Other Names Lion’s tail, heartwort, Agripaume, Herbe battudo, Agripalma, Melissa, salvatica, Aartgespan, Hartgespan, yi mu cao, yakumos
Motherwort is an interesting and distinctive member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It grows on a single, tall square stem decorated from top to bottom with opposite leaves. The leaf shape varies somewhat by location, but are generally lobed and palmate. The flowers appear in early summer and are quite unique and distinctive. They appear at the leaf axils. They are the labiate flowers of the mint family but have a rather furry appearance so that at first glance, motherwort looks like a tall plant with bits of fluff tucked into its leaf axils.
Motherwort is a European native but has naturalized all over the United States and can be found growing along roadsides and in waste areas in just about any temporate region.
History and Folklore:
Motherwort was first used by the Greeks to soothe the anxiety of pregnant women. This use continued and spread and gave the herb its common name. The botanical name, Leonurus cardiaca also comes from the greek. Leon=lion, ouros=tail and kardiaca refers to the heart.
Historically, the herb has been associated with longevity. An old legend states that there was once a town whose spring ran through a patch of Motherwort. All the local townspeople got their daily drinking water from that spring and all of them lived to be over 100 years old. Its association with longevity was widespread throughout Europe and Asia.
Traditional herbals suggest motherwort for “hysterical” conditions and “melancholy”.
In the Victorian language of flowers, motherwort symbolized concealed love.
Motherwort is an attractive accent plant that adds interest to the herb garden. It also attracts bees and butterflies. It is a prolific weed in many parts of the US. It can also be easily grown from seed just like any other mint. If allowed to set seed at the end of the year, it will reseed and return year after year; in your yard, and your neighbor’s. Take care, as it is very invasive. Cut the stalks before seeds drop to prevent invasion.
Soil should be light, slightly alkaline and well-drained. Motherwort likes a sunny spot, but will tolerate some shade and will germinate once temperatures reach 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Harvesting & Storage
The plants should be harvested while in full bloom. Cut the entire plant at the base of the stalk and hang upside down to dry. Be sure to leave a few stalks to self-seed. Once dry, store in an air-tight glass container away from light and heat.
The fresh leaves and flowers can also be preserved as a tincture immediately after harvest.
Motherwort energies promote inner trust and confidence that the ultimate outcome will be best for all involved in the fullness of time. It is also used for counter-magic and associated with immortality and spiritual healing. It is a protective herb, especially in spells designed to protect pregnant women and their unborn children.
Some recommend smoking motherwort to promote astral projection, but smoking too much can cause respiratory arrest. It is therefore perhaps best burned in an incense burner or smudge pot rather than smoked directly. It is especially effective in combination with mugwort.
Motherwort, as its name implies, is a woman’s herb. It has been used in Asia to prevent pregnancy and regulate menstrual cycles. It is used by midwives to help expel the afterbirth, to help get the uterus back into shape after childbirth, to prevent uterine infections and to ease symptoms of postpartum stress and depression. Some herbalists recommend drinking motherwort tea during pregnancy, but its other uses indicate that this would probably put the pregnancy at risk of premature termination, so caution is advised. This use of motherwort is only indicated in cases of extreme anxiety during pregnancy when the risk posed by the mother’s stress is greater than the risk posed by a cup of motherwort tea. It is most often used in late-stage pregnancy and during labor, however, one must take into account the effect the herb may have on the fetal heart rate. Many women swear by Motherwort tea as a treatment for cramps, bloating and irritability associated with PMS and hot flashes. It is also used in cases where a woman’s cycle is disturbed due to stress.
Motherwort is a relaxant that acts on the smooth muscles and vascular system. It is particularly effective in helping to slow the heartbeat that is revved up due to stress.
Motherwort should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women or by anyone under treatment for a thyroid condition. It could interfere with thyroid medications. Individuals who take digoxin should not use motherwort as it can intensify the action of the drug causing the heart rate to slow down too much for safety. Also, do not take motherwort in conjunction with other herbs that affect the heart such as ginger, hawthorn, mistletoe, ginseng, pleurisy root, and squill. Motherwort has also been reported to interfere with blood clotting and shouldn’t be used by those with blood clotting issues.
Motherwort can cause diarrhea and stomach irritation in large doses. Prolonged use may lead to photosensitivity, so if you use motherwort on a regular basis, be sure to cover up and use sunscreen!
Motherwort may cause drowsiness. Do not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of this herb. If you take any drugs that have a side effect of drowsiness, be aware that motherwort will most likely intensify this effect. This includes over the counter drugs such as diphenhydramine or doxylamine and over the counter sleep aids. Caution should also be taken in combining motherwort with sleep-inducing herbs such as catnip, hops, kava kava, St. John’s Wort and valerian.
Use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup of boiling water no more than twice per day or up to 1 teaspoon of tincture per day. Motherwort should not be given to young children.
Motherwort tea is very bitter. Sweeten with honey.
Young shoots can be cooked like any other green.
Serve motherwort tea in moments of family crisis. It helps sooth the physical symptoms of stress (and panic) so that you can focus on solving the problem.