Go with a good heart

The French have a beautiful expression, “bon courage,” which translates to “go with good heart.”

The French have a beautiful expression, “bon courage,” which translates to “go with good heart.”

The origin of the word courage comes from the French word for heart, coeur. As the French say “bon courage,” English speakers say “follow your heart.” I do not think there is any better advice for living life well lived.

There is a very old saying amongst herbalists, “borage for courage.” Borage (borago offincinalis), originally from the Middle East, has been very effective at travelling the world and finding a home in many gardens.

An unkempt looking plant, with big floppy, fuzzy leaves beloved by spiders, it thrives in North American gardens. Borage’s saving grace is its lovely star-shaped, sky blue flowers.

In today’s apothecary, borage is classed as an adaptogen.

Adaptogens help the body and mind adapt to long-term chronic stress. Stress creates friction in the body and mind. In the body, stress manifests as excess heat while in the mind it creates anxious, heated thoughts.

Borage’s cooling nature calms the heat of chronic stress and soothes the mind.

Stress creeps up and devours the pauses in every the day that offer moments for connection and reflection.

Under stress, life loses its subtle meaning. Without purpose and meaning, we lose courage and anxiety takes over.

In Europe, wine steeped with borage flowers and young leaves is given to those who are so deeply exhausted they can no longer rest.

When restless, unable to find meaning, borage offers the courage to stop, rest and reconnect with the heart’s desire.

The hawthorn tree (crataegus spp.) is also the medicine for the heart.

There is a saying: the heart never lies. To lie is stressful, very stressful.

An article from Psychology Today reported a study involving liars and non-liars.

The participants in the study were divided into two groups, one group given permission to lie, and the other group offered strategies that help to avoid lies.

The group that did not lie found their relationship improved and they slept better, experienced less mental and physical tension, fewer headaches and sore throats.

Other studies have shown lying increases blood pressure and heart rate.

In traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners favour hawthorn flower for an anxious heart. In France, a tea of hawthorn flowers is offered to treat insomnia.

A quiet heart makes a quiet mind. A quiet mind leads to thoughtful speech.

The hawthorn’s berries, leaves and flowers are a gift to a tired heart.

A tired heart, either from a long life or too much stress, struggles to pump blood.

A tired heart cannot fulfil its duty to the rest of the body, so it tries to work harder.

When a tired heart works harder, like all muscles in the body, it becomes bigger.

The more the heart muscle grows, the less efficient it becomes.

Less blood passing through the heart means less blood is pulsating through the body.

In turn, the body asks for more blood, and the heart tries harder. It continues to grow bigger and more inefficient. A vicious cycle develops that leads to all sorts of health problems, including congestive heart failure.

Hawthorn is the remedy for this tired heart. It increases the force of the heart’s pumping action without causing the heart to enlarge. It also enhances the heart’s ability to relax.

When the heart relaxes during the pause between heartbeats, it fills with blood. A relaxed heart has more blood to offer to the body.

When hawthorn is added to a high blood pressure formula, do not expect immediate results from it alone. Hawthorn is a long-term herb with long-term gentle effects. Mistletoe (viscum album) a much more efficient herb for lowering blood pressure. The addition of a small bit of mistletoe tincture to the formula is usually enough to bring most cases of high blood pressure down. But do not underestimate the long-term effects of hawthorn.

I think of the story of the rabbit and the tortoise when I compare the two herbs. Mistletoe is the rabbit. It brings instantaneous results. Hawthorn, however, is the tortoise. The tortoise did not wow audiences with his speed but he not only won the race, he also lived for another 225 years.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached www.abraherbs.com.