An empath is someone with a supernatural ability to deeply feel the mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical state of others. If you identify as an empath or a highly sensitive person--or perhaps you know someone who does--this beginner’s guide is for you!
Our chief herbalist and founder, Adriana Ayales, has rounded up some of her favorite herbs to navigate sensitive energetics. The protective plants outlined below are especially potent for navigating these transformative times, which continue to test us in next-level ways.
Using herbs that might already be in abundance around you can help spark your confidence, protect your sensitive spirit, and center you whenever you’re in need of grounding.
Nature’s allies have always been here for us, and they’re a lot more helpful than we have been led to believe if we know how to collaborate with them. Establishing protective practices is vital for maintaining our energetic hygiene, and will shield us from yucky, unwanted negative vibrations. We’d love to know: will you give some of these rituals a try?
So many more plants not included here also have profound spiritual and energetic properties, and this list is by no means exhaustive. We encourage you to continue seeking the best fit for your needs. This guide is more of a little starter kit to help orient you in your ongoing search.
Before we dive into our top herbs and quick tips for empaths and highly sensitive people (HSP), it’s essential to note that not all herbs work the same way for all people. The urgent work of self-protection and conscious care in these wild times starts with energetically tuning in to nature’s offerings. When you do, she can better assist you on your healing journey to leverage all of your empathy for internal fortitude so you can live in your completely beautiful power.
Today we're breaking some of our favorite allies by category as they are classically used. For example, St John's Wort and Ruda have been used for psychic protection and psychic attacks sin before medieval times! Many folk traditions have extensive writings on herbs for energetic protection and we just find it fascinating. Enjoy the magic below and reflect on the category that connects best to you.
10 HERBS FOR PSYCHIC ATTACK
As an empath or HSP, it can be all too easy to absorb external thoughts, fears, and even harmful spells cast with or without intention by individuals struggling with complex dark emotions ranging from jealousy and anger to hatred and hurting. In order to protect against these psychic attacks that can cripple the psyche, the physical and energetic bodies, these herbs can curb or neutralize any potential threats to our general well-being before they fester or become toxic forces.
- Cat’s Claw - According to research, this green wood-like vine is said to improve memory, learning, and mood, in addition to protecting the brain and DNA content due to its anti-inflammatory and cognitive-enhancing effects.
- Dill - Used since ancient times to protect against witchcraft and negative thought forms, this flower essence helps to moderate sensory overload, refining the big picture.
- Hawthorn - The leaves, flowers, and berries of this protective plant/heart opener are our tender ally in all manners of heartache (emotional/spiritual), disappointment, and grief.
- Lemon Balm - In the Middle Ages, lemon balm was often steeped in wine to lift one’s spirits, restore the nervous system, and help heal wounds (physically and energetically).
- Narcissus - To remember not to attract narcissists into our energetic field any longer, this flower family is also connected to more symbolic meanings, ranging from rebirth, renewal, and the coming to spring to luck, joy, prosperity, and wealth.
- Parsley - Worn in weddings to avoid evil eye/envy and rich in antioxidants, regular consumption of parsley can keep both mind and body cool, reducing anxiety and stress.
- Rose - An ancient herbal ancestor who offers deep soul and heart nourishment, Rose teaches us to love ourselves above all.
- Rue (a.k.a. Ruda) - Ruda powerfully protects from parasitic energy and prevents psychic attacks, in addition to its pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic properties.
- St. John’s wort - Besides easing the symptoms of depression (a common dis-ease for empaths and HSP everywhere), this herb is also reported to calm one’s mood, act as a positive nerve tonic for the nervous system, relieving anxiety, tension, stress, irritability, and offering a powerful aid for sleep-related health issues like insomnia.
- Tarragon - The word tarragon is derived from the Latin dracunculus, “a little dragon”. Much of the association with dragons comes from the serpentine shade of the herb's roots. It was thought that tarragon would cure the bites and stings of venomous beasts and mad dogs. Today, it is regarded for benefits for sleep, appetite, and heart health.
4 HERBS FOR CLARITY
On the extreme end of the spectrum for the somewhat rare--an estimated one to two percent of the population--who fall into the empath or HSP category, debilitating physical symptoms can manifest that reflect the emotional toll of being too stressed and overwhelmed. Headaches, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, exhaustion, and increased heart rate are among some of the worst of the potential consequences of not being able to separate one’s own thoughts and feelings from those of others. This category of herbs can create a much-needed mental, spiritual, and emotional clearing of the buildup, revitalizing even the most sensitive among us to proceed with new clarity.
- Marigolds - Celebrate the death of what no longer serves you with this “flower of the dead” that has long been cultivated by ancient Aztecs and modern Mexicans alike for their annual Day of the Dead ceremony.
- Rosemary - Used to crystallize and discern between your own emotions and those of others, this fragrant herb is also a cognitive stimulant that aids with memory and focus.
- Thyme - Smoke cleansing with thyme clears the home. Also used for channeling to communicate with fairy folk and the dead, thyme is also believed to boost brain function.
- Yarrow - By enhancing our psychic and intuitive abilities (to be able to discern and identify toxic energies), yarrow can also assist us most effectively in boundary setting.
ADAPTOGENS + NERVINES
For centuries, in both Chinese and Ayurvedic healing practices, adaptogens (a.k.a. non-toxic plants) have been used as stress blockers. They are great equalizers, and bring the body back to its most calm and optimal state, allowing the system to recover from all types of external stressors.
Adaptogens that help with the stress response:
Like the adaptogens above, nervines also help the body rest and restore its equilibrium. But, these herbs specifically target the central nervous system (not other hormones, for example), providing rich nourishment and support. Nervine tonics are unique in that they have no pharmaceutical equivalents, and can be used with or independent of other treatments.
Nervines that help ease social anxiety:
While a personal exploration of these herbs--including specific adaptogens and nervines to target particular areas of the physical and spiritual body--may seem daunting at first, we recommend starting with one of the tips below to start tapping into your own needs, blocking out the emotions, desires, and external chatter that may be coming from others. Look to answer this simple question first, “What do I need most?” Be it stress relief, deeper sleep, or added clarity, to name a few, we believe that the strong intuition you already possess will guide you to the supportive plants around you ready to offer you the best of their healing qualities.
DO THESE 5 THINGS TODAY TO SHIELD AND NOURISH YOUR SENSITIVE HEART
Let’s face it: an empath’s greatest enemy can often be the inner monologue and unrelenting desire to help, please, and serve others. To shield and nourish our sensitive hearts, here are five tips to ensure being in service to the world doesn’t mean being a slave to our own high expectations.
- Be very selective with whom you share your presence, kindness, and physical touch. You have healing hands, so be very careful who you touch with them. To soothe yourself, a few rounds of simple calming breaths with one hand on the belly and the other on the heart can quickly restore calm within yourself. Creating boundaries for when, where and how you choose to engage with those seeking your time and attention is another important tool to maximize your potential to show up for yourself and for loved ones.
- Draw upon the power of nature to regenerate your energetic field. Whether forest bathing, camping for a few days, or just spending the lunch hour outdoors, Mother Earth has proven benefits for all beings. Turn off your technology to enjoy the quiet stillness.
- Use crystals to protect yourself from overstimulation and harm. Two of our favorites for empaths and HSP to keep nearby are Black Tourmaline and Black Quartz. These offer potent empathic protection from psychic attacks, negative energy, electromotive force (EMF), and radiation! Black Tourmaline is also known to have a very calming effect on empaths, as it helps us to feel safe, secure, grounded, and balanced from the root chakra.
- Burn sacred resins. Practice smoke cleansing with Pine, Copal, Myrrh, Frankincense, and Dragon’s Blood. Use what grows around you to further enhance the resin’s power.
- Tune in to the power of snakes (more below) to transmute on command as needed.
Practitioners of Hinduism believe Kundalini, a form of divine feminine energy, is located at the base of the spine. This energy source is also known as Muladhara in Hindi. Tuning into the power of a snake can remind empaths and HSP that they can regenerate and transform. The process of consistently recreating ourselves can serve as a reset button anytime we need to shift from dark to light, or from living in our heads to leading with our hearts. *Note: the serpent meditation below has been adapted from Kundalini Tantra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
It is recommended to follow this meditation step by step, to begin slowly, and then build up the amount of time you spend practicing this technique over a period of time.
Sit comfortably, legs crossed. If you prefer to sit in a chair, place your feet firmly on the floor.
With a straight spine, relax the belly, and then close the eyes.
Draw your attention to the breath, allow it to slow down naturally. This may take a few moments. Be a patient, neutral observer.
Next, bring your awareness to the base of your spine. Begin to visualize your breathing coming from there. As you breathe in and out, visualize the breath entering and exiting this area. Repeat this process, tuning in to the base of the spine, for a few minutes with your full attention.
Once your concentration feels stable, start to visualize a small black cylinder (lingam with the top cut off) as the base of your spine. Next, visualize a small red baby snake (not a cobra) coiled around this lingam, looking up with its mouth open.
When this picture becomes clear in your mind’s eye, visualize the serpent struggling to rise up the spine, straining in its effort to make its way upward. As it struggles, feel and hear the intense hissing sound it is making throughout its labored journey.
As the serpent rises, visualize its mouth as wide as your body. As it continues to rise, observe its body stretching up while its tail remains at the base of the spine, coiled around the lingam.
During the meditation, the serpent’s body may often rise and fall back down again. You may allow this organic movement to flow. But, be sure to keep the tail coiled around the lingam, fixed at the base of the spine. Continue the meditation by returning to this visual.
It is said that the meditator may experience an eruption of bliss with the rising of the serpent in this visualization practice. While traditional guidance encourages the lingam and serpent’s tail to remain coiled and fixed at the base of the spine, it is perfectly normal for both the lingam and serpent to float along the various chakras. If this happens, it is recommended that you continue the visualization as directed, using the new chakra location as your base.
As with any new meditation practice, start with a few minutes exploring the technique, then build up to longer periods of sitting with the visuals. To ease out of the meditation, place one hand on the base of the spine and one over the heart. Thank the serpent for its wisdom, thank yourself for opening your heart to the practice, and gently blink the eyes open to return to the world with a renewed sense of your powerfully divine feminine energy.