Motherwort–An Herbal Panacea

Motherwort–An Herbal Panacea


Photo by the talented Arthur Tripp. Use only with permission!

Ok, panacea might be a bit of an exageration, but no herbalist wort their salt will deny that motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is an incredible plant with a huge range of uses. The plant’s ability to decrease muscle spasms and act as a vasodilator make it a wonderful yet gentle heart tonic (hence the scientific species name cardiaca), especially useful in arrhythmias or palpitations brought on by stress or other conditions that elevate the thyroid response (Moore, 169). In fact, the herb can help overactive thyroid function but does not depress normal thyroid function (Herbalpedia), making it a very safe herbs to try if you even suspect you could be experiencing less than optimal thyroid function, particularly as a result of stress. It can also temporarily lower blood pressure (Herbalpedia). This fact, combined with the fact that the bitter herb affects the liver, where anger is stored, is why motherwort is my go-to herb when I am feeling irrationally angry or resentful.


Photo by the talented Arthur Tripp. Use only with permission!


The same qualities that make it a great heart tonic also make motherwort a worthy uterine tonic that reliably eases menstrual cramping, though it should not be used when bleeding is excessively heavy, as the herb is an emmenagogue. As such, use of the herb can bring on a delayed period.

In reality, motherwort offers herself up for use in nearly all things uterus-related, not least of which being childbirth. Motherwort is not technically a nervine, but many herbalists use it as they would a nervine because it has an undeniably calming and grounding effect. Renowned herbalist Susan Weed has described the feeling one gets after taking motherwort as being like crawling into your mother’s lap–protected, safe, and calm. It is especially useful in dealing with the anxiety associated with childbirth, post-partum depression, and all the intense feelings that go along with being a new parent. It can also be used a few times in the days immediately following birth to promote proper drainage and prevent infection, but consistent use to soon after birth could cause bleeding to continue–remember that motherwort is an emmenagogue! Motherwort’s usefulness with nearly all aspects of birth are what have earned motherwort her name.


Photo by the talented Arthur Tripp. Use only with permission!


Motherwort has still more uses outside of her effects on the heart and uterus.  Motherwort is bitter, spicy, and a carminative, meaning it has use in promoting healthy digestion and reducing flatulence and other symptoms of less than ideal digestion.  It is a great candidate for including in a digestive bitters formula.

Like most other members of the mint family (Lamiaceae), motherwort is a cooling herb. It can be used to calm fevers, particularly those associated with delirium (Herbalpedia).

Motherwort has spiritual uses in addition to its uses on the physical body.  It is a strengthening and fortifying herb in nearly all matters of the heart. Think of its genus name, Leonurus, which is a reference to Leo the lion, as well as to the way that the herb fortifies the lion heart in us, fortifying our courage, sense of purpose, and our ability to feel comfortable facing the unknown.

Usage and Doseage:

The fresh herb, harvested while in flower, can be tinctured and taken at a doseage of 1/2-1 tsp 2x daily for any of the aforementioned issues. Buy motherwort tincture made from organically home grown and hand-processed fresh herb here. It can also be dried and made into herbal infusions, although it is quite bitter and most will find this method highly unpalatable without the addition of lots of sugar. If you don’t mind adding the sugar (perhaps as a way to slip some medicine into your cocktail….) than you could also make a motherwort syrup. Mothwort can be used as a bittering agent in homebrew as well.

 Sources Cited:

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico, 2003. Print.

Herbalpedia. 2015 ed. N.p.: n.p., 2015. 4149-151. Print.