Motherwort (Leonuris cardiaca)
Sep 9, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Motherwort can be called by many different names; such as, Lion’s Ear, Lion’s Tail, Heartwort, or even Throwwort. It has a distinctive look and easily recognized in the wild. It was often used traditionally the last few weeks of pregnancy to expediate the birthing process, thus the reason for its name Motherwort. Wort is Old English for Plant, so Motherwort was actually proclaimed as a Plant for mother’s. Leon is Greek for Lion, and the name Leonurus was given to this plant because it resembled a lion’s tail. When you first spot Motherwort in the wild, the first thought to pop into your head might be “dainty”; however, it is anything but. It is a powerhouse! Personally, I consider Motherwort to be a benevolent and powerful friend for the heart, and a trustworthy companion for women in general.
This herb is native to Europe and Asia, but was brought over by the early colonists as medicine; therefore, it is now spread throughout America and southern Canada. It has square stems that branch out and grow from 2 – 5 feet tall. The leaves become a different shape as they continue to grow. The leaves are opposite, medium green, and toothed. The lower leaves are 5-lobed, the middle leaves are 3-lobed, and the uppermost leaves are narrower and have no lobes at all. This is one way to recognize this herb in the wild before it flowers. The pink, tubular flowers are placed in whorls surrounding the stem of the plant right above each set of leaves. The other distinctive feature of this plant is the sharp teeth on the calyx surrounding the whorl of flowers. Grasp the plant by the flowers on the stem, and you will get a sharp reminder to grasp below the flowers! The plant blooms between late June and August. The picture taken here is one of the last blooming in my area before they settle down for the winter. You can find it in open disturbed areas of woodlands, paths, borders, or thickets. Often, you can find them along fences and underneath trees. Motherwort prefers moist soil in the full sun, but will tolerate many soils and some partial shade. This plant also self-sows quite readily.
Motherwort has been known as one of the best heart tonics in the plant kingdom. It is also revered as a female tonic; however, many men can benefit from this herb as well. It is an emmenagogue (meaning it can regulate and stimulate normal menstrual function), a cardiac tonic, a nervine, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, hepatic, and diuretic. In A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieve, she states that, “Motherwort is especially valuable in female weakness and disorders, allaying nervous irritability and inducing quiet and passivity of the whole nervous system”. It is a wonderful tonic for the entire female reproductive system and is very useful in amenorrhea, vaginitis, menstrual cramping, menopause, PMS, and even Postpartum depression. It is very calming to the nervous system and is beneficial in anxiety, stress, nervousness, convulsions, epilepsy, neuralgia, and insomnia. It is often given to those who have a very strong demand on themselves; therefore, creating undue worry, stress, and burden on the body. Since this herb is from the Mint family, it also has the carminative and antispasmodic properties common in this family. It is great for indigestion, flatulence, heartburn, or spasms of any kind. The antispasmodic properties will smooth heart palpitations since the heart is a smooth muscle. There are other reasons that this herb is good for the heart. It calms the nervous system that can have a detrimental effect on the heart, increases circulation, tends to decrease blood clotting and fat in the blood, and aids in the lowering of blood pressure due to its diuretic property and reduction of stress levels. Motherwort is also beneficial for Hyperthyroidism because it helps alleviate the symptoms created by this condition. This herb is also bitter in taste, and it will help to stimulate bile production and benefit the entire digestive system.
To harvest this herb, cut the fresh herb during the flowering period. Cut just below the last flowering whorl. To make a fresh tincture, just cut the herb into small pieces and place in a small jar. Pour 100 proof vodka into the jar and fill to the top. Cap the jar and shake once a day for 6 weeks. Strain the tincture and pour into a dark bottle. Be sure to label the bottle for future use. The infusion (tea) is very bitter to take, so you can either sip a little at a time or add a little sweetener of your choice. Remember that you need the bitter taste if you are using this herb for digestive reasons. You can drink up to 2 cups a day of the infusion, or take ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of the extract or tincture up to two times a day. Many people like to take the syrup preparation at 1 tablespoon 3 to 4 times daily. There is some contraindication about using this herb during pregnancy. Because of the ability to regulate , balance, and stimulate the menstrual cycle; it is best to avoid this herb during pregnancy. It can be used the last couple weeks of pregnancy in preparation of the birth with the midwife or doctor’s knowledgeable advice. There is also some caution using this herb with hypothyroidism; although this is just speculation so far. It is also advised not to use Motherwort with heart, blood pressure, or anticoagulant medications.
As you can see, Motherwort can be a powerhouse of an herb for many aspects. Hopefully, you will be able to give this beneficial herb a try the next time you experience some of these afflictions, or you just need a little calming in your life! Summer is once again coming to an end and the fall harvesting is coming upon us very soon. Happy Harvesting to all of you!
Until next month,
Mary Colvin, M.H.
SIMPLE MOTHERWORT HERBAL VINEGAR
Fresh or dried Motherwort herb (Leonuris cardiaca)
Organic apple cider vinegar
Small jar with cap
Scissors or grinder
If using fresh herb, cut the stem (along with flowers and leaves) into small pieces and place in the jar. If you are using dried herb, briefly grind them in a coffee grinder before you place into a jar. This activates the chemical constituents and prepares the herb to absorb the apple cider vinegar.
Pack the jar full of the fresh herb, or pack it ½ to 2/3 full of dried herb.
Fill the jar full of apple cider vinegar. Make sure it reaches the top of the jar.
Cap the jar and shake it
Leave the jar on your counter for 3 – 4 weeks while shaking it daily.
Strain the herbal vinegar and it is ready to use.
Motherwort herbal vinegar is a different preparation of the herb that can be used in culinary applications. Use it as a dressing, in stir fries, as a marinade for a different flavor, mix with sauces, or create your own use.
4 ounces of dried Motherwort herb (Leonuris cardiaca) cut
1 quart of Distilled water
1 pound of honey (16 oz)
Dark bottle with cap
First place the herb in cold water and let it soak for 6 hours
Bring herb and water to a boil and then let it simmer for 20 minutes.
Strain the herb using the cheesecloth
Return the liquid to a clean saucepan and add the honey and stir.
Pour syrup into a bottle, let cool, and then cap.
Label bottle and store in the refrigerator for about 3 – 4 months
Take this syrup 1 tablespoon up to 4 times daily when needed. Read my article about this wonderful herb to understand the many medicinal benefits.