. This information should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. All questions regarding any health condition should be addressed to your primary care physician or other healthcare provider. We are simply ordinary folk who love experimenting and working with natural herbal products to enhance and support the body in health and well-being. It is joy and honor to explore the historical and contemporary practices of herbalism for the purposes of education and personal fulfillment. ?

1 Comment

  1. Deborah Burroughs

    Thank you!! I appreciate you taking the time to read. 🙂

    Reply

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