Doctrine of Signatures is an old theory that purportedly explains how humans discovered the medicinal uses of some plants. According to DOS, physical characteristics of plants (shape, color, texture, smell) reveal their therapeutic value.
An example: the shape of a rose is similar to that of a human heart; therapeutically, rose is good for the heart. (And it is.)
At this point, DOS is considered a pseudoscience and generally not used, but I still find a sort of poetry in its approach. Form begets function. I like to think of the beautiful, tender, bulbous rose, and it’s similarity to my own organ—the aromatherapy supporting my broken heart.
Essential oils have been used in herbal medicine for centuries. In Europe and Asia, aromatherapy is an accepted modality in pharmaceutical settings. These volatile oils from plants are understood as the powerful plant medicine that they are. They are revered for the therapies they offer us.
In October 2022, I said goodbye to my beloved grandmother. She is the person that inspired the start of Meow Meow Tweet through the simple, pleasurable gift of a bar of handmade soap. She played a significant part in my life, and her death is a heartbreak that I haven’t felt before. I find myself reaching for certain essential oils in this moment of grief. This is not a substitute for professional grief support, community and family, and mental health therapies (all of which I also do!). Aromatherapy is just another tool we can throw into the mix. I like to take a bath, do a bit of journaling, and breathe deep restorative breaths with a few drops of these oils on a cloth hanky.
The world can be a heavy place sometimes and we all need a little heart support. Often, we think about our basic needs as those that don’t include matters of the heart. This is a deprivation. Heart stuff is considered the domain of the privileged. I reject this idea. Of course our vital need for food, housing, safety must be met. But tending to the heart shouldn’t only be for the rich few who are already abundant in food, housing, safety. You deserve to care about your heart. No matter who you are or what you have.
Here are a few plants that I use for the heart, especially when it feels heavy:
In herbal medicine, roses are almost primarily used for cardiac and circulatory issues. In aromatherapy, rose is thought to “open” the heart. It can be employed for relationship conflicts and intolerance, and it is also comforting and supportive during crisis. It’s an aphrodisiac, too (many of these are).
Geranium has a way of imparting a feeling of calm strength and security. In times of emotional distress, it is especially poignant for stress and anxiety. It can also bring balance to a heavy heart.
Due to its ability to address a wide range of emotional issues, lavender is often called the mother or grandmother of essential oils. Lavender is beneficial in working with individuals who suffer from or with anxiety, mental exhaustion, insecurity, trauma, or emotional restlessness. Just like it can calm the intensity of a skin burn, lavender is a salve to our psyche from the shock of an unexpected event.
The scent of this flower can lower blood pressure, and soothe heart palpitations. It is used for post-traumatic stress syndrome, nervous tension, depression, separation and bereavement. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, ylang ylang is used to clear the heart of heat, while also harmonizing the mind. This flower has an incredible ability to calm the heart and I have always used it in any grief blends that I make.
Written by Tara Pelletier, co-founder