by Mahalia Freed ND
An important herb for the uterus, heart and nervous system, Motherwort (Leonuris cardiaca) is a great example of an urban herbal ally. This often-overlooked plant is central in formulas for menopausal/perimenopausal women as well as for PMS and painful periods. Motherwort is recognizable by the distinctive jagged shape of its scratchy leaves and characteristic square stem.
You can find this larger member of the mint family growing as a healthy, wild “weed” in laneways, ditches, and untended yards throughout the city. Now that you know what to look for, pause, sample a leaf, and appreciate the medicine at your fingertips!
Motherwort is often called for in easing the transition for menopausal/perimenopausal women. It is especially good when there is anxiety with palpitations, but is also generally nourishing to the nervous system, and calming to the nerves and heart. Motherwort relaxes smooth muscles as well as our minds, helping both eliminate painful periods and PMS. The herb also increases blood circulation to the pelvis. And in case you were wondering, “wort” is a Middle English word for “herb” or “plant”, so this is literally a “mother’s herb”. In practice, it is useful postpartum if a mother has elevated blood pressure.
As evidenced by its latin binomial, “cardiaca” this weed is a major heart tonic for both men and women. Literally, “Leonuris cardiaca” means “heart of the lion”. Motherwort can decrease or stabilize blood pressure, and is considered to have a diuretic action. Herbalist Susun Weed calls this herb “bypass in a bottle”, referencing its ability to grow new blood vessels as well as strengthening heart function. And finally, as discussed above, the plant is key in herbal formulas for palpitations.
While some hardy herb lovers will make a tea of the fresh or dried leaves, this herb is decidedly bitter. Thus, motherwort is best taken as a tincture, or alcohol extract. Dose will vary depending on your constitution, your health conditions, and what other herbs, supplements and/or prescription medications you are taking. Ask your naturopathic doctor or medical herbalist what dosage & frequency is best for you.
Consult your naturopathic doctor or medical herbalist if you have low thyroid function, heavy periods, fibroids, or are pregnant. Safe during breast-feeding.