Nicola Parker writes about finding a herbal hug, a sunny herb or the bitter truth
My brain is wired to be logical and solution focused.
I like to pull a problem apart, examine the cause and put together an action plan that lets me get to the bottom of things.
Working with physical ailments, this is usually a satisfyingly methodical process.
Working with emotional issues, my job becomes much more difficult.
Herbs for emotional issues fall under different categories.
Nervines are soothing, sedatives are relaxing, antidepressants are uplifting.
The problem is, many of these categories overlap and the research behind these herbs is still in its infancy, giving us only a glimpse of how they affect the brain.
Add to this our poor understanding of mental health issues despite their increasing prevalence in the modern world, it’s easy to see why the logic driven herbalist can feel a bit lost.
I began discussing my struggle with older, more established herbalists, a few years after completing my training.
These herbalists had years of experience to fall back on as well as the benefit of teachings from the herbalists that had come before them.
These herbalists didn’t have the luxury of the Internet during their training, there was no access to medical journals at the tips of their fingers.
Instead, their knowledge was rooted in a tradition that spoke of the personality of herbs and what roles they can play when acting on our emotions.
St John’s Wort is a classic example of how modern research is now backing up these traditional beliefs.
Herbalists describe St John’s Wort as “the sunshine herb”.
It has bright yellow flowers know to turn oil a warm red when exposed to sunlight.
It’s said to be uplifting, able to bring the light back into a gloomy life.
Research has shown St John’s Wort’s antidepressant properties, backing up this traditional understanding.
St John’s Wort is said to bring sunshine into your life, but this can come in unexpected ways.
With light comes clarity, highlighting the dark corners of a persons life, revealing things that may be creating unhappiness. This could be a person, situation or event from our past or in our daily life,
Things that make us sad can become invisible once we allow them to become our “normal”.
Of course, we could also attribute this to St John’s Worts anti-depressant effect, as happier people are more likely to see things clearly, without the negative shadow that low mood can cast.
Another herb that herbalists have given a personality to is rose. Known as “the herbal hug”, rose is traditionally used for grief, sadness and loss.
I use it in cases of upset or when I believe that someone has issues of unresolved grief that they have never fully processed.
I always warn people before putting Rose into their medicine as the effect of a hug from a good friend can often bring a lot of emotion to the surface.
I don’t know about you, but a hug when I’m upset will always make me cry on the shoulder I’ve been offered, whether I want to or not.
I believe it’s healthy to let these tears out but it’s good to have a warning first that they are coming.
In contrast to this, Vervain is a herb associated with unresolved anger.
I think of it when I feel like we need a friend to vent to, to get angry with and to drag us out of any funk we’ve found ourselves in. In traditional Chinese medicine, anger is stored in the liver and as a liver herb, Vervain works great for digestive issues aggravated by this type of emotion.
As a bitter, it can help us see “the bitter truth”, letting us examine reality as it is so that we can let go of grudges and move forward.
Getting to know the personality of a herb through it’s traditional use has really helped me get to know some of the lesser researched herbs. While I like my practice to be grounded in science, I’m proud to see the amazing results I do when I have faith in the deep tradition behind the medicines I use.
For more information or to book an appointment contact Nicola at Health and Herbs, Pedder Street, Morecambe, on 01524 413733.