Thursday we went on our annual hike to celebrate our anniversary (happy 33 to us!), and since this is the season they flower, we went to a local park that’s full of Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa. I love this flower so, it’s a graceful and complex being of the rich forests here, with delicate ferny leaves and sweet pink flowers that look like a heart breaking open.

It’s related to the bigger and showier garden Bleeding Heart, but with a more understated beauty that suits its cool, dark forest environment, growing alongside Wild Ginger, Wood Sorrel, Maidenhair Fern and Skunk Cabbage.

This was our first trip to this park since last fall when extensive wildfires burned in the area, and we weren’t sure what to expect, but the park itself was undamaged and the little creek that runs through it didn’t seem to be muddied or filled with fire runoff, so hopefully the burned areas will recover well.

As I wrote about during that time, Bleeding Heart was used by the Eclectic herbalists for pain of a mixed physical/emotional nature, and I relied on it in those weeks that I was so worried about a place I love, and hurting along with it as the flames swept through. Seeing the flowers this week brought that memory back, but with a new, brighter outlook of rebirth and regeneration as Nature moves on however she can, creating beauty and possibility through green growth.

Bleeding Heart is thought to be a relative of the poppy, and shares some similar chemistry, and this is why it’s used for pain and cramping, for which it is very effective. It’s especially useful for pain that has a mental or emotional component, whether the subtle levels have caused the physical pain, the physical pain has damaged the higher aspects of being, or in the more usual chicken-and-egg issues where it’s hard to say which is the cause and which the effect.

Whatever started the issue, Bleeding Heart dulls the physical pain and relaxes muscle tension that can hold and aggravate it, while giving the mind some space from the distress and opening the Heart to receive new, more positive energy.

That last quality, of opening the Heart, is the most apparent in the flower’s signature, and it’s a gift I have seen heal countless people over the years. Bleeding Heart can also be worked with to dive in to emotional pain, find the lesson in it, and in so doing, release it and move on. This can be tremendously healing for grief and loss, whether of another person or being, of aspects of one’s own self, or for anything that was loved and lost.

I have observed that in the process of working with Bleeding Heart, it can refresh the sorrow, bringing it to the surface in a way that can be difficult but which also brings with it lessons and gifts from the good aspects of what is being mourned. I have seen it bring closure to children who didn’t leave things well with parents who passed, mothers whose children were taken tragically young, and many other people with complicated grief that was hard to sort out.

Bleeding Heart combines well with other herbs to heal the heart and balance subtle energies, many of which are also flowers. Rose is a great companion to it, with its gift of unconditional love and a gentle, peaceful strength. I also like Bee Balm with Bleeding Heart, as it helps regulate the flow of information and lessons from the experience, protecting from overwhelm and allowing integration and growth.

Bleeding Heart has its own quality of perspective and distance to it, but if more remove is needed from the difficult emotions it can stir up, Sacred Lotus is very helpful, raising the Shen of the heart to a wiser and more perceptive place and helping the mind to not get “stuck in the mud” of sadness.

Although it’s not a flower, I also love working with Shatavari in conjunction with Bleeding Heart, as it adds a mothering, nurturing quality that brings comfort and peace and helps to move on with deepened wisdom.

2 thoughts on “Weed Love : Bleeding Heart

  1. Mark Schlichting says:

    Thank you Micha and Paul,
    I love your perspective and relationship to our plant friends. Especially helpful here is your information on pairing other plants with Bleeding Heart. I have used Bleeding Heart with friends and family (my myself for years) so it is lovely to add additional energetic flavors to it’s use.

    • Micah says:

      Mark- thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the post & found the information helpful. One of the things I love most about our plant friends is their complexity- the myriad ways they can be calming, or energizing, or nutritive, or immune boosting, or all the other gifts they offer. Each one carries a unique expression of its effects, and combining them can give us powerful ways to direct and fine tune our healing work.

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