Herbs influence our emotions

When analyzing pharmaceutical medications, we generally discuss their therapeutic actions, chemical properties, and possible side effects. Many people approach medicinal herbs in the same manner. I think this is shortsighted, however, because plants interact with and nourish us on many levels–nutritional, medicinal, cultural, emotional, and psycho-spiritual.

I recently discovered a charming 20-year-old book called Herbal Therapy for Women, by Elisabeth Brooke (Thorsons, 1992). Brooke discusses the emotional as well as the physical uses of each plant. Some of her ideas were very familiar to me and some were new. 

Here are a few highlights of Brooke’s emotional uses of a three local plants, accompanied by photos that I took last summer.  

Linden Blossom

“A remedy for those who need more love in their lives, who find it hard to receive love, to express love. Such people may have been damaged as children, suffered cruelty at the hands of others; perhaps they have had traumatic experiences in relationships or been abused. They hid their vulnerability behind a mask of coldness and indifference, but they are highly sensitive. [Linden blossom] is for those who are givers, but find it hard to receive; for those who seem cut off from warmth, who are distant, who are difficult to reach. It softens, warms and helps build trust and a willingness to open up to others.”

St. John’s Wort

“St. John’s Wort is used for [those] who have lost their direction in life, who need to contact their inner selves, who want to reorientate. It is especially useful for strong, capable people, who for various reasons have lost sight of themselves and need help to find their road again.” 


“Yarrow is [a] warrior herb. For the fighters, who are defenders of the weak, the needy, the helpless, who want to fight institutions, patriarchal structures, injustice wherever it occurs. It is also for those fighting internal battles against addictions, mental illness, depression and fear. Yarrow strengthens and solidifies, and gives courage and energy to continue struggling.”