Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and if you have been, may I join you?), you’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of negative energy floating around these days. It can be very wearing for everyone, but most especially for those of us who are empathic. The good news is that there are things you can do to help ease the burden many of us feel in this distressing time. Herbally, this is a great time to cozy up to that wonderful group known as the shen tonics.
Shen tonics are a group of herbs that have a direct affect on the spiritual heart and nervous system. In some cases they are adaptogenic as well as nervines. In all cases, they ease stress and help restore balance and joy to what Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners call the “shen,” that energetic part of us which houses our spirit.
There are many shen tonics, but some of my favorites are Holy Basil (Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum), Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin), Hawthorn (Crataegus), and Rosa rugosa.
Holy Basil is considered a sacred plant in India. An adaptogen, Holy Basil works to restore balance to the body. As a shen tonic, it works to restore balance to the emotions. Although you can use Holy Basil as a tincture, my preferred method is drinking a soothing Holy Basil tea. If I’m feeling particularly depleted, I like to use Madelon Hope’s holy basil, nettles and licorice combination for a relaxing and rejuvenating tea. It also combines well with rose and linden.
Mimosa or Silk Tree, Albizia julibrissin, is another marvelous shen tonic. Its flowers and bark are used in Chinese medicine to relieve anxiety and depression. Albizia is a wonderful herb to use when you need to feel grounded. For that reason I particularly like to use it in combination with Wood Betony, another wonderful nervine and shen tonic. I prefer using Albizia as a tincture. I find that it works beautifully with Rose also, and helps restore tranquility to a bruised spirit.
Hawthorn, Crataegus, is one of the premier herbs to strengthen the cardiovascular system. It is a powerful shen tonic that seems to add joy to the spirit and restore a sense of wellbeing. Hawthorn is one of the main herbs I use in the protection formula for awakening a spiritual heart. Hawthorn is also lovely in tea form, and is a beautiful complement to Rosa Rugosa.
Rosa Rugosa is the fragrant wild rose we find growing most often near the seashore. A beautiful plant with a heavenly scent, Rosa Rugosa as a glyceride truly does gladden the heart. I will be forever grateful to Linda Patterson for teaching me about this beautiful plant. As a flower essence, Rosa Rugosa helps to balance the emotions, releasing grief and transmuting negative vibrations into love and compassion.
So, if you are having a hard time blocking out the seemingly omnipresent negativity, it may be time to develop a deeper relationship with one or several of these herbs. Treat yourself to a lovely shen tonic tea. Meditate with the plants, use them as glycerides, tinctures, flower essences or essential oils.
I think the best thing we can do for the planet and ourselves during stressful times is to work with gentleness and compassion towards all. Shen tonics help us restore balance and serenity. Couldn’t we all use a little more kindness?