Got Heart? Be Glad!

On the cusp of February, visions of and dreams of hearts are on our minds in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. According to the American Heart Association, February is “American Heart Month”, and on their website is a wealth of important, useful information on how best to care for this vital organ. There are many wonderful herbs that serve to support cardiovascular function – hawthorn, motherwort, and even our favorite cinnamon. In this article, however, I would like to share with you another aspect of heart health – the idea of “gladdening the heart”. Historically, “gladdening the heart” speaks to addressing the feeling of melancholy or what we, today, would call depression. In the deep of winter, the cold and darkness may have a profound effect on our sense of emotional well-being. “Gladdening the heart”, then, becomes vital for us to comfort ourselves and each other through this time of year. So how does one “gladden the heart” in the deep of winter? Traditional herbalists sought to increase vitality, which was often done by supporting the link between the emotional and physiological. Increasing warmth – both literally and figuratively – can work wonders on a cold, crisp winter’s night: snuggle up in a cozy blanket with your favorite book; take a long, hot bath with a few drops of essential oil; spend an evening with friends or loved ones. Another option is to embrace the gift of winter and the stillness it brings. In our fast-paced world, welcome the gift of staying home. Take the opportunity to write that letter you’ve been meaning to write, call an old friend, take a nap! Make a nourishing soup, enjoy a hot cup of warming, ginger tea: Peel a small piece of fresh ginger and slice off 4 – 5 thin slices. Boil in 2C water for 10 minutes. Strain the ginger out, add lemon and honey to taste. Be restful in knowing that spring is just around the corner and the world will come alive again soon. Until then, revel in the snowy wonderland as you rejuvenate yourself for the seasons to come. Indeed, the peace of wintertime “gladdens my heart”. BIO: Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine. Donna currently practices as the professional herbalist at the MUIH Natural Care Center (410-888-9048×6614) in Laurel, Maryland. Read more about her, what she does, and why she does it at, or contact her directly at or 240-353-8754.

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