Written by Meghan Rhodes MCPP MAPA
I was making a heart tonic electuary recently. It's not a preparation that's as widely known or used as things like tinctures, teas and salves, but it's an easy and useful one. An electuary is a combination of powdered herbs mixed into honey and can have any consistency from syrupy (with more honey in the mix) to a paste to something a bit drier that can be rolled into little pills or chews. All you do is mix the honey and powder until you reach your desired consistency - and there's no right or wrong! The benefits are you get to take in all the medicinal compounds in the plant (dried and powdered), rather than only those which are water soluble (when making a tea), alcohol soluble (tincture), or oil soluble (infused oil), and the honey adds its antimicrobial, preservative, expectorant, and tasty properties to the remedy.
And whilst all preparations are useful and beneficial, I thought an electuary was particularly appropriate for this heart tonic blend I was preparing.
The heart and cardiovascular system are so tightly interwoven with the rest of the physical body, not to mention our emotions, that seeing it through a very reductionist lens doesn't often provide the long term support an individual needs to have vitality.
Many of the commonly prescribed heart medications work on stopping or restricting one event that's out of balance in the cardiovascular system. The downside to this is everything that needs to happen after that event is impacted. It's like taking a punctured tyre off a car - the 'problem' is gone, but that doesn't mean the car can carry on driving!
But with our herbs that have an affinity for the heart and cardiovascular system, the medicines taken in context of the whole plant are able to support our bodies taken in their context. Yes, berry herbs like rosehips and bilberries and schisandra and hawthorn contain all the beneficial things we've read about over the years for 'heart health' - vitamin C and flavonoids and antioxidants, etc. But they also have their own intelligence to them.
Bilberries are particularly adept at supporting peripheral circulation, getting the blood all the way to the fingers and toes and back round again, so freshly oxygenated blood can breathe life into all the nooks and crannies of our bodies. Hawthorn is cardiotonic and modulates blood pressure, meaning it raises or lowers your blood pressure based on what your body needs in that moment. Rosehips are bursting with all the nutrients and compounds your heart needs, including more vitamin C than citrus fruit. Schisandra is adaptogenic, meaning it fortifies the body's resilience against all types of stress, keeping the body balanced and energised. Hibiscus - although not a berry - shares the antioxidant and nutrient rich properties of the berries and is distinctly talented at supporting healthy cholesterol levels. Of course the bonus to these herbs is they all taste brilliant!
The healthy functioning of our heart is central to our health and not something to be taken lightly - all the more reason to support it fully, in context, identifying and addressing the root of any imbalance. Messages sent by our hearts - of any kind - are not ones to silence, they are some of the most important to explore, respect and nurture.