Herbal Medicine to Heal Grief, Part Two

Herbal Medicine to Heal Grief, Part Two

By April C.  Brader – DOM National Board Certified and Florida licensed Traditional Chinese Medicine Physician, Acupuncturist and Herbalist                                                                                                               

Each spiritual healing tradition from around the world has its own unique herbs to help individuals manage grief. 

In traditional Chinese medicine, we usually use a comprehensive herbal formula consisting of several herbs based upon our ancient manuals (materia medica) and/or patient’s presentation, manifestations and symptoms. Some of the potential herbs we use in an herbal formula for the treatment of grief may include:

  1. He Huan Pi — is from the Albizzia or Mimosa Tree, often called the “Tree of Happiness” for its amazing ability to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. It is often used for vexation, depression, palpitations, anxiety and insomnia. The pharmacological affects are sedative, hypnotic, and antidepressant, analgesic, anthelmintic, and diuretic.  He Huan Hua, or flower of the Albizzia Tree is used for dysphoria, forgetfulness, depression and grief.
  1. Shan Zha — or Hawthorne — is used to direct to the heart. It has a calmative effect and enhances circulation. It dispels stagnation, blood stasis and dilates blood vessels which facilitate circulation.  It has the ability to tonify and strengthen the heart. As an added bonus, Hawthorne has been shown to lower cholesterol by several different mechanisms.  
  1. Ye Jiao Teng –also known as Fleeceflower Vine–is used to nourish the heart and blood, and it calms the mind and spirit. It is helpful for blood deficiency and insomnia and particular for dream disturbed sleep. It is often very difficult to sleep during a time of intense grief.
  1. Suan Zao Ren — or Sour JujuBean Seed–  is used to nourish Heart and Liver Blood and Yin helping with insomnia, lassisitude, tranquilizes the mind. Reduces spontaneous and night sweats and dreamed disturbed sleep.
  1. Yuan Zhi –is especially helpful to treat brain fog, ruminating thoughts and calms the mind to induce sleep and peaceful relaxation. Scientists studying constituents in Yuan Zhi have found potent anti-depressant effects.
  1. Huai Xiao Mai – or Floating Wheat. This herb supports the emotional functions of the heart. It addresses restlessness, insomnia, agitation, vexation, excessive crying and emotional instability with anxiety and panic attacks. 
  1. Bai Zhi Ren –Biota Seed– nourishes heart blood to calm the spirit. This herb is the most effective for insomnia due to “heart blood deficiency.” It is for anxiety, palpitations, irritability, and forgetfulness.  
  1. Yu Jin — Tumeric Tuber–this herb moves the blood and invigorates blood stasis. It is indicated for mental disturbances associated with symptoms like disorientation, epilepsy, mania, anxiety, agitation, seizures and emotional derangement.

The above mentioned herbs are just a sampling of some of the amazing herbs we use in traditional Chinese medicine to support patients during their grieving process.  As practitioners we also utilize patented formulas in the form of teapills which are easy to take on a daily basis and are prescribed based upon a patient’s presentation and symptoms.  Two potential herbal formulas used for grief are:

  1. Gan Mao Da Zao Wan: A formula to nourish the heart and calm the spirit. Symptoms include depression, melancholy, sadness, grief, crying, mania, hysteria, anxiety, restless sleep and panic attacks.
  1. Xiao Yao Wan:  Also known as “The Free and Easy Wanderer,” is a formula used for an energetically depressed liver and deficient spleen manifestations such a depression, PMS, frequent sighing, grief and general apathy, lack of sleep, anxiety, low energy, fatigue and stress.

Once again, it is important to note the above formulas are only two possibilities of the many herbal formulas available to people experiencing grief, heartache and depression as it relates to the loss of a loved one.  These herbal formulas are tried and true after thousands of years of traditional use in Asia and now the United States.  

Medical intuitive and author Carolyn Myss shares this wonderful wisdom:

We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds—the strengths to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts or other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.– Why People Do Not Heal and How They Can, p. 15

I can think of no better wise healing allies in our journey of grief and resolution than herbal medicine and acupuncture therapies. Their energetic abundance and miracles of medicine never cease to amaze me.  I wish you peace and strength on your path to healing. 

For more information on other healing traditions use of herbs to help manage and overcome grief, please check out the following helpful links:







April is sincerely grateful to her Chinese medicine physician mentors Dr. Chuanxin Wang and Dr. Jack Silverman who spent a lifetime of scholarly study and worked diligently to elucidate both the beauty and healing power of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

April C. Brader had a near-death experience at the age of two after a severe head injury and was hospitalized.  For 15 years she ran community-based hospital occupational medicine, injury prevention and wellness programs for HealthTrust, HCA and Community Health Systems for the State of Florida.   She discovered traditional Chinese medicine after she developed acute kidney disease and credits Chinese medicine for healing her and changing her life path.  She is an herbalist and acupuncturist studying and using medicinal plants from all over the world including rainforest herbs, traditional Chinese medicine herbs, Western herbs, and Native American and Ayurvedic herbs to facilitate healing in patients.