February 22, 2012

Over the past few weeks, a community of which I am a part has been badly shaken.  A respected leader and mentor has been accused of serious misconduct, and as a consequence a whole community is questioning its roots. The heart can be broken not only by romantic relationships but when any intimate relationship – with person, place, idea or thing – comes to an end.  In this case lives and livelihoods are being reconfigured, and a large community is acting, reacting, and re-shaping. Many people feel betrayed, hurt and vulnerable.

I was present in class recently when one of my teachers announced her parting of ways with this mentor, joining many others who have chosen to do the same. Her announcement was beautiful and the class was beautiful, honoring both the past and the future, and still a great sorrow was palpable. The ending of a relationship brings a profound sadness and also an opportunity to move in a new direction. Endings may arrive on the heels of great effort – the effort to make things work, to bridge differences, and to maintain the relationship. Bearing witness to the accompanying sadness when things fall apart despite all of the effort is a hard thing.

I’ve been impressed, inspired and touched by the many ways people have responded to this crisis of faith, as it were. I was also inspired by the class to contribute some ideas for getting through the hard times. I have no doubt that the community will rock on. How could it not, being filled with so many amazing people? I also know that when we’re hurting it can be hard to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it’s nice to have some help over the speed bumps. Here are five herbal helpers that are easy to find and deeply healing to the hurting heart:

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – The scent of lavender is a soothing balm for an aching heart. Many people find it calming and clarifying; it may also help you root into the present rather than dwelling on the past. Suggested use: use 1-2 drops of essential oil in a 1 tsp of olive oil or another carrier oil. Rub onto the heart area before meditation or sleep. A small drop of essential oil placed on your collar or scarf can also help you get through tough days.
  • Rose (Rosa spp.) – although rose flowers are typically pigeonholed as symbols of love, they also represent the feminine energies of tenderness, forgiveness and depth. Call upon this energy symbolically with pictures or meditations of roses, or more literally by adding a handful of rose petals or 3-4 drops of rose essential oil to your bath. You can also add 1 tsp of rose petals to a morning cup of tea. I love Tulsi organic sweet rose tea as well – yum! Commercial roses are often heavily sprayed, so please choose organic for medicinal use.
  • Oats (Avena sativa) – The milky seed has been traditionally used for burnout, when you’re too tired to even complain about how tired you are.  After anger and adrenaline fade, you start to realize how embodied your suffering is, and this is the time for oats.  The tincture is widely available, but it’s cheaper, easier and nearly as effective (in my humble opinion) to eat oatmeal. Daily. Use steel-cut or non-instant rolled oats, add some cinnamon, nuts, butter or another oil and honey. Nourish yourself consciously and give yourself some time to recuperate.
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) – The quintessential herb for sick days (a la Peter Rabbit), chamomile helps calm the nerves, soothe the digestive system and gently allows the body to let go.  2-3 teabags or 5-7 g of loose chamomile allowed to steep for 15+ minutes is a nice medicinal dose, one which may help restless minds drift off to sleep. Once again, commercial chamomile soaks up pesticides et al so please buy organic.

Also consider wrapping up any or all of the above herbs into a handkerchief, an old dress sock or a piece of muslin and adding the sachet to a hot bath for a soothing sensory treat.  Hope those affected find themselves getting stronger every day. Take good care.

The manner in which one endures what must be endured
is more important than the thing that must be endured.

-Dean Acheson

About Camille Freeman, LDN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for highly-trained herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating.

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