How does it feel?
The immediate impact in taking motherwort tea is its bitterness. This taste is quickly augmented by a modest sharp acrid quality. However these tastes do not linger and apart from a residual aromatic flavour in the mouth the taste sensation is short.
Appreciating these qualities reminds us that as well as any other property motherwort acts on bitter receptors and its overall effects on the body will include their impact on digestive and liver functions.
What can I use it for?
Motherwort is associated with calming anxiety symptoms, especially in the chest. The key to understanding this reputation is to see it as the herbal accompaniment to a good breathing exercise and with a focus on reducing tension in the diaphragm.
This large muscle is our breathing bellows, and should move smoothly and expansively with each breath.
Tension and anxiety are often associated with tightness in the diaphragm and ribcage: this creates a sort of echo-chamber in the chest in which for example you might hear your heart pounding, and it can also interfere with the smooth transit between gullet and stomach.
A routine of good breathing exercises to unlock the diaphragm is important to manage this pattern of trouble and motherwort then becomes a very useful support measure.
So think of this herb as a tea if you are prone to heart palpitations, hyperventilation, hiatus hernia and swallowing difficulties, if any of these seem to have an anxiety origin.
In women, motherwort is classed as a uterine tonic and can help regulate the menstrual cycle, again especially where this has been influenced by anxiety and/or tension.
Similarly, it can relax excess tension and stress during the menopause.
Into the heart of Motherwort
The common and botanical name of this plant are key indicators of its modern and traditional usage. Motherwort (= ‘mother plant’) is an indicator of its traditional usage to support female health, particularly menstrual and uterine based conditions affecting fertility and conception. The Latin specific cardiaca (and the German common name Herzgespann) is indicative of the plants affinity for treating heart based disorders, particularly where the condition may be exacerbated by emotional stress.
Interestingly in both Europe and China (which has a similar species Leonurus heterophyllus) the use of motherwort is to regulate periods and to treat associated menstrual conditions. It also has a persistent reputation to improve mood. The mediaeval English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper considered motherwort useful for removing melancholy vapours from the heart, improving cheerfulness, and settling the wombs of mothers.
Other more modern herbal uses include for hyperthyroidism (for the cardiac symptoms), palpitations, nervous tachycardia, secondary amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, ovarian pain, anxiety, neuralgia, can be useful for menopausal hot flushes and a general menopausal aid.
Antispasmodic plants reduce or relieve smooth muscle spasm. They can be helpful for an array of issues including menstrual cramps. Also known as spasmolytics, these plants include aniseed (Pimpinella anisum), blue cohosh (caulophyllum thalictroides), cramp bark (viburnum opulus) and lavender (Lavandula angustofolia).Emmenagogues
Emmenagogues are herbs that stimulate and promote menstruation. Examples include Marigold flowers (Calendula officinalis) and Chaste Tree fruits (Vitex agnus-castus), Turmeric root (Curcuma longa).Nervines
Nervines are herbs that soothe the nervous system and have a calming effect on the emotions. Examples include Oatstraw flowering tops (Avena sativa), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lavender (Lavandula officinalis), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Rosemary leaf (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Gotu Kola leaf (Centella asiatica).
What practitioners say
Cardiovascular and heart: Useful in any heart condition exacerbated by stress. Specifically indicated in palpitations, tachycardia and angina. Particularly useful where the heart is under high levels of emotional distress, for example during grieving or heartbreak (1).
Women’s health: Can be used in any condition affecting the functioning of the uterus. It is classed as a uterine tonic, strengthening and nourishing the uterus, preparing it for childbirth but also strengthening it after childbirth. Specifically indicated where menstruation is delayed or suppressed as a result of emotional tension (2).
Almost all the supporting literature for motherwort is from classic herbals.
In China motherwort is used as an injection to reduce bleeding after childbirth and caesarean section, and there is a positive review of published studies on this practice (3).
Did you know?
The botanical name, Leonurus, given to the plant by the leading plant taxonomist Linnaeus, reflected an early common association and name: ‘Lion’s tail’.
Motherwort is a herbaceous, perennial member of the mint family. It is native to Europe and will grow naturally in hedges, banks and most often in calcareous soils. Its most distinguishable feature is its leaves, which are palmately cut into separate lobes or three-pointed segments and have a layer of soft hairs covering the surface.
The plant can grow to 1-2 meters in height and produces whorls of pinky-white flowers that also display a thick layer of hairs. Like other Labiates it has a characteristic square (quadrilangular) stem.
Alternate botanical names:
- Leonurus villosus Desf. ex Spring
- L. quinquelabatus Glib
- L. tartaricus
- L. glaucescens Ledeb.
- Lions tail
- Lions ear
- Throw wort
- Herzgespann (Ger)
- Agripaume (Fr)
- Agripalma (Sp)
- Cardiaca (Sp)
- Yi mu cao (Chin)
Generally safe. There is a theoretical caution in taking this in pregnancy but there is no evidence for this.
2-4 g per day of dried herb as a tea.
- Bitter iridoid glycosides (including leonuride)
- Alkaloids (trace) leonurine and stachydrine.
Some of the evidence cited in the case of motherwort relate to laboratory studies involving the effects of the alkaloid leonurine (which has demonstrated uteroactive properties). Given the very low level of this alkaloid in the whole plant it is doubtful that this connection can be made, including in the theoretical cautions around pregnancy.
Brave Heart Tea
This Brave Heart tea is a therapeutic recipe for nourishing your heart, both the physical and emotional.
- Hawthorn berry 4g
- Hawthorn leaf and flower 2g
- Limeflower 2g
- Cinnamon bark 2g
- Motherwort 1g
- Saffron 5 strands
- Rose flower 1g
- Pomegranate juice a glug (or 1 tbsp) per cup
This will serve 2 cups of a very heartloving tea.
- Put all of the ingredients in a pot (except for the pomegranate juice).
- Add 500ml (18fl oz) freshly boiled filtered water. Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain.
- Add a glug of pomegranate juice to each cup.
This recipe is from Cleanse, Nurture, Restore by Sebastian Pole
- Shikov A, Pozharitskaya O, Makarov V, Demchenko D, Shikh E. Effect of Leonurus cardiaca oil extract in patients with arterial hypertension accompanied by anxiety and sleep disorders. Phytotherapy Research. 2010;25(4):540-543. doi:10.1002/ptr.3292
- Beik A, Joukar S, Najafipour H. A review on plants and herbal components with antiarrhythmic activities and their interaction with current cardiac drugs. J Tradit Complement Med. 2020;10(3):275-287. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2020.03.002
- Chen W, Yu J, Tao H, Cai Y, Li Y, Sun X. Motherwort injection for preventing postpartum hemorrhage in pregnant women with cesarean section: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Evid Based Med. 2018;11(4):252-260. doi:10.1111/jebm.12300