Mending Broken Hearts: A Traditional Perspective on a Modern Epidemic, Part I
“One love, one heart”
“Be still my beating heart”
“Heart of Darkness”
“Follow your heart”
The power and mystery behind this single organ has fueled a million poems, movies, art, and love songs.
Traditional societies know the power, materially and non-materially, of the human heart. It is the first organ that is formed in the womb and the last organ to stop working when a person dies.
On a physical level, the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the entire body, keeping it flowing and keeping the body healthy and vibrant. It becomes an issue when there are blockages in this process or difficulties with the functioning of this pivotal organ.
In fact, this is one of the primary health issues we struggle with as a society. According to modern statistics, approximately 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year, which accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths. Its many compatriots, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, come hand in hand with living within a culture that prides itself on fast foods, sugar & sweets, supersizing, and fried foods.
But even beyond food, we are a culture that thrives on fast-paced workplaces and high stress environments, with its emotional ups and downs. It’s no wonder we are struggling with an organ that is commonly linked not only to physical health but also emotional health and wellbeing.
The modern system knows some of the reasons behind the weakening of this organ: high sugar, high salt, high-stress, sedentary lifestyles, and yet, their most touted and immediate solutions are prescription medications to cover the symptoms, which will likely need to be taken for the entirety of one’s lifetime. These provide immediate relief as opposed to the harder solution of creating lasting lifestyle changes and using bitter herbs for regular cleansing and maintenance of the body.
In African healing, one wouldn’t even normally speak about high cholesterol or high blood pressure as disorders in and of themselves. There is always a reason why the body stops functioning correctly, and when it comes to the heart a few things can go wrong…
First, a common theme in modern culture is toxic build-up within the bloodstream. This is due to our lifestyles of poor diets and lack of regular cleansing throughout our lives. When salt, sugar, excess minerals, or excess fats build up in the bloodstream, a traditional healer would be able to read the signs of this excess build up in the veins and arteries from viewing and examining external signs on the body. This would be viewed as excess pollution within the body and the importance of cleansing would be emphasized, even with or without the tell-tale signs of heart issues.
The cells within our bodies absorb nutrients and reject what is not needed. This excess is sent back to the bloodstream for elimination and into the primary elimination organs. When the amount of pollution is too much to be expelled by respiration (the breathing process) or the liver & kidneys, then it builds up in the bloodstream.
With the excess build-up in the bloodstream, one may simply feel sluggish, fatigued and less functional. Some other signs may include a small buzzing feeling in the body, dry mouth, yellow pee, dizziness, or subtle muscle spasm. But at advanced stages of toxicity, the functionality of the veins and arteries may even be diminished. The passageways in which our bodies rely upon for blood flow may be constricted or blocked, forcing this very important organ to have to work harder to pump blood all throughout the body. This can result in inflammation, swelling, and weakening of the heart.
This may show up in a person as heart palpitations, chest pains, small coughs when laying down (not coming from the lungs), shortness of breath, swollen hands and feet, brittle veins, inflamed arteries, and circulation issues. Other more targeted signs a healer might look for is the development of asthma, upper back pain, dizziness, body tension, tension behind the eyes, sand clearing the throat often. At its peak, these symptoms can lead to heart failure or heart attacks.
But within the traditional culture, things often don’t advance so far. With a keen eye, knowledge of herbs and prevention, and a connection to the body, a healer can help someone head off these conditions through regular maintenance and cleansing through herbal remedies, and shifts in eating and lifestyle habits.
Next week, we will go further into heart issues from an indigenous standpoint and how a traditional healer would treat and view problems related to the heart.