3 Herb Mamas

Wednesday’s Weeds: MOTHERWORT

young motherwort

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) in early to mid spring

“Wort” is an Old English term that simply means plant. Thus, Motherwort can be thought of as mother’s plant. It is found throughout our area and at this time of year will most likely look like a low bushy clump as in the picture above. Later it will grow anywhere from 2-5 feet tall, as in this picture:

Mature Motherwort

Mature Motherwort in flower

Motherwort’s square stems readily reveal its membership in the Mint family. Leaves are opposite, 3-lobed, and toothed. The pinkish flowers are whorled and form in the axils of the leaf stems. The upper lip of the flower is furry but they are small so you will have to pause and take time to get a close up look to notice this.

motherwort_closeup

Motherwort flowers

Motherwort has a long traditional use as a regulator, whether of hormones or heartbeats. It helps establish regular menstrual cycles and to tame the wild mood swings that can accompany them. Traditional midwives use Motherwort to regulate childbirth contractions and it can be a wonderful ally when heart palpitations during menopause become a concern. Scientific studies confirm its use as an antispasmodic, hypotensive, and mild sedative. Many Chinese studies have well documented laboratory and clinical reports of these uses as well as confirming its effectiveness as a uterine tonic.

I always enjoy botanical Latin for all that it reveals about a plant with just a word or two. Motherwort’s Latin binomial is Leonurus (lion) cardiaca (heart), hence lion-hearted. Motherwort has definitely helped me to “take heart” and face the challenges of daily life with greater fortitude, courage, and resilience. Rosemary Gladstar in her wonderful FAMILY HERBAL: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality says of it: “Motherwort is a superb tonic for nourishing and strengthening the heart muscle and its blood vessels. It is a remedy for most heart disease, neuralgia, and an over-rapid heartbeat. It is valued for many women’s health issues, including delayed menstruation, uterine cramps associated with scanty menses, water retention, and hot flashes and mood swings during menopause.” 

Flowering stem of Motherwort

The regularity and symmetry of Motherwort in flower hints at her charms and effects. She is erect and balanced. Leaves are opposite, uniform and evenly spaced. Flowers form in perfect whorls like crowns atop the leaf stems. When life feels chaotic, all-over-the-place, and demands seem to pull in every direction, Motherwort teaches our hearts to find a natural rhythm again and helps us return to a natural cadence.

I like to make a tincture from the plant using the leaves and flowering tops just as it begins to come into flower and the individual blooms are not quite open. Certainly gather it before it flowers fully. The leaves are the main part used medicinally so anytime that the leaves are looking vital and vibrantly alive they can be gathered. It can be dried and used in a tea along with other herbs for a flavor you like, or it can be steeped in alcohol (brandy, vodka, or pure grain alcohol) for 4-6 weeks before straining. It is traditionally used in a rhythmic way for regulating menses and typical PMS symptoms. That is, taken in doses of 10-15 drops in a little water or juice (or directly under the tongue straight-up) 2-3 times per day for the two weeks prior to the start of the period. If that is not known, simply start using it when PMS symptoms begin and continue for two weeks, then take a two week break. Two weeks on, two weeks off. Everything in balance, says Motherwort. As above, so below.

Leonurus cardiaca

Take heart, Good Mother, there’s a weed right outside your doorstep waiting to help. 

~Leenie

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