Women’s Medicine: Motherwort

This article was originally written as part of the curriculum for my Thirteen Moons program from last year, but I wanted to share it here as well. This year I will be creating monthly Plant Ally profiles for the Thirteen Moons group along with KitchenWitching recipes to explore using a variety of seasonal medicines and botanicals. I love motherwort and always keep a bottle of the tincture on hand. It is also very easy to grow. Here you can see a photo of spring motherwort coming up in my garden, long before anything else has returned.

The Magic of Motherwort

This important plant ally for women has a powerful Latin name, leonurus cadiaca, which means “lion hearted,” and is often prescribed to reduce anxiety, steady the heart, and restore courage to those who are feeling fatigued by the stresses of life. Herbalist Maria Noel Groves describes this special herb:
Tiny, elaborate pink flowers line this spiky, weedy garden herb, sending the message of tough love in times of need. In spite of its intensely bitter flavour, motherwort quickly brings down anxiety and panic attacks, particularly when stress manifests in the heart with palpitations, pings of pain, and chest tightness. Consider it if you feel overworked, underappreciated, or on the edge of a rampage. Mothers and those who need a little mothering will find it useful.

Medicinal Actions
The actions of motherwort are those of a nervine, emmenagogue (uterine stimulator), anti-spasmodic, and a cardiac tonic. Motherwort is known to help regulate heart rhythm, reduce anxiety, and stimulate delayed menstruation, especially when this delay may be caused by nervous tension. It is also used to bring down hyperthyroid function and ease hot flashes. It can also be very helpful as a bitter tonic to reduce gastrointestinal upset. As motherwort is an emmenagogue, a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow,  it should not be used during pregnancy.

Motherwort is intensely bitter that it does not taste good in a tea blend. It is best prepared as a tincture. To do this simply steep 4 ounces of dried motherwort in 12 ounces of vodka or grain alcohol. Be sure to label your tincture blend and allow it to steep for six weeks, shaking it daily. When done, strain out plant material and store in a dark brown bottle. (A dark brown bottle is used as it blocks more kinds of light, or UV, than a clear, blue, or green-coloured glass bottle.) Pour a few ounces of this tincture into a dropper bottle for regular use. David Hoffman recommends 1-4 ml of the tincture three times per day during times of anxiety or strain.
Motherwort is a tincture I would encourage to be in every first aid kit and home apothecary. She can provide some private support when having difficult discussions, be a great tincture to offer a partner when they are worried or anxious (especially if they don’t seem to think they are), can be added to digestive teas to help alleviate tightness and irritability, can be used prior to meditation and magic working on issues of being mothered, finding inner strength and purpose. Motherwort has a low toxicity and can be safely kept as a tincture for a long period of time. This would be one of my indispensable herbal allies in a first aid kit and home apothecary. ~ Herbalist Kirsten Hale  (www.thecrazyherbalist.com)

Parts Used & Collection
The aerial, or upper parts, of the plant are used and are generally gathered between June and September.

Due to its uterine stimulating action, motherwort is contraindicated (not recommended) during pregnancy. In rare cases, it may aggravate hypothyroidism and in high doses may cause nausea.

Motherwort Bitters: A Kitchen Witch Recipe
Bitters blends are a wonderful way to use herbal medicine to support digestion. Bitters are typically made with a blend of bitter herbs and aromatic spices. Sometimes certain fruits are added for flavour or to round a blend out. Here is a simple bitters blend you can try out at home. Bitters are fun to make and easy to use. Simply add a few drops to soda or flat water before a meal, or when experiencing gastrointestinal upset and gas. They are also nice as a flavour addition to homemade cocktails.

  • ⅛ of a fresh organic grapefruit with peel, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp motherwort leaf
  • 2 Tbsp dandelion root
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp ginger root
  • 1 TBS dried raisins
  • 2 cups vodka

Place herbs, spices, and fruit in a clean jar. Use dried herbs for best results. Cover with alcohol and close jar with an airtight lid. Label and store in your kitchen where you can see it and shake it daily. Allow to steep for 2-6 weeks. I recommend tasting it periodically after two weeks to determine the desired flavour as it will get stronger the longer it steeps. When you are ready to decant your bitters blend, strain off the plant material using a fine weave cheesecloth (you can usually find these in a grocery store baking aisle) or muslin herb bag. Pour bitters into clean dropper bottles, label with name and date, and enjoy!  A bitters blend like this will keep indefinitely when stored in a cool, dark place.