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Motherwort: The Lion Hearted Mother

The best way I learned to understand Motherwort, is to know that it is an herb for times when you need a loving mother. If you think about this, you'll understand this herbal helper.

Motherwort is a perennial member of the mint family and like the rest of it's family it is easy to grow and spreads prolifically. I suggest placing her at the edge of your garden where it's easier to control his habit of spreading. She has her families square stems. Motherwort grows tall, up to 5 feet and sometimes more. She has a bell-shaped calyx and small pink blossoms when she flowers. Motherwort is hardy to USDA zones 4-9, and prefers to be planted in a sunny position with well-drained soil. Motherwort needs cold stratification for good germination rates. She self seeds easily and seed saving from motherwort is extremely easy. The best time to harvest motherwort is when her flowers are beginning to bloom.

To begin to understand this herb lets start with how she got her name. As you know, wort means a useful herb. Mother's wort meant this herb was the go-to for remedy for mothers. In fact, you would have been hard pressed to find a mid-wife without it. It was given to women during child birth to ease the anxiety and tension in the mother during the birthing process. It was also commonly used during postpartum and menopause. She is a wonder for all things PMS. Her affinity for the female reproductive system comes from her ability to relieve tension and increasing circulation to the uterus. This eases cramping that comes from congestion and stagnation within these tissues. This makes it effective for fibroids, cysts and endometriosis. Motherwort is an emmenagogue which means it helps to encourage the menses. Consequently, she should be avoided by anyone pregnant or suffering from menorrhagia.

As wonderful as motherwort is for the female reproductive system, to think of her simply as an herb for your cycle is to sell her incredibly short. One of her most sought after properties is her capabilities as a nervine. A nervine means an herb works to calm the nervous system.

Learning from her name once again, her botanical name, Leonurus cardiac, means “lion hearted”. This name gives us clues to her nature akin to a lion hearted mother. When we are a mess and unable to cope she steps in like a lion hearted mother and interjects her protective nature to calm and collect us. This is why we think of her for times when we need a loving mother. When stress is overwhelming, when trauma and grief is weighing down, when chaos is all around, and when we need grounding, strength and courage, motherwort is the lion hearted mother herb we turn to. Motherwort soothes and calms. In fact, Nicholas Culpeper says “There is no better herb to drive Melancholy Vapors from the Heart, to strengthen it, and make a cheerful blith soul “. I consider her to be a loosening herb. She loosens areas of tension within the body.

Motherwort can help stop anxiety attacks, according to some, in its tracks. She comes in like a lion hearted mother and lovingly but firmly insists that you sit down and take a few deep breaths and collect yourself. She eases the frantic running in your mind and before you know it the racing of your heart has settled as well. It is useful for anxiety when it is associated with heart palpitations and high blood pressure. Its bitterness stimulates the appetite, especially if loss of appetite is associated with nervousness. In fact, it is extremely bitter and therefore aids digestion, eases intestinal cramping, and supports liver function. It is commonly used a bitter to combat the sluggish digestion of heavy winter foods come spring time.

Because of her intense bitterness she is not enjoyable as tea. Rather, she is best when used fresh to make a tincture from the flowering tops.

The final indicator of her name comes from the heart of lion heart. Motherwort is a cardio tonic. This means that she has heart protective abilities. She is renowned for her ability to calm heart palpitations, particularly when caused by anxiety and hyperthyroidism. Motherwort has been shown to relax heart cells and to help prevent the blood clots that cause heart attacks. Motherwort contains leonurine, a compound found to promote the relaxation of blood vessel walls. This action lowers blood pressure. The antioxidants in motherwort also protect the heart from damage.

Because of motherwort's ability to lower blood pressure and counteract the effects of hyperthyroidism, one of the serious contraindications is that it is not an herb for people suffering from hypothyroidism.

If you are not pregnant or suffering from hypothyroidism, motherwort is one of the herbs I recommend everyone keep in their apothecary. Even if you don't need her now, when you do feel your soul longing for the comfort of a lion hearted mother, she will be there.

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