Our hearts are the most important part of us, acting as our very core. We feel things about other people first and foremost with our hearts and when our hearts are open we feel it deeply.
When a heart is closed, it means our feelings will not be expressed or expressed very little. In order to experience deep love, we must keep our hearts open and healthy.
Chances are, you came to this page because you’re feeling stuck in a place; a place where you can’t relate to people for fear of being rejected or ridiculed for your feelings about life. We feed off of making other people happy and tend to give our all to anyone we love.
But for some of us, the pace is simply too fast, and we feel unheard, unseen, and unable to open our hearts to other people.
We all want to feel adored, appreciated and loved. These feelings not only make us happy but can also boost our self-esteem. But the question is: how do we get there? How can we achieve that love feeling?
This article will help you learn more about the heart and two types of love, but also describes six of the best medicinal herbs we can use to help open the heart and cultivate more Shen–the spirit.
Table of Contents
Two Types of Love
The word “love” is one of the most powerful energies in the Universe, capable of creating miracles.
According to the four-element theory of love, there are two main types of love: Eros (romantic) and Agape (unconditional).
When the Greeks used the word love, they meant either eros (sexual and sensual love) or agape (selfless love).
Eros is the love you have for your partner, family and friends. It's an ongoing relationship based on feelings and emotions.
The lover in Eros expresses himself by finding a person who can complete him or her, who can contribute to the satisfaction and fulfilment of the self, who can provide the kind of loving that will be fulfilling and make his or her life worth living. Eros is possessive because it gives everything for the moment, expecting or hoping for the same in return.
In short, Eros is based on neediness, on vulnerability.
Agape is sacrificial, unconditional love that has no expectations or conditions of self-interest. You may not feel it as much as eros but when you do, it's a beautiful thing to behold.
To open your heart to love you need to balance the two types of love (eros and agape) in your life.
Most people only have one of the two types. This might not be a problem when you’re young, but as you grow older, the absence of the other type becomes more and more apparent.
Further, to learn how you can open your heart and invite more love into your life, you need to understand the different elemental energies.
The Five Elemental Energies
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the five elements are the basis of a theory of correspondences between the five elements and various parts of the body, organs, emotions and more.
The Five Elements (Wu Xing) are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The Five Elements mirror our physical world as well as our internal world.
In nature we can see these elements as we observe the seasons:
Spring - Wood - The season of growth and birth.
Summer - Fire - The season of ripening and harvesting.
Late Summer - Earth - The season of nourishing and preparing for winter.
Autumn - Metal - The season of letting go.
Winter - Water - The time of stillness, hibernation and storage.
Each element has its own characteristics and qualities. These qualities help us to understand what each element represents in our physical body as well as in our emotional state. We can see how each element has its own unique set of strengths, vulnerabilities, personality traits and behaviours.
There are many ways to observe this ancient wisdom within our lives. By observing ourselves we can come to understand ourselves and others on a much deeper level than before.
We won’t dive deeper into each element here but we will discuss the Fire element since it corresponds to deep feelings of love, joy and passion.
What is the Fire Element?
The Fire element is the energy of our innate compassion, of our love, and of all the positive feelings that we want to share with others. These include joy, happiness, enthusiasm, optimism, and even confidence.
The energy of the Fire Element moves outward, and it symbolizes activity, growth, joy, pleasure, laughter and love.
Health is the natural state of growth and expansion. All living things like to grow, reproduce and thrive.
The fire element represents the energy of life. It is the energy that fuels us with enthusiasm and motivation, enables us to mature, grow and develop. It's the energy of love, passion and warmth.
Those who have a lot of fire energy in their personalities tend to be adventurous and fun-loving. They are optimistic, cheerful and sociable. They are quick to make friends and are very good at making people feel comfortable.
The Fire Element brings us into a relationship with all people. We are not isolated but rather part of a greater whole.
When we have a properly balanced Fire element, we are confident and self-assured and have the ability to be a source of warmth and light to others. The expression of this element is the experience of joy in all aspects of life. This is the power that supports our spiritual growth and enables us to move beyond ourselves to embrace all humanity with our hearts.
The health of the receptive organ (heart) is reflected in the vitality of this relationship with all things: nature, self, family, community and the larger world. When we are in balance with our True Fire, we love unconditionally and can give freely from our hearts. This is a place where there is no separation between oneself and others.
When there is an imbalance in the fire element (too much or too little), it can manifest in emotional problems such as anxiety, being excessively serious or overly emotional. On a physical level, imbalances can be seen as heart palpitations, insomnia or high blood pressure - all related to the heart.
One possible cause for imbalance in this element can be found in situations where a person does not feel safe enough to allow himself or herself to become connected with others on very deep levels. This may have been caused by previous experiences in relationships where trust has been broken or damaged.
In such cases, it would be necessary for that person to learn ways to restore his or her confidence in relating in deep ways with others and forging a deeper, loving connection with oneself.
How do we develop the fire element?
Feeling compassion, love, and joy without becoming overly excited; giving of ourselves; being willing to receive love and affection; feeling connected to others in our family; finding pleasure in eating; maintaining openness to others — these are natural ways or conditions for developing the fire element.
The heart is considered one of the most important organs in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The Heart is the sovereign, the king of all the organs, and presides over the blood and the blood vessels. The Heart is associated with consciousness and mental activity and contains the mind or spirit known as Shen.
The heart is said to be where wisdom resides, giving us our ability to think, reason, feel and act appropriately.
Since it is also the source of desire and will, it also governs our emotions and moods by influencing blood flow to the brain. When a person has a weak heart presence, they are likely to have memory loss, poor comprehension, confusion, forgetfulness and depression.
Other signs include pale skin colour and nails that are shiny or look wet, a weak pulse in the wrist artery (radial artery), insomnia or general nervousness.
The Taoist masters say: “The Heart is the Supreme Master of the organs and is the home of Shen, the spirit. If the master is brilliant, his subjects are peaceful. If the master is disturbed, his twelve officials (the body’s organ systems) are endangered.”
What is my Shen?
As one of the most ancient of Chinese traditions, Taoism has a rich history and a plethora of associated beliefs and practices.
Among the many aspects of Taoist belief is the concept of "Three Treasures" - Jing, Chi, and Shen. These three treasures form the basis for each human's life and have three corresponding levels of existence - the reproductive (Jing), the metabolic (Qi) and the spiritual (Shen).
Shen (神) is our spirit and the realm of the heart. It is the connection to our higher selves, and to our spirituality, however, we define that for ourselves.
Shen is our consciousness, our ability to be aware of ourselves as individuals and separate from everything else in the universe. It carries with it a sense of compassion, of kindness and love.
Shen radiates out through our eyes and through our actions.
When we are in tune with Shen, we have a sense of calmness and courage. There is no fear or anxiety, no sense of dread in us. We can face life’s challenges with a sense of inner peace.
When Shen is balanced, we are content within ourselves; we don’t need the approval or validation of others to feel whole. There is a sense of self-confidence that radiates out from us. We feel connected to others and to the world around us by virtue of being alive, rather than needing to be liked or loved by those around us.
When Shen is balanced, we can also be assertive without being aggressive; there is no need for us to push other people away in order to make room for ourselves.
All of us have Shen disturbances at some point in our life. The most common cause of Shen disturbances is caused by modern living; at the click of a button, we have access to unlimited sources of entertainment, money, sex, gluttony, work etc.
All these distractions promote a disconnection and separation from our true nature and progressively disintegrate the spirit (Shen) in our body. These are known as Shen disturbances.
Shen disturbances are usually created by extreme or excessive demands on the spirit. This can be sudden or over a period of time:
- Emotional trauma (loss of a loved one, relationship break-up)
- Mental stress (overthinking, worrying)
- Financial stress (debt, unemployment)
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Physical illness and disease (cancer, chronic fatigue etc)
- Overworking for prolonged periods of time
- Excessive use of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, cigarettes etc
As you can see from the list above, it is easy to understand why we live with an omnipresent background hum of anxiety and stress that keeps us separate from who we truly are!
Shen disturbances always come from some form of attachment. The Shen is susceptible to disturbances because it is the part of our body that most closely connects us with the outside world.
Individuals who have weak or disturbed Shen tend to be overly stressed, extra sensitive, fragile, emotionally unstable and display symptoms of sadness, anger, anxiety and insomnia.
These people are often referred to as "high strung" or "worriers" by family members or friends. Physically, they may exhibit symptoms such as palpitations (heartbeat irregularity), dizzy spells or sudden feelings of weakness.
Some people may suffer from chronic fatigue or mental fogginess (brain fog). Others may have difficulty concentrating for long periods of time or holding a conversation because their mind wanders too easily.
For others, it could be more severe problems like panic attacks or depression. Some people even suffer from chronic nightmares that leave them feeling fearful and unsettled throughout the day.
Excellent health relies on a balanced state of mind. If you are imbalanced mentally or emotionally your physical health will suffer. In order to develop Shen, one must have a strong foundation of Jing and Qi.
Shen is the ultimate treasure that we must all strive for and maintain if we want to lead a long and peaceful life.
Fortunately, there are medicinal herbs that we can use to help cultivate Shen and open your heart.
6 Best Herbs For Opening Your Heart
There are many herbs that help facilitate the opening of your heart and cultivating more self-love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding.
The following list of heart-opening herbs we’ve selected can be used alone or in combination to help you feel more loving towards yourself and cultivate Shen.
I’ll cover what the herbs do and also provide a few different ways that you can use them so you decide which one is best for you.
Rose is a popular herbal remedy for addressing the heart and promoting feelings of happiness, warmth and emotional balance. The sweet aroma of Flowers helps to relieve feelings of emotional sensitivity or stress.
A native of Europe and Asia, Rose has been cultivated for centuries. According to Greek mythology, the first rosebush sprouted from the blood of Aphrodite when she pricked her foot on a blackthorn bush as she ran to help Adonis.
Roses are also associated with other goddesses and gods; the Hindu goddess Lakshmi is depicted sitting on a red lotus, which is associated with the heart chakra; in Islamic tradition the rose is sacred to Allah, who created the first rose from a drop of his daughter Fatima’s blood.
Rose is an amazing heart tonic, it can be taken to bring greater openness and balance to our emotions. The fragrant petals have been used traditionally as a symbol of love and affection, but this is only the beginning of their soothing powers. When we feel emotionally sensitive or “over-stimulated” we can choose Rose to help soothe our frayed nerves.
Roses also have a long history of use in treating issues like depression and nervous exhaustion.
Rosehips are an excellent source of bioflavonoids and vitamins C and E. European sailors often carried dried rose hips on long voyages to stave off scurvy; in addition, Roses were grown in WWII “Victory Gardens” for the medicinal value of the hips.
In herbal tea blends it is common to add Rose Petals for their soothing effect on the heart. In a positive Wild Rose state we are happy-go-lucky. Instead of apathy we feel a sense of purpose that brings increased happiness and enjoyment.
All species of Roses have similar medicinal properties. Rose is calming, cooling and uplifting, while simultaneously soothing the nervous system. Rose has been used for a variety of conditions including female complaints, heart palpitations and diarrhea.
Preparations & Dosage:
A tea or tincture can be made by steeping the petals in water or alcohol for several days. When consuming rose petals, it’s important to note that they are most nutritious when picked in the morning just before they open up to their full bloom– this is when they contain the highest concentration of vitamin C. A single cup of tea may be taken daily as needed; children over 6 may take half a cup as needed.
Cacao is a plant medicine, a ceremonial food, and an antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory superfood. Cacao has been used ceremonially for thousands of years by indigenous Mesoamerican communities such as the Mayans and Aztecs.
The earliest evidence of human consumption dates back to about 1900 BCE, when cacao beans were used as currency and for spiritual rituals.
It was believed that cacao held great power and could help achieve a higher level of consciousness. It was also considered a gift from the gods; in fact, their word for cacao translates to “food of the gods”. This belief stemmed from cacao’s ability to produce feelings of blissfulness, euphoria and an overall sense of well-being.
We can see how these beliefs have translated over time into our modern day perception of chocolate being associated with love on Valentine’s Day. In fact, when we eat chocolate our bodies release dopamine in the pleasure center of our brain; this reaction may be due its mood-boosting compounds.
The source of these mood lifting chemicals in cacao are called Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs). MAOIs work by increasing the levels of three main neurotransmitters–Serotonin (mood), Dopamine (pleasure), and Phenylethylamine (stimulation). These result in feelings of euphoria, reduced appetite, increased energy levels, clarity of thought and focus. Because of this effect on mood regulation, cacao has also been used for centuries as a way to support symptoms of depression.
Cacao has a very complex chemical makeup that also includes Magnesium, which aids in full body relaxation and healing, Anandamide, often referred to as the “bliss chemical” or “runner’s high,” and the aforementioned Phenylethylamine (PEA), which is released when we fall in love.
What is a cacao ceremony?
Cacao is used to open our heart chakra and connect us to what we are seeking. One way to facilitate this is to take part in a cacao ceremony.
A cacao ceremony is similar to a group meditation and a modern form of the spiritual rituals the ancient Mesoamerican communities used to embark on.
Lead by an experienced teacher, the participants in the ceremony will consume an amount of cacao, usually in tea form, which allows each individual to get out of their head and tune into their heart.
As the cacao takes effect during the ceremony, it helps open the heart and unlock any emotions that may be trapped in there. In addition to opening your heart, Cacao also helps connect you with your intuition by clearing out all of the mental clutter from daily life, allowing you to tune in and be more present minded.
As the cacao ceremony begins, participants are invited to set an intention that will guide them through their experience. This can be anything they wish to draw into their lives or release from their lives.
In this safe space with a supportive community, you can then release those emotions through dance or movement.
Cacao is also known to have powerful health benefits including cardioprotective and neuroprotective effects.
The cardioprotective and immunomodulatory properties of cacao are attributed to its high levels of polyphenols. This class of compounds has antioxidant effects, protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals — unstable molecules which can cause cancer and heart disease. These polyphenols also enhance nitric oxide production in endothelial cells lining blood vessels. This causes vasodilation for improved blood flow throughout the body.
Cacao also contains theobromine, a xanthine alkaloid that is related to caffeine. However, unlike caffeine it does not affect the nervous system or heart rate. Instead it acts primarily on smooth muscle tissue such as that found along blood vessel walls. It dilates peripheral blood vessels leading to increased circulation and can help lower blood pressure. It also relaxes bronchial tubes allowing for easier breathing.
Cacao can be enjoyed in many forms from whole beans to powders and elixirs as well as desserts such as chocolate bars and brownies.
However, when you choose to consume Cacao, it is imperative that it is either raw or minimally processed to preserve its unique nutritional profile. Both the roasting process used for cacao beans for chocolate making and high heat used for making cocoa powder destroys many of its phytochemical properties.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a precious herbal medicine that has been used for thousands of years in Asian herbalism to promote health, vitality, and longevity. It is an extraordinary tonic that helps open the heart and calm the mind.
Reishi mushroom is considered one of the best Shen tonics in Chinese herbalism. Reishi’s unique ability to balance the nervous system and nourish the Shen (spirit) calms anxiety, reduces stress, and instills feelings of peace and well-being.
Traditional Chinese texts describe Reishi mushroom as a spiritual medicine that can quiet chaotic thoughts, harmonize emotions and calm the mind. It helps us to feel more connected to our true nature, and gives us a sense of peace and well-being. TCM doctors have used Reishi to treat insomnia, anxieties, and stress-related problems for thousands of years.
Reishi can help us to feel more at ease with our emotions. Like a warm hand on your shoulder from a parent or wise elder, Reishi mushroom helps us relax when we’re worried or stressed out, but it also helps give us access to deeper feelings about who we are and what we want in life.
Reishi encourages us to be honest with ourselves about our true feelings and desires. This allows us to live according to our own personal truth instead of conforming with social norms or doing what other people expect from us.
Additionally, Reishi mushroom is one of the most widely studied herbs in the world and its positive effects on the cardiovascular system are profound.
Modern science has found that Reishi contains polysaccharides (beta-D-glucans), triterpenes, steroids, coumarin, mannitol and alkaloids. These compounds all help open our hearts by reducing stress and supporting cardiovascular health.
Reishi mushrooms are used to help regulate blood pressure and other heart functions. Reishi strengthens blood vessels and improves blood flow so it can reduce and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can also help lower high cholesterol, which can improve heart health.
What's more, Reishi mushroom has shown to be useful for treating arrhythmia by reducing the oxygen demand of the heart, which in turn allows it to beat more efficiently with less effort.
Furthermore, Reishi mushroom may be beneficial for high cholesterol and other cardiovascular conditions because of its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are important because they fight cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which puts an extra strain on your body.
Oxidative stress has been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease — a major reason why antioxidants are so important.
The most common ways to consume Reishi mushrooms are by boiling the raw mushroom in water for a period of time to make a tea or there are more convenient and potent forms such as concentrated extract powder and liquid tincture.
Pearl Powder is an ancient Chinese skin care secret that was reserved only for the royalty. There is evidence that the aristocracy of China used pearl powder as early as 600 A.D. to achieve a more youthful complexion and maintain their beauty, vitality and sexual energy well into old age.
Taken internally, Pearl powder brightens your complexion and makes your skin look smooth and silky soft. Applied externally, it can help reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
In one of the first recorded studies on pearls, in 1934, Dr. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize recipient, found that pearls contain a high level of magnesium, calcium and over 30 trace minerals essential for cellular health and rejuvenation. He called pearls "the perfect food from the sea" because of its rich content of calcium carbonate, amino acids, proteins and dozens of other nutrients proven essential for good health.
According to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Pearl is a superb Shen tonic that helps open the heart (your physical heart as well as your emotional heart), reduces stress and calms the mind.
People who are overworked are often tense and irritable, have trouble sleeping and even suffer from anxiety. Pearl helps to relax your body and mind by improving your circulation. It also has a cooling effect on hot body types.
TCM also believes that Pearl nourishes the Jing essence (which is responsible for growth and development) and improves restless sleep, anxiety and irritability, concentrated thinking, mental fatigue and premature graying or hair loss.
Pearl is also a great herb for women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS symptoms include emotional irritability, tension, stress, headaches and cramps. Pearl helps calm these symptoms by nourishing the Shen which in turn helps reduce these types of symptoms.
Pearl also helps support the cardiovascular system.
Pearl strengthens the heart which in turn relaxes the blood vessels so they are more elastic. This herb has been used for generations to help prevent heart attacks, relieve high blood pressure, and help with angina. Pearl is also effective in lowering cholesterol levels and improving circulation.
Pearl powder extract can be consumed internally to reduce stress, calm the mind and improve sleep or it can be used externally to nourish the skin.
Schizandra berry (Schisandra chinensis) is one of the best Shen tonic that helps open your heart gives rise to a sense of calm, contentment and inner peace. It helps heal and regenerate the heart tissue, strengthens the heart muscles, and nourishes the blood which helps improve circulation to all our organs.
Schizandra also has a unique ability to harmonize our Yin and Yang energy and promote a sense of inner peace, love and confidence.
Known as the five-flavor fruit, Schizandra berry (wu wei zi) has a sweet flavor with a little bit of sourness, which is connected with the element fire as well as the emotion joy/happiness.
Schizandra berry helps balance emotions, calm anxiety, and open your heart at night so that you can wake up feeling ready for your day.
Schizandra berry is a powerful anti-aging herb that helps rejuvenate the skin and reduce wrinkles. It is also considered an adaptogenic herb that helps us adapt to stress, by nourishing our adrenal glands and protecting our entire nervous system from stress related damages.
Schizandra berry reduces stress and anxiety and calms your mind. It is useful for people who are nervous, irritable or agitated, who have insomnia or restless sleep. Schizandra has also been used to help with menopausal hot flashes and night sweats.
Schizandra is an important Three Treasure tonic (Jing, Qi, Shen) but as a Qi tonic, it helps tonify and strengthen your body's energy levels. Additionally, it has strong detoxifying effects on the liver, thereby supporting liver health and optimal detoxification.
Additionally, Schizandra helps to increase stamina, endurance, athletic performance, concentration, mental acuity and memory.
You can cook dried Schizandra berries in water to make a potent life-promoting elixir with all the above health benefits. Or for ease of use, try a concentrated extract powder of Schizandra berry.
Polygala (Polygala tenuifolia), also known as “Yuan Zhi” in Chinese, is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the milkwort family Polygalaceae.
Polygala has been used traditionally in China for over 2,000 years, reaching its golden age in China during the Tang and Song dynasties (618–1279). During this period it was known as “the divine herb that opens up one’s spirit”. It has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its ability to open the heart, reduce stress, and calm the mind.
Unlike many other herbs that are used in Chinese medicine as aphrodisiacs mainly for men (like deer antler), Polygala has been used equally by men and women. When you look at all of its medicinal qualities you can see why it is so valuable for helping people open their hearts.
Polygala has been described as an herb for “opening joy” and “resolving sorrow” which leads to happiness, peace of mind, and strengthening of relationships.
In Chinese medicine it’s important for our minds to be quiet, clear and focused; this is called Shen stability. When our Shen isn’t stable, we can become easily distracted, irritated or frustrated.
We may have trouble making decisions or remembering things, or we may feel like we are in a fog. Polygala helps to clear out mental clutter caused by stress or overwork so that we can focus on what matters most in our lives. This allows us to cultivate meaningful relationships with others and experience more joy in our lives.
Polygala is often combined with other herbs to treat heart conditions and, in particular, heart palpitations resulting from anxiety and stress.
It’s also known as the “heart protector” for its ability to strengthen the pericardium meridian, which provides physical protection to the heart.
When you open your heart, you are letting go of everything that is holding you back from living a happy life. You let go of all of the negativity, the pain and suffering, and any other feelings that are holding you back from moving forward. When you open your heart, you are allowing yourself to feel love in its truest form.
When we open our hearts to something or someone in the universe, we will never be the same again.
Love is a very powerful emotion that can bring peace to our lives when we give it out to others, but it may not transfer back our way unless we really know how to find true inner peace first before outwardly sharing our emotions.
In order for us to find this kind of happiness in life, there must first be some kind of change within ourselves so that we may become more self-aware and conscious beings who don't act out on impulse all the time because they're angry with someone else who isn't treating them right either.
Learning how to share yourself with others is an important step in your personal development and allows you to grow and expand beyond what was once holding you back from having a better relationship with someone else.
Give Yourself Permission to Receive Love.
When you open your heart fully, you will find that it will lead you down the path of self-discovery where everything begins anew each day with new experiences waiting around every corner along the way.
You are allowing yourself to feel love for others without any limitations or barriers blocking your love from reaching its fullest potential.
These six medicinal herbs are wonderfuls tools to help us open our hearts and feel more love and compassion for ourselves and others.
Give them a try and share your experiences with us. Comment below, we’d love to hear!
- Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs by Ron Teeguarden
- Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes
- 5 Best Herbs to Open Your Heart - https://wisdom.thealchemistskitchen.com/5-best-herbs-to-open-your-heart/
- Polygala: Opening Energy Flow - https://herbworks.com/blogs/recent-posts/polygala-opening-energy-flow