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Holistic Health: Exploring the Depths of the Heart

By Jackie Dobrinska

February is the month of hearts. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we shower each other with heart-shaped gifts, such as chocolates, cards, and trinkets, in the name of love.

Whether a Hallmark holiday or an opportunity to celebrate romance, the plethora of hearts may be calling to something deeper. They may be reminding us to investigate the layers and wellbeing of our own sweet heart. February is American Heart Month, which helps spread awareness of cardiovascular disease.

From the Western medical perspective, the heart is a muscular organ that pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood each day, through 100,000 miles of arteries and capillaries, nourishing 72 trillion cells.

One in four people die each year from cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and issues related to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To improve heart health, we need to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking. But we all know this.

What may be more surprising is the clear link scientists are making between our emotional health and the health of our heart. Studies show imbalances in our emotional state—manifested as depression, hostility, loneliness, anger, and anxiety—can damage the heart and even predispose one to heart disease.

We know this in our own bodies. While modern science places emotions in the medulla oblongata (the hindbrain), we can feel them in the heart. Sweetness brings sensations of expansion, whereas hurt brings contraction. Even the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese knew this, all viewing the heart as the primary seat of feelings. They took it to another layer, calling it the seat of the soul. The ancient yogis saw it there as well.

The physical, emotional, and spiritual connection in the heart is still recognized in traditional Chinese medicine. It teaches that shen—the spirit—resides in the heart and is responsible for maintaining our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance. When shen is deficient, we may feel shy, anxious, or depressed, suffer from insomnia and poor memory, or simply feel emotionally agitated. Many find that a skilled acupuncturist can help restore balance.

Whenever your heart feels disturbed, you may also consider sending it some flowers! More than a romantic gesture, certain flowers have medicinal properties for the heart.

The rose, for example, has a history of use for restoring disorders of the heart. The aroma from the essential oil created from roses can calm the heart. Rose petals taken as a tea can strengthen it. If taken internally, make sure it is from an organic and non-hybridized variety.

Albizia julibrissin, or Mimosa tree (no, not the drink), is known as “the tree of happiness.” Its pink flowers are used to calm the spirit and relieve emotional constraint. It is especially useful for those suffering from heartbreak.

Hawthorne (crataegus laevigata) is in the rose family, and its flowers were traditionally used as a heart and circulatory tonic. It has been studied for its use in remedying congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, high and low blood pressure, angina, and high cholesterol, among others. On the emotional layer, it cleanses negativity and stimulates forgiveness.

This February, I encourage you to open all the layers of your heart to better health.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and complementary treatment, and is not to be considered expert advice. Always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any herb or beginning any new treatment, diet, or fitness regimen. Jackie Dobrinska is a wellness coach and owner of Herbal Yogini who offers consultations locally and by phone. Find more recipes, practices, and tips at, or e-mail

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