When was the last time you laughed, not a chuckle or grin, but a big happy laugh that chases demons, dark moods and worries? Our warmth, positive feelings and cell rejuvenation throughout the body are mastered by the heart. The heart is a castle whose monarch sends life force where needed and keeps our thoughts and emotions in the present, grounded in reality and capable of kindness.
Laughing benefits the heart, but it requires blood and Qi (vital energy) to remain healthy. Cardio doctors refer to the heart’s plumbing and electricity, the blood vessels and the steady heartbeat rhythm. Blood is our interior ocean and Qi connects us with Heaven. We are beings created in the flow of Nature guided by Spirit. To respect body and mind we protect the heart.
Observe heart health: Look at your lips, tongue and mouth the outlet of heart Qi. Are the lips dry, pale and peeling, indicating poor absorption of nutrients from weak digestive Qi and/or low adrenal Qi? That may lead to cold hands, shortness of breath and depression. Are the lips red like lipstick? Do you have mouth sores or bleeding gums? That indicates inflammation affecting digestion, elimination and the heart. Inflammation may also originate from weak or stuck Qi. Most of us need to keep our heart strong during challenging times.
Harmful emotions damage organs and their functions. The lungs are damaged by infection, pollution, smoking and grief. Our T cells are reduced by grief, it has been scientifically observed. That lowers our immunity. Lungs and heart work together to oxygenate the cells. When grief weakens us, heart Qi suffers. Imagine a monster sitting on your chest. Prolonged sadness and deficient Qi lead to stagnation and low vitality. The heart overworks and becomes stressed, agitated, irregular. We may have facial pallor or stutter. The tongue shows signs of weak Qi affecting the heart: The midline or line of cracks on the tongue reach from the middle of the tongue to the tip of the tongue, (the tip indicates the heart) and the sides may be swollen (water-logged) to show where teeth have left their impression. The heart muscle has become weak so that blood cannot circulate freely. Blood may flow back into the heart instead of out to the lungs.
Anger also troubles the heart, causing “fire” to rise (inflammation) eventually causing palpitations, anxiety, insomnia and mania, hypertension or stroke. The heart meridian begins at the heart and extends out to the armpits and down the inside of each arm to the tip of the little finger. Are your hands cold or hot? A cold hand may be the result of heart Qi deficiency and hot hands the result of stuck Qi or inflammation troubling the heart, especially if there are other signs--insomnia, palpitations, muddled thinking, poor memory and others.
What happens when inflammation from diet, pollution or stress irritate the lining of blood vessels? They become brittle and damaged in which case our body sends a band-aid in the form of plaque to the rescue. However the build up of plaque from repeated damage can increase the risk of heart trouble and stroke. When plaque breaks off from the lining of blood vessels it may block blood flow to the heart or brain.
A wise diet is always recommended to reduce harmful plaque and ease circulation. We add whole grains, green leafy vegetables, yams, seaweeds, nuts and seeds, select fruits and vegetables, medicinal mushrooms especially reishi, legumes, and tea the universal healer. Avoid fried foods, smoking, excess alcohol, high GI foods such as sugar, white bread and pastry. But we also need strong heart Qi in order to combat stress, pollution, and prevent chronic pain and unnecessary weight gain.
We fortify Qi and protect the heart with Gentle Heart 養心安神茶 (Yang Xin An Shen Herbal Tea.) It combines Chinese herbs that build blood, Qi and enhance immunity to reduce stress and protect the heart. Here is a description of how they work.
Salvia milt., (Chinese red sage, danshen,) is a major herb in Gentle Heart. In my book Heart to Heart care for your heart naturally, I describe Salvia milt. danshen as a heart protector herb quoting Dr. Wen Zi, a Chinese doctor and Western trained cardiologist, who believes “as many as 80% of all heart operations could be eliminated by the use of danshen. In China, Dr. Zi has seen danshen work in a wide variety of coronary diseases. Angina (chest pain) showed that 90% of those tested were significantly helped and 80% of arrhythmias were corrected or at least improved. In many cases mitral valve problems improved.”
As you study Chinese herbal medicines it becomes clear that herbs treat a wide variety of seemingly unrelated health issues. That is because whole herbs are complex and many faceted to simultaneously address numerous discomforts throughout the body. Also the choice and combination of herbs affect Chinese anatomy/physiology which is understood to encompass organs and meridians, an entire energy system, that connects the skin, muscles, joints and bones to organs and their organ functions. Herbs that are adaptogens tend to treat numbers of health issues at once and so help us to adapt to stress. A star among such herbs is schisandra berry.
Schisandra, a supertonic food is used to make Chinese medicine. It has a refreshing tart flavor, the berry of an evergreen. Schisandra is an adaptogen for increasing resistance to disease and stress, increasing energy, and physical performance and endurance for athletes and to ease the discomforts of aging, including poor vision. In Chinese it is called wu wei zi, five flavor seed, because it has all five flavors (bitter, sweet, pungent, salty and sour) that affect the organ systems in the body: The Five Elements--Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Nutritionists and herbalists familiar with Chinese medicine know The Five Elements refers to the entire endocrine system, organs, meridians their actions.
Other important herbs in Gentle Heart are the fortifying blood builders longan fruit and Polygonum mult., (he shou wu, fo-ti) which help to ease stress, add needed moisture and blood production and relax muscle tension. Red jujube date seed (aka spine date seed,) is used to reduce emotional and physical stress damage. It is said to “calm the mind to improve quality of sleep, ease excessive perspiration and relieve constant thirst.” Albizia flower is useful for anxiety, cancer, depression, sleep problems (insomnia), and sore throat; to improve mood; and to reduce swelling associated with trauma.
Studies have shown that heart attack is more likely after having cancer and cancer treatments. For stress reduction, and for many other reasons, Ganoderma lucid., the famous reishi or immortality mushroom, is included in Gentle Heart. It is an adaptogen that is anti-inflammatory and balances immune function. Therefore it may be used for either weak immunity to illness, allergies and fatigue or for auto-immune illness. It has been used along with and in place of cancer treatments in Asia. See Mikei Red Reishi Essence concentrated reishi capsules from Japan.
Water retention, especially in the belly, increases our likelihood of heart trouble. Lack of exercise and rich foods are a big part of that problem. To remedy that, Gentle Heart has added astringent and diuretic herbs, poria (fuling) and lotus nuts, that support digestion and a healthy slimming diet. We can neither avoid stress, loss, nor our genetics. They are part of life. But we can control our habits and diet choices in order to lessen their negative impact on our health, relationships and environment.
Gentle Heart Ingredients:
桂圆肉 Longan fruit
茯神Poria, fuling, tuckahoe
合欢花Silktree Albizia Flower
酸枣仁Spine Date Seed, jujube seed
Gentle Heart may be taken the same day as heart medications. However to avoid interactions, separate the herbs and drugs by two hours. The herbs are not blood thinners, but tend to balance energy and build resilience and endurance. They will help you to maintain a healthy exercise routine. Monitor your heart health with regular medical checkups.
A gentle heart lives in a happy home. Many of us have suffered anxiety and depression during the COVID19 pandemic. We have been sick or lost loved ones. For some the isolation of staying inside has offered a valuable time of reflection and opportunities for reaching out to friends and family in new ways. Somewhere in the I Qing, comes the advice: In times of war and strife, the sage withdraws to the mountain. By withdrawing within, we affirm our connection to Heaven and Earth. Healing the heart seals the vital connection of body and mind and keeps us well in our happy home.
Four Spirits Soup 四神湯 (Si Shen Herbal Soup) recommended to fortify energy, digestion, weight loss, mental clarity, and improve breathing.
- Fatigue Fighter 抗疫灵芝正气茶 (Replenish Qi, Prevent Disease Reishi Tea) recommended for chronic weakness, poor digestion, low immunity, low spirits.