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Building A Courageous Heart

Building A Courageous Heart

3 plants to unharden hearts in hard times

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from The Art & Practice of Spiritual Herbalism by Karen M. Rose, published by Fair Winds Press. Reprinted with permission from The Quarto Group.

O ur heart is a muscle and, if we ignore it, it becomes silent and atrophied. By the time we see the physical signs of our hearts hardening, we have already been in the practice of denying our hearts for some time.

In indigenous healing cultures, heart problems signal discontent and unhappiness. Discontent emerges when we make all of our decisions from a rational or logical place. Making decisions from our heads and not our hearts leads to disconnection. Each time we override what we feel in our hearts with logic and reason, our hearts shrink more.

Suppressing our deepest emotions suppresses our inner light and holds our joy prisoner. How have we been complicit in dimming our light? In what ways have we blocked our peace and happiness by withholding our light?

There may have been a wound that led us to ignore our hearts. As children or young people, we may have had to harden to survive. Over time a detached, closed heart shows up in our bodies as a circulatory system, blood vessel, or heart issue. As adults it is up to us to connect with, heal, and build a courageous and resilient heart. Healing work opens a closed heart and encourages reconnection.

Tap into your heart’s leadership, listen, and be led by its answers. Wisdom finds a home in our hearts, not our heads. Make it a practice to move fearlessly with what the heart wants. Our lives change when we move from a heart-centered place—meaning we elicit the heart’s desires and center them in all our daily decisions. Heart-centeredness can occur all the time, not just when sitting in meditation: It is as simple as listening to the heart, uplifting its value and importance in our life.

A practice that helps me connect to my heart each day is to ask: What does my heart want to eat today? What does my heart want me to wear today? When someone invites me somewhere, does my heart want to go? Then I act accordingly. The more we can tap into the heart’s innate wisdom, the more decisions come naturally, as we trust our heart and intuition—this is the path to a heart-centered life.

Building A Courageous Heart
Art by Elayna Speight, Inked Designs

Plants for the heart

(Editor’s note: In the African diaspora, the heart is guided by thesun and the orisha Oggun.)

The circulatory system requires fire, and the plants that bring healing are fiery ones, identified with Oggun—cayenne, garlic, and hawthorn. These Mars and fire plants heal a cold, disconnected heart and breathe life and light back into the body after trauma. Fire plants help us reestablish connections with ourselves. In their own distinct ways, each of these plants connects us to flow and joy and helps us move from a heart-centered place. They are suitable for forgiveness work, as they bring back vitality and wholeness to the heart. They stimulate cellular memories and bring forth resilience, allowing for healing while breaking ancestral karmic patterns.

Plants guided by Oggun fortify, protect, and give courage to our childlike hearts. They help us create protection for our hearts from the inside, allowing us to be vulnerable and step forward into our passion.


Hawthorn helps bring back the heart’s passion.

Hawthorn’s thorns caution us that protection is needed when we move through this world with an open heart. Hawthorn plants have huge thorns with sharp tips that wound the skin, reminding us to be present with our approach to our hearts and the hearts of others. As a plant whose energy is Oggun, it gives us courage and fortifies our hearts. It helps us shield ourselves while still functioning from a heart-centered place. Hawthorn is excellent for someone who needs help with giving and receiving love.

Hawthorn is one of my favorite medicines for heartbreak and sadness, as it helps us grieve and prepare our hearts for the energy of new love, bringing back the heart’s passion.

Common Name: Hawthorn

Latin Name: Crataegus oxyacantha

Other Names: May Tree, Mayflower, Mayblossom, Thorn, White Thorn


Cayenne reawakens disconnected hearts.

Cayenne’s medicine brings movement and transformation. It is a fast-acting catalyst that is dynamic in waking up body processes. It reawakens cold, disconnected hearts that have been traumatized or frozen. Cayenne can be used for heart attack and shock. It brings its user back to their body and can be helpful for trauma, susto (intense fear/shock/trauma), or soul loss. When events happen that take our breath away and freeze our action, cayenne can allow us to be present, turning energy into action.

Cayenne brings blood, warmth, and energy. It is one of my favorite aphrodisiacs. I have used it with chocolate and hot chocolate to evoke passion. Use cayenne to promote self-love, heat a cold romantic relationship, or remove a creative block. Scatter cayenne around your door and property to break hexes and release you back to your power. As a plant of Oggun, cayenne courageously strengthens the heart’s voice and provides protection and vitality.

Cayenne is an excellent introductory herb to use with people who do not usually use herbal medicine because it is accessible; most homes have cayenne in the spice cabinet.

Common Name: Cayenne

Latin Name: Capsicum frutescens or Capsicum annuum

Other Names: Red Pepper, Bird Pepper, Fruit of the Sun


Garlic helps shield our hearts from emotional vampires.

Garlic is strong medicine with a strong lingering aroma. It helps shield us from emotional vampires. It protects our energy and repels harmful energy that may be coming to us. Growing up, my family used garlic skins to protect us spiritually—we would burn them over our babies and in our homes to remove any unwanted energies. Garlic also removes curses from our ancestral lineages, purifying the bloodlines and toxic belief systems.

Most homes already have garlic, which makes for an easy transition to use this plant in healing. Use it to remove unwanted vibrations from old relationships or objects. Garlic is excellent for treating blood impurities and it moves stagnation.

Common Name: Garlic

Latin Name: Allium sativum

Other Names: Stinking Rose

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Karen M. Rose

Karen M. RoseMaster Herbalist, Karen M. Rose has dedicated her life’s work to empowering individuals to reconnect to their own ancestral traditions. Over the past 20 years, she has created several outlets to offer her teachings and healing modalities to women, people of color, Black, and LGBTQX communities. Learn more at sacredvibeshealing.com.

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