An Ancient Heartache Remedy From The Depths

By Shannon Kring
Art of Red Heart Balloon Flying Amongst Black and White Clouds and a Girl Swinging from a Tree

When my husband moved out, I found myself depressed, alone, and without a sense of purpose—unless you consider sleeping until noon and then going on 12-hour eating benders a higher calling.

For six months, I spent teary nights alone, recreating the pasta sauce he’d made for me on our first date. The kitchen, once the heart of our home and the soul of our national television cooking series, had fallen dark. So, too, had I.

Friends and family reminded me that I was nothing if not resourceful. Told me to follow my heart. But how could I follow a heart that was, like a bird stunned from hitting a windshield, wounded and lacking any sense of direction?

Between naps and second helpings of Sour Cream and Onion Baked Lay’s, I—now heavier in body and spirit—found myself thinking of Flavia Cueva and her Hacienda San Lucas in Copán, Honduras. When I had met her the previous summer, I was instantly drawn to her fighting spirit. Ten years earlier, Flavia, her own marriage having ended, returned to her family’s century-old hacienda in the mountains overlooking the breathtaking Maya ruins. Out of her own ruins, she built an intimate eco-retreat at which others could find healing.

As I thought of Flavia, I remembered her kitchen, where the rhythmic slap slap, slap slap of corn dough being pounded into tortillas provides its heartbeat. This place, I decided, was where I needed to go to rebuild my life and learn to restore my own heartbeat. I put down my bag of chips, packed just one suitcase, and booked a plane ticket to Honduras, the country whose name translates literally to the depths. I had no way of knowing what awaited me in this strange land, or just how fitting its name would prove to be.

Immediately upon my arrival, I plunged head first into the dark waters of the unclaimed parts of myself. I waded in my guilt, my shame, my rage, my stubborn refusal to forgive. I studied with medicine women. I experienced temazcal, an ancient Mesoamerican rebirthing ritual that takes place in a steamy, womb-shaped dome lit only by the red pulses of volcanic rocks. I cooked alongside Flavia’s Maya Ch’orti’ staff, preparing simple dishes with medicinal plants from the area: chipilín, esquisúchil, loroco, purple basil, cacao. (Somehow, the recipes featured in the cookbooks I’d authored seemed too complicated now. Pretentious, even.) I explored ancient temples, and hiked to hidden waterfalls deep within the jungle. I gave up my wristwatch, allowing the energies of the Maya tzolk’in calendar to guide my way. And I discovered rosa de Jamaica, the popular iced tea that was pressed into my hand seemingly every time I left my room.

Made with dried Hibiscus flowers, a bit of raw sugar, and a splash or two of lemon, rosa de Jamaica was a refreshing treat that I couldn’t get enough of. No matter what the day held, as the sun slipped behind the hazy, blue mountains of nearby Guatemala, I could be found at the far edge of Flavia’s property, a glass in hand. There, high above the river that snaked lazily between me and the remains of the ancient kingdom beyond, I prayed.

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“I want love,” I’d say in between sips. I made my plea to the birds, to the sky, to the air, to anyone and anything that would listen, and hopefully help grant my wish to get my husband back.

Six weeks into my stay, during a Full Moon Sacred Fire Ceremony at the hacienda, I heard myself. I mean really heard myself for the first time: IwantloveIwantloveIwantlove.

I looked across the fire at the yoga instructor who had patiently helped me become more flexible in both mind and body. The Guatemalan shaman who had taught me the ways of Maya spirituality—teachings that focused on the human experience being a perfect balance of light and darkness. When my eyes met Flavia’s, she offered me a warm smile. All this time, I had been angry with the universe, with God. Why hadn’t my prayer been answered?

At that moment, I realized it had been. Love was in the women who gently guided me back to life. In the food we co-created. In the fresh flowers they picked for me. In the hacienda’s Labrador Retriever puppy that nuzzled me when I cried, and danced at my feet when my smile returned. I offered my new mantra—I am love—with gratitude and without expectation. Love was all around me.  Maybe even in that glass of red liquid with which I’d become so smitten.

It was nearly seven years later, in the summer of 2014, that I learned the ancient spiritual and medicinal significance of rosa de Jamaica’s key ingredient. I was working on Secrets of the Ancient Healers, a course I brought forth with my dear friend Nick Polizzi of The Sacred Science.  While researching the 250+ medicinal plants we’d documented on our travels throughout the Americas, I researched the properties of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis L.

To the Maya of past and present, it is used as a hypotensive, or treatment for reducing blood pressure. This, I already knew. I’d been diagnosed with genetic high blood pressure at the age of nine, and credited it in part with my ability to get off prescription drugs after more than 25 years of horrible side effects—and warnings from countless doctors that I’d die without my meds.

What I didn’t know was that they also used Hibiscus for another kind of heart condition: heartache. It is believed that it soothes emotional trauma, gently nudging open the tightly packed petals of the “flower” within. In fact, in my friend Rosita Arvigo’s book Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize, she explains that a wife whose husband has strayed but still loves her may prepare Hibiscus tea to entice him to return to her.

Even more interesting to me was realizing that the stunning red flower that I’d seen depicted in so many images of the Hindu goddess Kali—whose starseed name is the same as my surname—is actually the Hibiscus. Like her, the flower symbolizes time and change, death and rebirth. Is it any wonder this energy was ever present during my painfully beautiful spiritual death and rebirth?

In the end, I didn’t get the love I so desperately wanted.  But I got the love I very much needed.  Powered by it and rosa de Jamaica, I rose from the depths, rediscovered my purpose, and remembered how to fly.

Hacienda San Lucas’ Rosa de Jamaica

1 handful dried hibiscus flowers
3 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
Raw sugar to taste

Place the flowers and water in a pot.  Bring to a boil.  Stir gently for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to steep for 30 minutes.  Strain.  Season to taste with lemon and sugar.  Serve chilled.

Shannon Kring is an author, filmmaker, and speaker who leads healing retreats around the world.  Her next one is with the Sacred Science Tribe, in her beloved Copán.

To find out about upcoming retreats to the Maya lands, visit

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46 Responses

    1. Thank you for reading/commenting, Jeanne! (And thank you, Joe, for answering Jeanne!) You can order it online, and if you happen to have a Mexican grocery store in your community, they almost always have it. My Whole Foods does, too. I hope you give it a try!

    2. The name in English is Hybiscus, can find them in USA in stores like Whole foods or try in latin markets.

  1. awwwww, you poor thing. having a healing center to go to must have been such a hardship! You ppl crack me up

    1. I hope that others who seek a deeper connection with his or her spirituality don’t need to go to the extremes I did. I know now that one can truly just as easily find inspiration anywhere, and that the opportunity to connect with your highest power and uncover your highest self can happen absolutely anywhere in the world. I guess I needed a very big wake up call at the time! I wish you the best on your own journey.

  2. Thank you,,deaest girl! A joy and privilege to be found by you! …it seems like yesterday when I welcomed you for the first time in our small family hacienda lodge. You have become part of the family who now, instead of tears, bring joy, laughter, work and hope to an entire community. Your love energy is now helping to clear the path for those who like you many years ago, need to feel whole. Bravo to the love habiscus potion! It’s really all so simple; if only we trust our own essence!

  3. Beautiful story, Shannon … heartache and forgiving … forgiving always brings you back to your real self xx

  4. Beautifully written Shannon and your words brought me to tears. I love the recipe for healing the heart. I will be trying that for sure. x

  5. Thank you for sharing your motivational and hope-giving story. <3 I am looking forward to taste the miracle Hacienda San Lucas`Rosa de Jamaica to experience the
    the miraculous effect for heart and soul. And the delicious taste of course <3

  6. This speaks a million words to me! Thank you! <3
    Two days ago I was searching the internet for exactly this reason – to find a place to recover from a wounded soul and heart. The Maya lands sound so wonderful. This story captures the type of maternal healing I crave, in a nature based environment – imbued with healing energy and wisdom traditions. Also, the gentle activities described – of healing from going back to simplicity. I too hope to find my place of retreat for recovery of my soul. Thank you so much for sharing – I know I'm not alone! <3

    1. Thank you so much, Carol. I am so glad my words resonated with you. I wish you the very best in your journey, wherever it may take you.

      1. Thanks Shannon for your words of encouragent! <3
        I'll search for dried hibiscus flowers in health shops and healing centres here.
        I have two prolific hibiscus bushes growing in my garden, and so the dried flowers might be available.
        I've just written a longer reply, but from a mobile phone, it's easier for it to disappear before saved and posted.
        I had mentioned I present with some but not all of the syptoms mentioned in your response to Peck.
        Thank you! and all at Sacred Science for your work!

  7. Who is allowed to go to this retreat in Copan, Honduras?
    I would be very interested.. I live in South America and am a retired physician.
    I saw Nick Polizzi s movie and was very impressed.
    Thanks for your answer

      1. I m documentary filmmaker. Would you be interested in creating documentary about your work , your place?

  8. Thank you, Peck! I really appreciate the link. Here are the properties I came up with for our Secrets of the Ancient Healers program: Hypotensive, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, suppurative, and used to treat insomnia, poor circulation, constipation, high cholesterol, stomach conditions, colds, cough, nerve diseases, hair loss, heart weakness, cellulite, postpartum hemorrhages, excess menstrual flow, skin conditions, headache, painful menstruation, and to prevent miscarriages. Best wishes for a return to health!

  9. Thank you for this…I don’t know how or why…bit I stumbled across this and I can relate to you in so many ways. My situation might be different but my feelings the same.
    Thank you

  10. Don’t know where I’ll find some Hibiscus petals, but I will surely try this. Right now I’m going through a heartbreak now, and also looking for reconciliation sometime soon. It hurts so bad ~~~~*

    1. I am so sorry to hear this, James. Please know you’re not alone. And like so many others, I hope you find yourself on the other side. Until then, I send my best.

  11. Wow Shannon, how brave to change your life like that and be able to see the love. That´s not easy to do, I think if we do as you did and open our eyes to the love around us, we can all change our lives in an instant. Thank you so much for showing this to us.

    1. Thank you, Bes, for your sweet words. Love is always the choice, isn’t it? I only wish I had learned it earlier! 🙂 Best wishes to you on your journey!

  12. It is by the journey through our grief and meeting our pain, we access the depth of our heart thanks to others so we can recognize Divine Love in everything in alignment with God. Great example!

  13. I’m curious. Will ANY sort of Hibiscus flower work, or is ti just the tropical hibiscus that work? There are also Hardy Hibiscus that grow in N America that are similar, but yet different. Do you think that using those flowers would produce anything that might be harmful?

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