As we enjoy these early summer months, we can turn to ancient medicine to help us truly feel and understand this sunny season. In the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, early summer is the season of the Heart. More than just a vital organ, the heart is also known as the Emperor of the body, governor of the blood, and is also responsible for the Mind. This truth is evident even in Western medicine, as the heart is seen as our most valuable vital organ. The element associated with Heart season is, intuitively, Fire. We can feel this abundance of yang energy in the warm sunshine and even the extra exuberance and energy as we enjoy the warmth and outdoors. This season of gatherings and attunement with nature can be so filled with joy, the emotion of the heart that represents it well. Traditional Chinese Medicine protocols for Heart season are vast and variant but accessible and leave room for your own creativity and attunement to your own body.
Hawthorn Berries. The plant-based foods we eat usually tell us how they can help us. For example, a walnut’s ridges and wiggly shape resemble a brain, telling us of the fats in this crunchy snack supporting brain health. Many fruits and vegetables that are red in color have heart-supportive properties, like beets and even a little tree fruit known as the Hawthorn berry. Hawthorn berries contain micronutrients called procyanidins that help support and protect the heart and vascular systems. They work as antioxidants (among many other important jobs) to protect the heart from diseases related to oxidative stress. Packed with these and a range of other nutrients, Hawthorn berries are a tried and tested tonic for high blood pressure, pain from angina, and arrhythmia. Heart disease can have varying degrees of severity, so this herbal solution, though highly effective as a long-term heart helper, does not replace cardiac medication as an acute or short-term solution. Hawthorn compliments lifestyle and diet changes well in order to support and protect the heart and cardiovascular system as a whole.
Hawthorn later became well known in Celtic mythology as well, which regarded the blossoming of the Hawthorn tree as the mark for the end of the dark winter and the coming of spring. Stories passed down reflected the distinctive white blooms that fill the tree but cover thorns underneath as believers in the true tradition both respected and feared the fairies living in the tree, which both lived in and cared for it. Legends say that if a hawthorn tree was damaged in any way, its mystical inhabitants would respond with a fierce nature at the destruction of their home, even kidnapping and cursing their culprit.
One such tale from Northern Ireland tells of a hawthorn tree that grew on a piece of land to be turned into a road. A group of workers went to cut the tree down, but another group who were Irishmen knew the tales and refused. Eventually, an Englishman cut the tree down, only to have hundreds of mice scurry forth from the hole left in the ground. Later, when said man was hauling soil, one of the mice spooked a nearby horse. The result was nearly fatal, as the man was said to have lost his leg to a severe crush injury. So, to appease these prickly little creatures, tradition keepers would tie pieces of torn cloth tied to the tree, which is the source of the tradition of the Maypole.
Motherwort is an herb from the mint family with anxiety-related, heart-protective properties. For example, motherwort contains a compound called leonurine that helps relax the cells of the heart and blood vessels, which can help lower blood pressure. It is even approved in Germany’s version of the Food and Drug Administration (Commission E) as a treatment for heart palpations related to nervous disorders.
Other protocols for heart season:
- Learn your love language. This bit of self-research can be so enlightening. The five love languages, according to author Dr. Gary Chapman, are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Try taking a love language quiz (the internet, of course, has many) and enjoy tuning in to how you both give and receive love (Surprise! They are often different from each other).
- Chest-opening stretches or postures. In yoga, chest opening postures are often called heart-openers because they do just that. A simple version of these postures involves bringing the arms behind the torso in some way, whether the arms just fly straight back, or the hands clasp. This stretches the muscles surrounding the heart, stimulating and supporting it upward. This encourages us to lead and live from this vital organ of joy and deep, compassionate human connection.
- Passionate Kissing. Curveball, right? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart opens to the tongue, as we speak from our heart to our loved ones. Even some anatomical perspectives of the heart show it unraveling just like a tongue. So, sharing a passionate kiss with a lover can be seen as a tonic for the heart.
For an herbal consultation or to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine and Heart supportive protocols, please contact the Mind & Body Connection.
By Emily Larson