As we celebrate the month of love, I wanted to share my favorite love enhancing herbs & self-care practices with you.
These have had a profound effect on my own healing journey – allowing me to fully embody love, specifically love directed inwards towards every cell of my being.
A journey to love & romance
For most of my life I operated in a state of constant mental chatter, letting my fears run the show.
While practices like meditation helped to calm my mind, I really had no idea how to feel love for myself.
It wasn’t until I began my Clinical Herbalism training in 2016 that a whole new world of plant allies entered my life and showed me the way to deep, unconditional self-love.
Loving all parts of myself, including all the flaws and imperfections I spent most of my life disowning.
This relationship I had created with medicinal plants, along with daily meditation, Reiki, and self-care practices, allowed me to put my mental chatter at ease while deepening the connection with my heart.
Let’s begin by exploring the heart-mind connection a bit more.
THE HEART-MIND CONNECTION
Many of us have been conditioned from an early age to believe that our brain is the great command center, that all activity starts within the brain.
But what if I told you that during the time a fetus develops in its mother’s womb, the first form of brain development actually occurs in the heart?
Your heart, in fact, has a brain of its own and acts independently of signals from your brain.
Your heart has a neural intelligence and contains around 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn, and remember (Source: heartmath.org)
These neurons allow your heart to communicate to your brain as well as throughout your body.
For example, under periods of intense stress, the simple act of slow and intentional breathing can activate the vagus nerve -- your “rest and digest” nerve -- to help slow your heart rate.
This in turn, improves blood flow to your brain, allowing you to think more clearly and make more sound decisions.
According to The Heart Math Institute, a non-profit organization devoted to understanding the science of the heart, research has shown that your heart communicates information to your brain and throughout your body through four main types of signaling pathways:
1. Neurological via the nervous system
- When the connection between your mind and heart is healthy and strong, you're able to think more clearly, make sound decisions, and enhance your creative problem solving skills
- Conversely, a weak connection can lead you down the path of egocentric thinking that stems from fear based activity in the brain
2. Biochemical via signaling molecules
- Your heart contains cells that synthesize different types of chemical signaling molecules including oxytocin, a love / social bonding hormone, and dopamine, a hormone that plays an important role in motivation and pleasure
3. Biophysical via heart rate variability (HRV)
- Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measurement of how much an individual’s heart rate varies and can provide insight into one’s level of emotional arousal.
- For example, during periods of excitement or stress, your heart rate tends to increase due to an increase in sympathetic activity (i.e. fight, flight, freeze).
- Conversely, during calm or resting periods, your heart rate tends to decrease due to increased parasympathetic activity (i.e. rest, digest, procreate).
4. Energetic via an electromagnetic field
- Your heart leads the way in generating your body’s most powerful electromagnetic field - up to sixty times greater than what’s generated by your brain.
- Thus, your heart center is the portal through which information is given and received, and can influence the degree of awareness you have towards others’ emotions and other nonverbal forms of communication.
- In other words, having an “open heart” allows you to tune in towards others with greater empathy and sensitivity.
When your mind and heart are in sync, you're far better able to:
- Express creativity
- Practice kindness and compassion
- Fully experience grief, pain, loss, and healing
- Respond to and navigate stressful situations
- Connect more deeply with your core values
You can begin to cultivate a deeper relationship with your heart by quieting the mind in several ways:
- Mindfulness meditation
- A meditative practice such as a beauty ritual or gua sha massage
- Mindful movement (e.g. tai chi, qiqong, slow yoga)
- Medicinal herbs
I recommend the following herbs to support heart health and healthy, balanced libido; and importantly, to enhance love & romance!
Herbs for a healthy heart & libido
Tonifying for the heart, cardiotonics are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols and flavonoids, to support vascular health while protecting your heart from oxidative stress.
Key benefits of cardiotonics include:
- Lower blood pressure, improved circulation, dilated blood vessels
- Removal of toxic substances and waste products from the bloodstream
- Examples: Hawthorn, Linden, Garlic
2. Circulatory Stimulants
Usually warming in nature, circulatory stimulants increase movement and flow throughout the body and prevent stagnation (i.e. the build-up of fluids & cellular wastes).
Key benefits of circulatory stimulants include:
- Increased blood flow to and from tissues and organs
- Enhanced delivery of oxygen nutrients as well as the elimination of toxic substances and metabolic wastes to/from your tissues and organs
- Examples: Cinnamon, Damiana, Ginger, Rose
Adaptogens are a broad class of herbs that support your body by helping it adapt to stress through a wide range of functions, including but not limited to:
- Exerting their neuro-endocrine effects on the hypothalaus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to modulate the body’s stress response and build resilience over time
- Enhancing stamina, endurance, cognitive function, and immunity
- Examples: Rhodiola, Shatavari, Ashwagandha, Maca
Aphrodisiacs are more than just oysters and chocolate. Originating from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, these pleasure inducing foods and herbs help to arouse sexual instinct, enhance libido, and increase pleasure and performance.
In the world of herbal medicine, aphrodisiacs are a class of herbs with multiple, complementary effects including:
- Relaxing the nervous system, tonifying reproductive organs, increasing blood flow during menstruation, balancing hormones, and aiding digestion.
- Examples: Rose, Cinnamon, Lavender, Oat, Shatavari, Jasmine, Violet
Many of the herbs I've listed above are ones that you can easily take in a variety of forms - powder, extract, decoction, or even fresh if you choose to incorporate them into your meals or consume as tea.
And when taken regularly, you can begin to notice the profound effects that they will have on your heart, body, mood, and overall well-being.
Self-care practices for love & romance
Medicinal herbs, while incredibly beneficial on their own, are just part of an integrative approach to a holistic lifestyle.
Which is why it’s best to complement herbs with self-care practices to nurture your body, mind, and spirit:
- Daily movement to boost qi as well as blood flow and circulation
- Checking in with yourself throughout the day - noticing the quality of your breath, the thoughts you’re having, and how you’re feeling in your body
- Spending time in nature to connect to the Earth through forest bathing or feeling into the ground beneath your feet
- Journaling to process your thoughts and get them down on paper
- Beauty rituals that nourish your skin and soul (e.g. facial massage, facial masking, massaging your feet and body with a love butter)
- Regular lovemaking to boost your happiness and overall health. Click here to discover 30 health benefits that sex has to offer!
I hope this article inspires you to create personal rituals that nurture your body, mind, and spirit.
Because your health and happiness matter, and by optimizing your well-being you’re able to inspire loved ones to do the same!
Have you tried any of these herbs or self-care practices to support your health and well-being? What was your experience like? I invite you to comment below!
Photography by: Willow Star
Want more holistic beauty & wellness tips?Follow us on Instagram @freeflowbotanicals!