Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My herbal ally, Motherwort.

Motherwort, or leonurus cardiaca, is a beautiful wild plant, found in my prairie homeland in the Midwest in abundance.  This plant has an affinity for women's health, postpartum healing, but as its latin name indicates, it has profound effects on afflictions of the heart.  There is an abundance of information on this plant on the internet, including where it can be found, how it grows and is propogated, its plant relatives (it's a member of the mint family, as can be told by its square-shaped stems), and its other uses for ailments, but here I will discuss my relationship with motherwort and what I know experientially.  

As a doula and women's health educator, this herb comes up in my mind as a safe herb to turn to in order to address the anxiety felt in association to the burden many women carry.  Motherwort is a strong sister for the deep sorrows that wise women feel, which often manifest as anxiety, panic attacks, anger, a feeling of tightness in the chest, and depression.  

Susun Weed, my mentor and author of the Wise Woman Herbals, cautions that motherwort should be taken as needed, or PRN, as one can form a dependency on its effectiveness.  This is why I find it to be a wonderful alternative to pharmaceutical anxiety medication.  I recommend taking it in tincture form, as the tea is very bitter, in small doses (5-10 drops) in 15 minute increments until symptoms subside.  

Personally, I've turned to motherwort for historically violent mood swings, postpartum depression, heart chakra crushing anxiety, and weepiness.  I'm currently using it in combination with lemon balm tincture, another mint, to bring in a little bit more sunshine and carry me through very difficult emotional transitions.  Since moving to the Black Hills, I've missed being able to walk out to the gravel road behind my house, or the pasture at my child's school, and lop off the flowering tops each May, but luckily, since motherwort was in such abundance in my hometown, I made many ounces of tincture, some of which I am still using, and some of which I pass on to other ladies in need (mostly new mamas and PMSing women).  

For cross-referencing purposes, here is a list of motherwort uses and indications as described in Susun Weed's "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year".  (Note:  The descriptor "childbearing year" is any fertile time in a woman's life, but you will find many uses for pregnancy, birth, and beyond.)

  • Motherwort is an emmenogogue (brings on stalled mentrual flow) when taken as an infusion (1oz dried herb in a covered quart jar with boiling hot water, steeped overnight).  This will be BITTER, but if you want to bleed bad enough, you will do it!  Warm it and sweeten with a natural sweetner (honey, maple syrup..)
  • For "even emotions", Susun says that it "calms without drowsiness, making it ideal as an ally at work and at home, whenever pressure and stress threaten to overwhelm you."
  • Motherwort is an antispasmodic, making it very useful for cramps as well as early labor contractions.
  • Because of its slightly sedative action, it is effective for taking the edge off of active labor pains.  Take 5 drops of tincture in a glass of water.
  • Although antispasmodic, it acts as a uterine toner as well, and is known to be given routinely by traditional midwives immediately after birth to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. 
  • Motherwort is AMAZING for postpartum afterpains.  Susun says it "helps tone the uterus and ease the nervous system."
  • It's a strong ally for exhaustion and tension.
Sometimes I meet women and I think, "Can I just give you some motherwort??"  Seriously, my relationship with this plant has been profound and is still evolving.  Her personality is one of a much older, wiser sister- she mothers me when I need mothering, when I need to tend to my wounds, and when my pain-body is stealing my attention.  

If you are interested in purchasing an ounce of motherwort tincture from my beloved stands in Nebraska, mindfully and sustainably harvested from the wild by yours truly, email  

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