In our day-to-day communications with one another, language alone can convey vast amounts of information. What gives our interactions depth and dimension is the subtext of the subtler messages that accompany speech. Consider the significance of scratching one’s head when trying to remember something. We are literally trying to access the thought we are searching for by physically connecting with the source – in this case the brain/mind. Compare this with the poignant gesture of placing one hand over the heart when making a promise or vow; the physical action of connecting the words to the heart adds depth and solemnity to the words, signalling that they come from the very core of the speaker.
Who truly knows the ways of the heart? Poets? Mystics? Surgeons? In this reflective letter we will be addressing treatment protocols for illnesses related to this organ of such profound significance to us on both a physical and spiritual level.
The statistics on mortality are unequivocal. Despite all of our efforts, the mortality rate is still 100 %! Why is it that over 50 % of the population of the western world succumbs to heart related illness (cardiovascular disease)? Why are we so “sick at heart”? Scratching your head yet?
A modern orthodox pharmacopoeia is filled with cardiovascular remedies of botanical origin: Digitalis, Coumarin, Caffeine, Ephedrine, Quinine, Reserpine, Morphine and of course Curare, the substance which made it possible to perform open heart surgery with some degree of safety. Holistic herbalists rarely use any of these plants or their extracts in treating patients; the paradigm in which herbalism has its being would dictate that the signs and symptoms of impending disease would have been treated and healed long before such chronic, debilitating and dangerous illness could take hold in the body. The concept of health maintenance and disease prevention is slowly filtering into orthodox medical practices, but not as yet into their materia medica.
One of the broad yet highly important categories in herbal medicine is “Tonics”. A cardiac tonic herb such as Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) can prevent and/or treat decreases in cardiac function, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, hypertension and angina except during acute incidents requiring emergency care. As a tonic, Hawthorn feeds and nourishes the heart on various levels while also mildly increasing coronary circulation. Hawthorn, the single most important herbal cardiovascular remedy, is highly effective, while having no greater action upon the heart than that of nurturing it. It is not effective if broken down into any type of drug-like standardized extract; only the whole berries and flowers have efficacy as a remedy. Hawthorn use in this context is the antithesis of drug therapy.
Cardiovascular tonics can be combined with other herbs of varying action strengths to create a therapeutic program that addresses the needs of the patient with the ultimate goal of healing the heart. Add to this regimen a healthy diet and the appropriate lifestyle changes and you have a formula for health and longevity.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction or “MI”) and stroke (cerebrovascular accident or “CVA”) manifest as sudden, sometimes violent and life-threatening conditions. In truth, these incidents were a long time in coming and in most cases, the early warning signs or indicators of risk are numerous. The body warns us, and demands that we attend to it; when we do not the consequences can be dire. The rationalizations of the mind lead us to this place of ill health, yet the heart knows the truth. We all need to be nurtured. A truly nurturing lifestyle will feed us and the world around us. Nurturing counterbalances stress, and holistically speaking, we need to be nurtured/nurturing physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We as individuals and as a society must examine our lives and rectify that which is damaging us. Our thoughts, feelings and attitudes precede our actions. How we live and what we consume are choices we make through our own free will. Choose nurturing. Listen to the truths of life as whispered to you by your heart; follow its guidance mindfully. A greater level of health and well-being awaits you.