This article was originally written by a US cardiologist who came to understand that there is more to cardiac health than is normally recognized. Given that February is heart month we thought we would like to share what he wrote with all of you as it is really quite amazing! He mentions the herbs Motherwort and Limeblossom and to find out more about these two wonderful herbs check out our newsletter this month.
Often it begins as a dull thudding in the chest. A sensation that the heart is moving irregularly, skipping a beat or even beating erratically. For some people this is all that happens, a mild skipping of the beat that is only annoying. In other people the irregularity is more significant. They may have a wild racing of the heart, what is called a tachycardia (fast heart beat). This may actually cause symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain or even passing out to unconsciousness. In medical terminology they are called arrhythmia. Heartbeats that are out of the ordinary. They may be simple premature heart beats that signify nothing or they can sometimes mean that the heart is damaged and the arrhythmias may even be life threatening.
Why do people get such irregular heartbeats? When the heart is damaged the traditional medical wisdom is that scarring and enlargement of the heart’s chambers leads to an increase in the pressure in the heart causing the irregular beats. Typical therapies are directed towards lowering the pressures and preventing the damage. It is also becoming increasingly clear that an imbalance in the hormonal function of the body occurs.
More and more the treatment for irregular heart rhythms is with medications that block the surge of adrenaline and other hormones what are called neurotransmitters. These are the hormones that lie at the nerve endings and transmit the chemical code that tells the body what to do. Traditional medical therapies are highly effective at controlling these irregular beats. The question that always gets raised in my mind is “Why have our bodies become out of balance to predispose us to these abnormal heartbeats?” If you think about it the hormonal balance in our bodies is intimately related to not just our physical nature, but it is also clearly influenced by what is going on at the emotional, mental and spiritual levels. So just what is going on at a deeper level to cause irregular heartbeats?
On the emotional level it is well documented medically that people with anxiety quite commonly have arrhythmias. When a person is anxious or upset they often come into the emergency room with irregular heartbeats.As a cardiologist I have seen many, may people whose heart rhythm problem related to their anxiety attacks. This can be the garden-variety skipped beat called PVCs or PACs (premature ventricular contractions or premature atrial contractions – based on whether they arise from the lower chamber, the ventricles or the upper chambers, the atria) which are not worrisome. I have also seen many people with what are called supra ventricular tachycardias. These are abnormal heart rhythms that are often quite fast but are still not considered overly serious (unless you have underlying damage of the heart). In all of these people the heart itself at least on a physical level is often normal. Meaning that which we obtain a chest x-ray and an echocardiogram (sound wave test to see the internal structure of the heart) everything looks fine. All of the chambers are normal sized. The heart valves all appear normal. We tell the person that their heart is normal. So why then if your heart is normal are you having these abnormal beats?
What I have found as I have probed deeper, questioning the people who have these types of arrhythmias is that often other things are going on. Many times their lives are troubled. They may be experiencing deep sadness because of a divorce or the loss of a loved one. They may be going through some difficult life challenges. And as we have journeyed down into their being, beneath the sadness, underneath the pain what often seems to be the culprit, the real cause for the arrhythmia is fear. At a deep, deep level they are afraid. What is it that makes them fearful? Interestingly, rarely do they know what it is that truly frightens them? Most of the time the fear is hidden. It is deeply repressed. Of course this is the body’s way of coping. We tend to hide and run from issues that need to be addressed. How many people want to face their deepest fears? So it should come as no wonder that as physicians we don’t often address the emotional aspect of these arrhythmias. But it does make sense when you think about it that fear and its influence on our hormones could be playing a part in this illness.
Remember the last time you were frightened. Think of the way your own hormones were running wild. Recall how your heart was racing. Can you feel how your breathing was jerking? So if a person carries a longstanding fear, a deep-seated fear that is not addressed imagine what that does to the body long term. Think about the weeks and months, even years of holding in the emotions of fear. Letting our bodies be bathed in the silent rush of adrenaline while we deny that it’s happening. It's no wonder people have arrhythmias. In a way it's almost a miracle that they aren’t more sick.
So how then can we address this fear? How can we treat these irregular heartbeats? Well, the first step is to seek traditional care. We have to make sure that the heart is normal and these abnormal heart rhythms aren’t serious. If you are having these symptoms see your doctor or cardiologist. In addition, as you seek the routine health care begin the process of looking more deeply at yourself. Take inventory of your subconscious thoughts and begin to look into the parts of your life that are out of balance.
Once you have made certain that nothing is seriously wrong with your heart you may want to consider herbal remedies. David Hoffman’s book, The Herbal Handbook, is a good place to start learning about herbs. Another book I am really fond of is The Book of Herbal Wisdom, by Matthew Wood (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California). This is a wonderful book for giving the character of certain plants. By character I mean certain plants used medicinally have a character and the character of the plant is matched with the character of the patient. Motherwort, Leonurus Cardiaca, is an herb that works on the hormonal side of the heart. Another herb that can be used for relaxing nervous tension is Lime Blossom, Tilia europea. I have also used Bach flower remedies as a way of helping people with the emotional side of illness.
Counselling is another way of addressing the aspect of fear that operates with these arrhythmias. Traditional counselling or psychotherapy can be very effective in finding out the basis of the fear and working towards a resolution of the fear. Additionally, a person needs to consider the spiritual side of illness. It is my belief that illnesses of the heart, all illnesses of the heart, have an even more profound spiritual aspect. What I mean by this is that illness operates at may levels. Traditional medicine works on the physical, metabolic, biochemical, hormonal and in some cases emotional level.
But that illness also operates on deeper levels. Spiritually, illness of the heart, including arrhythmias, leads back to an ability to open to love at a deep level. When we are closed to love, the sustaining force of the universe, we close off our connection to true wholeness and healing. Here is where denial operates again. Very few people are aware that they are closed to love. But if you are then you are missing the possibility of being truly healed.
Are palpitations, missed beats or arrhythmias an illness of yours? Begin the process of looking for a deeper cause. Because there is hope for an irregular heartbeat.
All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.