Herbs for the heart

Can herbs help restore the romance in our lives? Why not give it a try?

Herbs have always been used when it comes to matters of the heart. In ancient times herbs were mixed into love potions, lavender was put under the mattress to ensure marital passion, young lovers carried rosemary as a token of their faithfulness and lemon balm was believed to cure a broken heart. Today, we know that herbs can promote a sense of well-being. Let’s face it, happy, positive people are far more likely to find love than those who are grouchy and depressed.

Lavender (Lavandula species) is the number one romantic herb. It is delicious to smell, taste, feel and see. It is said to promote passion, harmony, and friendship probably because its calms the nervous system.

Lavender lends itself to romantic gestures, a posy of lavender with breakfast in bed, a lavender and candlelight bath, heart shaped lavender cookies, or a massage with lavender scented massage cream. Bring romance into the garden by planting lavender on either side of a pathway, so that you brush against it as you walk. The most popular and best performing lavender is the South African bred Lavandula intermedia “Margaret Roberts’. It is tough and long lasting, especially when grown on the highveld.


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) represents love and faithfulness, and it is valued for raising the spirits (and improving circulation) which may explain why some cultures have used this herb as an aphrodisiac! Inhale fresh rosemary and you can understand why it opens up the heart. It is an energising herb, full of joie de vivre. Not surprising that it became an emblem of fidelity for lovers, twined into bridal bouquets and given to guests at the wedding.

Try this: In the spirit of celebration and weddings, try this rosemary, vodka, and lemon cocktail.

  • In a cocktail shaker put a sprig of rosemary, fill with ice, and put in one or two tots of vodka, a tot of lemon juice, a tot of limoncello (the Italian aperitif) or one pulped peeled lime, and 1½ to 2 dessertspoons of caster sugar.
  • Shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Strain the mixture into the martini glass. The proportions can be adjusted to taste. It is delicious and refreshing.

Rosemary, like lavender, needs full sun, soil that drains well and space to grow.


Mint (Mentha) is another herb that lifts the spirits. The essential oil is a stimulant that refreshes the spirit and mind, increasing mental agility and alleviating mental fatigue.

Try this: Use mint or delicious peppermint (Mentha piperita) as an excuse to introduce some decadence into your life, with this chocolate peppermint slice.

  • Make a base using a packet of crushed tennis biscuits, mixed with 125g melted butter and 1 tbs cocoa. Put in a dish and refrigerate.
  • Make a peppermint cream filling with 1 cup of icing sugar, 2 tbs softened butter, 2 tbs cream lightly whipped and 2 tsp peppermint essence. Add in some green colouring
  • Spread over the base and set in the fridge. When set, melt some dark chocolate, and drizzle it over the top. Keep refrigerated.


Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) doesn’t come to mind as a romantic herb, but it does sweeten the breath, especially after eating garlic which is a real passion killer! It has a long folk history of increasing female libido and although that’s been discounted, everyone, benefits from a daily serving of fresh parsley because the leaves are very nutritious, with a high vitamin and mineral content. Parsley grows best in full sun and likes deep, fertile soil that drains well.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is a healing herb because where there is love there is also, alas, the possibility of a broken heart. An infusion or tea made from Lemon balm helps reduce anxiety, mild depression, and restlessness. It is a low growing perennial that likes moist, fertile soil and can take light shade. The leaves attract bees and have a lovely lemon fragrance.

  • Healthy Living Herbs are available at garden centres and selected hardware outlets: read more about herbs at:
  • Pictures: Lavender Stoechas ‘Bandera’ and Lavandula ‘Blue Spear’ supplied by BallStraathof

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