Heart Health and Mental Health Go Hand in HandFeb 03, 2019 09:44PM ● By Loey Colebeck
The heart, in Chinese Traditional Medicine, is the home of the mind/spirit or shen. The concept is not unique to the Chinese and is very holistic and truly fascinating the more we delve into it. Equally fascinating is that very subtle plant medicines, namely flower essences, which will be described below in detail, can affect the mind/spirit, allowing us to promote physical heart health.
The Chinese aren’t the only ones with the notion that spirit resides in the heart. Christian iconography depicts Jesus with his heart aflame, and fire is the element in Chinese Medicine that corresponds with shen and the heart. In a sense, Jesus, as the son of God who lives in the hearts of Christians, is much the same as shen for the Chinese. The interesting thing about the Chinese Medicine paradigm is that the actual physical organ of the heart and the heart’s spiritual aspect—shen—inextricably influence one another. When mind/spirit is disturbed, the body is affected and vice-versa. Likewise, the quickly evolving field of neuroscience includes the study of how emotions and trauma affect the overall health of individuals. The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., is a perfect example.
One more image that can help us understand this concept is that of a home’s hearth. The central fire is a gathering place where people meet and greet. Shen is what gives organization and coherency to the organism as opposed to total chaos and dysregulation. Think of a nicely contained fire that brings joy and warmth to the house. The heart is the body’s hearth. Too much or too little heat affect the whole house.
This holistic view of the heart, which could be described in much more detail, opens a whole cornucopia of possible treatments with flower essences. Not to be confused with essential oils, flower essences have no scent and no chemical substance. They are, instead, subtle medicines that are water-based and are ingested, very much like homeopathy. They affect the subtle aspects like shen and qi (energy) of an individual which in turn affect the physical body. Flower essences are like specific types of qi in water—like energy patterns stored in water. They are made from certain plants and work much like acupuncture does. They are like acupuncture in a bottle. One physician, Dr. Ricardo Orozco, calls them “liquid emotional intelligence.”
Flower essences as we know them were first developed by English physician Dr. Edward Bach, in the 1930s, about the same time that psychotherapy was first developing. Bach had been an emergency room surgeon, then bacteriologist working on chronic illness. As his career developed, he became more interested in constitution, or types of people, particularly the disease correspondences between people with similar moods or personalities. He developed some homeopathic remedies that are still in use today. His professional trajectory ultimately turned away from his laboratory in London and back to the countryside, to nature, where he believed all healing originated. It was in nature that he began to develop what we call the Bach Remedies, also known as flower essences.
Recently, Argentine naturopath and acupuncturist Pablo Noriega wrote a book that serves as a bridge between the holistic mind-body maps of Chinese Medicine and the Bach Flower Remedies. In Bach Flower Essences and Chinese Medicine, Noriega describes many ways we can use flower essences to help heal the mind, body and heart.
For example, two of the Bach Remedies, Agrimony and Heather, treat states that create too much heat in the body’s heart/hearth. The first one, Agrimony, is indicated when a person covers their angst with a cheerful exterior. In trying to outrun their unpleasant emotions, the person may eat and drink excessively and fill their schedule with too many social engagements. As they chase happiness and joy, the bottled-up emotions along with the lifestyle of avoiding those emotions set the whole body out of balance. The remedy can help the person turn inward and face what they are avoiding, and in doing so, gain peace.
The Heather state is somewhat similar and indicated when, out of an existential loneliness, the person is trying to fill a void with anything and everything. They excessively seek companionship and dominate conversations, and often they eat to fill an emptiness or loneliness they feel.
Both states and subsequent lifestyles affect the physical heart. Likewise, both remedies positively affect the emotional state for an immediate result in mind-body chemistry as well as reducing the person’s desire to cover their emotions or fill their void with substances and activities that can harm the heart.
One more noteworthy remedy is Star of Bethlehem which works like the energetic “handyman” on a traumatized system. It helps restore coherency to a broken system and a broken heart.
There are hundreds of other flower essences that promote emotional healing and mental heart health in a variety of specific ways. It should be noted that flower essences should be taken over a period of time and ideally under the guidance of a skilled practitioner. Flower essences alone are not necessarily a magic wand to take away unwanted symptoms. Rather, they help a person by making the emotional labor less heavy, less daunting and so on. They help a person eventually return to a peaceful, joyful inner hearth, one which keeps the whole house functioning smoothly.
Loey Colebeck is an accredited clinical Flower Essence Therapist. She also teaches a Flower Essence Therapy training course for health professionals and personal development. For more information, visit MindIsBodyTherapies.com.