Materia Medica: Leonurus Cardiaca (Motherwort)

Latin name/family: Leonurus cardiaca, Labiatae mint family
Habitat & Appearance: moist, disturbed areas; often will volunteer in gardens and take over; hardy plant — pink to white flowers above leaf nodes, leaves opposite w/ pointed lobes; resembles mugwort
Parts used: flowers, leaves and stems
Energetics: bitter, cold
Properties: carminitive, heart (cardiac) tonic, diuretic, antispasmodic, anti rheumatic, emmenagogue, astringent, diaphoretic, tonic, nervine
Folklore & Magical History: Not a lot, references to a plant of Venus, suggestive a use in the affairs of the heart, love; due to it’s uses, I can imagine it being wonderful to use in workings for mothers or children, as a plant of protection and for uplifting the heart and for courage during times of challenge.

I love this plant, and trust her. Many mothers commonly use this plant — also known as “Mother’s Little Helper”– to take them down a notch when things are stressful. It is highly effective for this use, however there is much more it is known for. How else could it win such a regal and powerful name, which translates into Lion Hearted?

So let’s get to it: starting at the core of what I call the “Sensitive Body” (as opposed to the physical one, this aspect of our body houses our intuitive nature and such), our heart, this herb works wonders on our ‘mindsight’ — the mind/heart connection — by virtue of it’s ability to calm down one’s thoughts, and thereby emotions, via the channels of the heart. Contrary to what you may think, our thoughts create our emotions, not the other way around. For those of use struggling with an overactive mind and emotional constitution, this herb is a powerful ally.

But before I start sounding too airy-fairy for y’all, it does this in part because this lovely herb contains alkaloids and compounds that have proven in lab studies to have heart-regulating effects, while also being sedative and hypotensive. So Motherwort comes with the data to backup her claims. This means that as it literally helps to calm the physical response to stress in the heart and nervous system, it then in turn helps to lower one’s emotional response and effects as well.

When we are caught in a biofeedback of negativity, we no longer see where the tension begins — in the mind with my thoughts? With my emotions, such as when I feel anger, frustration? Or in my body, when my pulse races and my heart feels as if its contracting with tension? — and therefore how to best assist healing. By calming the heart and nervous system, this herb steps into the negative biofeedback cycle — as the body calms down, the mind can choose to follow.

I say choose because I have found that in order to get maximum use of this herb’s gifts, when possible I take advantage of that calming state and explore the negative thoughts that are contributing to my stressed out body. I consciously choose to ignore the negative thoughts in my mind, and replace them with very positive, supportive ones. Instead of “I can’t handle this” I literally tell that thought to “STOP!” and in turn say to myself “I can handle this, and I will.” By combining the action of calming the physical reaction in the body while also calming the agitated state of the mind, I have thwarted the negative feedback system’s power over me.

Indirectly this plant assists blood pressure, again due to its talents with the heart. It helps to allow the let-down of milk in nursing women, I suggest once again, due to its ability to calm and center a possibly tense body (any mother knows that breastfeeding is a learned art!). This herb is fantastic to use for those with anger, depression or grief issues. I have found in various books many references to all kinds of maladies that it helps: stomach aches, headaches, convulsions, etc etc. When you consider that so many of these issues can stem from tension and stress, again it is no surprise the efficacy of this herb for such issues. Meanwhile, it also is effective in the treatment of rheumatic issues; as well as edema of the heart.

Moving down in the body, we come to the uterus: because of Motherwort’s talents with heart and tension, it is no surprise that it works wonders for PMS and particularly for menstrual cramping and slow-starting menses in women. This is because this plant is an emmenagogue and assists bleeding, as well as being antispasmodic to smooth muscles. Rosemary Gladstar notes in her book, Herbal Healing For Women: “concentrations of leonurine and stachydrine, chemical constituents that promote uterine contractions have been found in motherwort…” (p.248) This is also why it is not recommended during pregnancy by many herbalists, for obvious reasons; however, it has been used traditionally by midwives at the last stages of pregnancy to assist birth.

Wrap -up: Due to it’s nervine and sedative properties, this herb can best assist heart-centered issues such as stress, depression, grief, anger, insomnia, indigestion, headaches, cramping, muscle spasms… to name only a few. Great for PMS, menstrual cramping and slow-to-start menses; can assist slow labor and raise uterine contractions; can help to lower blood pressure; may be used to lower hyperthyroid conditions.

Use and dosage: One dropperful of tincture, up to 4x a day

Contraindications: Not for those who have heavy bleeding during menstrual cycles; not recommended during pregnancy; caution for those with hypothyroid; have seen references not for use with endometriosis, fibroids.

Disclaimer: Herbs are not FDA approved, nor or we implying that anything here should or can replace the recommendation of your health practitioner. You are reading this on the internet–educate yourself, never assume, and check with your health practitioner before using herbs.

Herbal Healing for Women, R. Gladstar
Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, S. Foster and C. Hobbs
Plantetary Herbology, M. Tierra
A Modern Herbal, Grieve, M.
Private notes

* original article published on The Blessed Thistle Botanicals blog, Blossom and Bone, Root and Stone
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