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Cardiovascular - Heart medicines in the European tradition

Christopher Hedley M.N.I.M.H.

Medical Herbalism 10(4):5

In European traditional medicine, the heart was considered to store the vital spirit and circulate it around the body via the arteries. Thus ‘heart* medicines were usually medicines for the spirit — for depression and confusion. Lemon Balm (Melissa off.), for example was the major heart medicine in the European tradition. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), which is regarded as a heart herb in modem terms, was regarded as a ‘head* herb and used to treat confusion, spirit disorders, and mental dullness. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) was used to treat the syndrome “melancholic vapors affect the heart.” This is heaviness of heart, both emotionally and physically. The main physical symptom is an irregular heart beat, for which the herb is still used.

Remedies were also used to protect the heart from excess heat in high fevers. Borage (Borago off.) was much favored for this. Motherwort and borage is a useful combination in thyrotoxicosis, which is a modem version of ‘excess heat attacks the heart.’

Rose flowers (any aromatic Rose) were, and are still, much used for the emotional aspects of heart, they are particularly good for people who feel unloved or who have been abused. Regular use of rose tincture alters the whole feeling of the body.

Cordials, in the European tradition, are medicines that benefit the heart. They were usually sweet and warming to taste and often made of a combination of syrups and tinctures. Rose cordials are an excellent example.

To conclude this commentary, I would like to quote Culpeper:

“Regard the heart, keep that upon the wheels, because the sun is the foundation of life, and therefore those universal remedies Aurum Potabile cure all diseases by fortifying the heart”.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    34