Motherwort, not only a herb for women

Leonurus cardiaca

Family:

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

motherwortCulpeper believed the name (motherwort) was chosen as women are joyful mothers and it settles their wombs. The Latin name ‘cardiaca‘, because it is very useful for a trembling heart and for fainting.

Leonurus‘ is thought from Greek meaning ‘lion tail’. Do you think it resembles the tail of a lion?

Bremness describes motherwort as found in northern temperate areas in woodland and along hedge banks. Barker describes the flowers as pinky-white.

Hoffmann suggests gathering aerial parts when flowering between early summer and early autumn. Barker recommends flowering tops used fresh suggesting it is better to make a tincture rather than drying for tea for use later in the year.

The images here are from my garden in the Aude. Taken late May/ early June.

Traditional Uses:

Leonurus cardiac motherwort flower and leafBone advises traditionally motherwort was used for female reproductive problems.

Culpeper suggested there was no better herb to strengthen and make the heart merry. He recommended motherwort for conditions needing warming and drying. Painful veins, painful joints, cramps and phlegm are included in his list of medicinal uses. He used motherwort for women with period pains and particularly for abnormal absence of periods (amenorrhoea).

Medicinal Uses:

Barker advises motherwort has long traditional use for anxiety in late stages of pregnancy and also in early stages of labour. He highlights use as a cardiac tonic specifically for simple tachycardia and useful in management of hypertension. In addition, he suggests use for nervous indigestion with symptoms of flatulence and/or distension.

Hoffmann agrees and utilises motherwort for over-rapid heartbeat particularly if preceded by anxiety. Describing motherwort as strengthening the heart without straining it and recommends for all heart conditions related to anxiety. Motherwort, in Hoffmann’s book, is under circulatory system and described as nervine.

He indicates for heart weakness, palpitations and angina pectoris describing motherwort as normalising heart activity. He also suggests motherwort be added to a prescription to strengthen the heart of a patient with a cough or for someone who has asthma attacks. These symptoms will cause strain on a weak heart. Nervine properties may also be worth considering with skin conditions brought about by stress and/or anxiety. Motherwort, he describes, invaluable for delayed menstruation and menopausal symptoms as an emotional and endocrine balancer.

Bone specifically indicates Leonurus for amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and ovarian pain.

Weed describes motherwort as one of her ‘mint goddesses’. Describing motherwort a bitter ‘mint’ rather than an aromatic one. Like Barker, Weed recommends fresh preferably as tincture of fresh flowering tops. Motherwort tones the uterine muscle and will, after taking for four months, stop menstrual cramps. Weed describes it as healing the heart and as one of the best heart tonics.

… not only for the heart and female health…

Weed includes the tincture in her first aid kit and uses it for pain relief. She finds it will help any pain but notes those with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue respond particularly well to motherwort.

… some thoughts on taste…

Grieve, quoting a young unknown writer, advises a conserve of the fresh young tops is best. A decoction, or strong infusion, described as ‘very unpleasant’. Culpeper also recommended taking as a syrup or conserve.

I believe my first taste of this herb, as a herbal infusion, was as a student herbalist. The initial smell of the tea provided a nutty aroma. Although it had a bitter taste I did not find it lingering or particularly ‘unpleasant’.

However, I would certainly agree with Weed that it is a bitter, rather than aromatic, member of the mint/thyme family. Add a little honey to an infusion or include Leonurus in a herbal mix with other less bitter, more palatable herbs if you find it unpleasant. The tincture is certainly easier to take and perhaps a better choice for those with a dislike for bitters.

… and some science stuff…

Hoffmann lists Leonurus as containing bitter glycosides particularly leonurin and leonuridine and alkaloids such as leonuinine and stachydrene. Bartram included flavonoids, iridoids (rutin) and diterpenes in his list of constituents for Leonurus.

Pengelly advises flavonoids have a proven effect on the heart and circulatory system for strengthening the capillaries. They are anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Diterpenes tend to be bitter tasting and are particularly abundant in the Lamiaceae family. Alkaloids have a more prominent effect on the nervous system.

… and a bit of research…

Bone mentions pharmacological research from 1976 and also 1988 on the alkaloid leonurine indicating this particular constituent to be a uterine tonic.

The alkaloids contribute to the activity of motherwort. In particular leonurine, possibly with the aid of stachydrine, is thought to produce the central nervous depressant and hypotensive effects (Blumenthal et al).

Pharmacological studies have confirmed its antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity, as well as its effects on the heart and the circulatory system. Sedative and hypotensive activities were demonstrated in clinical trials (Wojtyniak et al).

… and some energetics…

As mentioned Culpeper recommended motherwort for conditions needing warmed and dried up. Motherwort, he described, as herb of Venus in Leo. Tobyn describes Venus as calming and soothing.

Holmes indicates motherwort for Liver Yang rising. This includes palpitations, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, irritability and stress. He provides the following description of motherwort:

“… an important example of a plant that treats both the heart and uterus, tailor-made for women presenting PMS with anxiety, frustration, palpitations and insomnia.”

Holmes highlights the energetic connection between the heart and uterus. In particular, he notes ancient Chinese medical texts with pathology of the Heart-Uterus meridian, Greek medicine and ‘uterus rising’ and Rudolf Steiner discussing a close energetic relation between the two organs in his lectures.

Surely Leonurus, as Weed suggests, has well and truly earned her goddess reputation and her position in the herbal first aid kit!