The Heart Medicine of Tulip Poplar

Feb 13 / Amanda Nicole
The world is full of vulnerable hearts. Most are bleeding, raw from the effects of daily living, tender from constant exposure to the world’s rough edges. It isn’t easy to be human. Being made of flesh and blood is an experience that calls for otherworldly courage.

Once, a Tulip Poplar tree fell during a thunderstorm. It had stood tall for many years on land stewarded by a dear friend of mine. After the storm, my friend called me. “ ‘manda, Tulip Poplar is askin’ for you. They told me to call and tell you to come,” she said.

When I arrived, she and I made our way to the fallen Tulip Poplar tree. We crossed a creek, took a turn, and found the fallen Tulip Poplar tree resting on the forest floor. Lush with green leaves, the tree glowed golden. There was no question she was offering us her medicine.

Stepping forward to touch her, I heard Tulip Poplar speak. “We know you love him,” Tulip Poplar said. “But if you don’t use us, it will feel like this,” and she directed my eyes to one of her daggers which remained from the previous winter. (Do you know her daggers? They are what is left after her flower fades and her seeds fall away.) I gasped with the intimacy of her message, and tears came to my eyes. How could she know?

“I do love him,” I responded.

“We know, but if you do not use us, loving him will feel like a dagger in your heart.”

Tulip Poplar was offering me its protection, but I did not want it. My heart was soft. My heart was open. And I wanted it to remain that way. For so many years, my heart had been closed and guarded. It felt good to open. It felt good to be soft. It felt good to receive. It felt good to feel.

Tulip Poplar nodded in understanding. She knew. She remembered.

The first words I ever received from Tulip Poplar were these: impenetrable fortress. At the time, I didn’t understand the tree was speaking these words to me about me. Instead, I attributed them to the tree: Tulip Poplar was the impenetrable fortress. Standing so many feet from its base, it felt as if the tree and I were separated by an uncrossable moat followed by a wall so thick it held dimensions and worlds. Tulip Poplar did not want to be approached. Awed by its immense strength and beauty, I honored its desire for solitude and kept my distance.

But in this moment after the storm, Tulip Poplar knew what I had yet to understand: I had been the impenetrable fortress not her. This newfound softness and vulnerability was indeed a beautiful and profound change -- one she understood better than I in that moment. And still: protection.

Tulip Poplar described the protection she offered. My heart would not become hard. My heart would not close. Instead, it would remain soft, open, and receptive. I could simply slip her on and slip her off, a piece of tree armor available to me in the moments my heart needed shielding and shelter. The barrier did not need to be permanent or even heavy or thick. But it needed to be.

As I scored her bark and easily slipped pieces of her branches into my basket, I felt the sweet truth of her medicine. Slip on, slip off. Slip on, slip off. Protecting my heart could be easy. I could be open, I could be vulnerable, and I could be protected.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I thanked Tulip Poplar for its medicine. Receiving my gratitude, she directed my eyes to a small branch that displayed daggers at its tip: a dragon’s claw. She whispered, “Every dragon guards a treasure. Guard your Golden Heart.”

Tulip Poplar wasn’t mistaken.

Love does nothing if not make our hearts vulnerable. And that very vulnerability is often what makes us close our hearts, becoming guarded, impenetrable, unreachable, untouchable. We are not hard because we are hard -- we are hard because we are soft. If you go deep enough, under every piece of stone-cold armor is soft, warm flesh.

Tulip Poplar is a tree for vulnerable hearts. This vulnerability may be not only an emotional experience but also a physical experience. Birth defects, surgeries, heart attacks, and other medical procedures and physical experiences can leave our hearts weakened and open to future incidents and subsequent complications. But we do not have to remain unprotected and exposed. Tulip Poplar is here, and this tree offers us strong yet gentle Medicine.

I first received the physical medicine of the Tulip Poplar tree from the beloved herbalist, Jim McDonald. The tree had been calling to my heart, and I had been responding by sitting at its roots, listening. As its heart spoke to my heart, I found myself longing to experience its Medicine in a more tangible form, and so, I sent out a call in an online forum for a bottle of Tulip Poplar bark tincture. It was Jim who responded to my request and sent me a bottle of Tulip Poplar tincture. Years later, as many of you know, Jim suddenly and unexpectedly experienced a heart attack while teaching, was put on life support, and underwent open heart surgery. As I kept up with how he was doing and witnessed the herbal world supporting Jim, his heart, and his family in the most incredibly loving and extraordinary ways, I held in my own heart the beautiful synchronicity of him being the human who responded to my request.

When I was seventeen, I experienced incidents where my heart would suddenly begin to race. This would happen at the most unexpected times such as when I was mindlessly watching television on a Saturday afternoon or quietly reading a book while curled up in a cozy chair. On more than one occasion, I blacked out and fainted. Test after test revealed nothing unusual, and in a last attempt to give relief, my doctor recommended a new (at that time) procedure: cardiac ablation. It was thought perhaps my heart was producing an irregular electrical signal which was creating an irregular heartbeat.

In preparation for the surgery, I was told it could take many hours for them to find the lone, rogue signal. But my surgery was over so quickly that when I opened my eyes and saw the clock, I feared the procedure had been a failure. Just as I was beginning to feel disappointed, the doctor’s face appeared. He smiled and said, “We did it! You’re all better!” Apparently, when the doctor looked into my heart, he found two AV nodes rather than one, and so, instead of searching for a lone signal -- a needle in a haystack, he simply cauterized one of the AV nodes. My heart has been beating peacefully and quietly ever since. I thank the doctor -- and I thank the Tulip Poplar tree.

No other plant or tree has spoken to me so particularly about its Medicine. I am no doctor, no professor of anatomy and physiology. If you know me, then you know that I love poetry and song, magical messages and wild imaginings, and so, I take note when Tulip Poplar not only speaks to me of Rainbow Dragons but of the superior vena cava, deoxygenated blood, and chambers of the heart. I take note when she tells me to focus.

Focus: Tulip Poplar is for the back of the heart. Even now, as I write to you, I feel her trunk against my back. Heart to heart, it feels good to lean against a Tulip Poplar tree. Tulip Poplar has my back.

These are confusing times. There aren’t too many things I know for sure, but I know this: Tulip Poplar is a Tree for These Times. We’ve forgotten Who We Are. She supports us in Remembering. We’re walking around with wounded hearts. She supports us in strengthening and mending them.

If you choose to bring Tulip Poplar into your heart space, I ask that you do so with love, gratitude, and reverence. I love this tree and desire that no harm comes to it, and so, as you might imagine, I was a little hesitant to share this aspect of her medicine in such a public way during such a time as this -- when conversations about vulnerable hearts can be heard at every turn. But Tulip Poplar asked me to do so. I have offered my voice to this tree. I have said she could speak through me. And so, she is.

Several weeks ago, I sat with a friend beside a Tulip Poplar tree. The tree had a beautiful hollow, and it spoke these words to me:

Can you be this open and live?
Yes. Yes, you can.
You can have holes inside you and live, grow, even thrive.
Even with a hollow center, you can rise and stand tall.
Why did he bring you to me and not to another Tulip Poplar tree?
Because of this hole inside me.
It made me beautiful to him.
Your hollows make you beautiful, too.
Stand tall and face the world with an open heart.

That day, I received these words from Tulip Poplar, and as I finished writing them in my journal, I picked up my cell phone to check the time. An app was open, and the first thing I saw was a video clip showing a young man collapsing during a basketball game. Tulip Poplar immediately said, “I am for vulnerable hearts.”

Be kind. Be moderate. Sit with the Tulip Poplar. Simply sitting with this tree is more Medicine than we might imagine. Sit with a picture of the Tulip Poplar tree. The essence of the tree is present. We live in a world of frequency and vibration. You are a quantum being. Believe in the power and beauty of sitting with a picture. Enjoy the flower essence of the Tulip Poplar tree. A drop here, a drop there is all that is needed to support your heart, both emotionally and physically. A little goes a long way. Believe that less is more. Experience the bark tincture of the Tulip Poplar tree. Move peacefully. Touch her tenderly. 5 to 10 drops makes all things new.

Amanda Nicole leads a fantastic class on Plant Attunement where she teaches you to connect and communicate with plants to learn the truest source of their medicine.

Experience more Tulip Poplar Medicine: The Liriodendress | amanda nicole | Substack

Listen to more Tulip Poplar Medicine: Episode 30: Tulip Poplar, Vulnerable Hearts, and Dragon Medicine - Whispers: Plant Spirit Medicine | Podcast on Spotify
The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Matthew Wood, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, ETS Productions, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.