Motherwort is a classic calming remedy, with much modern relevance for reducing anxiety and stress symptoms.
Anxiety symptoms in the chest
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.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of motherwort’s key qualities below to learn more:
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.
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 migtht 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.
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.
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.
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.
The botanical name, Leonurus, given to the plant by the leading plant taxonomist Linnaeus, reflected an early common association and name: ‘Lion’s tail’.
Generally safe. There is a theoretical caution in taking this in pregnancy but there is no evidence for this.
Traditional Ayurvedic characteristics are
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.
To see the references used in this summary check our downloadable Expert Herbal Reality Resource pdf
2-4 g per day of dried herb as a tea.
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.