Here in New England, nature begins to awaken in early March. It slowly sends up the first shoots of Nettle and Horsetail and gracefully unfurls the swollen leaf buds of Forsythia. This welcome awakening is most appreciated after winter’s long sleep.
As I was out taking stock of newly emerging herbs, I noticed with pleasure Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) making an appearance. It’s still in its early stages of growth, but I know in a short time, I will be harvesting this wonderful herb for tinctures and tea.
This herb made an appearance last year in my backyard where we disturbed the soil while building my husband’s workshop. Since my property is a certified botanical sanctuary with a focus on medicinal herbs, the presence of this lion-hearted herb was welcome. I was very pleased to see it reappear this year with even more vigor.
For those of you not familiar with this plant, it’s a naturalized, flowering medicinal plant that has been used for centuries to treat menstrual cramps and other reproductive ailments in women along with anxiety and heart conditions. Native to Eurasia, it now grows wild in parts of the United States and Canada, and is now cultivated around the world for its strong medicine.
Although it is an attractive plant, and quite lovely in a naturalized landscape, its real purpose lies in its medicinal value — the leaves can be used to make a tea or tincture and as the name suggests, Motherwort is a fantastic remedy for female reproductive issues, but its magic is not limited to that. it can also help ease heart conditions, anxiety, depression and digestive issues. You can also eat them raw if you want but their bitterness can be overwhelming so I usually don’t recommend this method unless you’re desperate!
How to Identify
I find motherwort to be fairly easy to identify, as it is quite obvious by its common characteristics that it belongs to the mint family. Growing 2-4 feet high, this herbaceous perennial plant is recognizable by the square stem, opposite leaf pattern, and tubular flowers. The leaves are three-lobed, with the lower being larger than the upper, and feature deeper lobes as you move down the stem. Pale pink florets bloom between leaf axils.
It appears in early spring here (around March) in the northeast and blooms in early summer.
Despite its bitter taste and smell, motherwort leaves can be eaten or prepared as a drink. Tea made from the leaves and flowers of this herb is a great beverage that could help with symptoms like stress, anxiety, or insomnia. This tea can be flavored with sweeteners like honey, sugar, and lemon to improve the taste, too! If you’re not a fan of drinking herbal tea, don’t worry. You can also try adding motherwort to your next batch of homemade beer or prepare a tincture with it.
Not being a fan of bitters, I tend to take motherwort tincture swiftly for its potent medicine and definitely NOT for its taste!
Health Benefits & Medicinal Uses
The wise and patient Motherwort. This plant has a long history of use for relieving stress, anxiety, and irregular heartbeats. Its relaxing effects can also be useful for treating high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Additionally, this herb is good for maintaining female reproductive health—balancing hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and menopausal symptoms, speeding up recovery after childbirth, and treating postpartum depression.
To use motherwort as medicine, gather the top third of the plant in summer when in flower.
Tincture fresh or dried for later use. Gather only the most vibrant herbs at the time in their growth cycle when medicinal qualities are at their peak (when they flower).
Growing and gathering the herbs myself guarantees first-hand knowledge of quality and sustainability. I find this provides me with herbal medicines of the highest standard both medicinally and environmentally, but I do realize not everyone has the ability to do so. In these cases, I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs for their organically and sustainably grown herbs. They are always of the highest quality.
- 1 part fresh flowering tops
- 2 parts menstrum (50% alcohol, 50% water)
- 1 part dried flowering tops
- 5 parts menstrum (50% alcohol. 50% water)
Dosage – Take 3-30 drops as needed. A few drops are often enough to calm nerves, aid in relaxation, relieve stress reactions, and restore hormone balance.
To prepare as a tea, steep flowering tops in hot water for 15 -30 minutes before drinking. If you don’t have access to fresh plants then dried ones will do just fine! Just make sure they haven’t been stored long since their potency will be lessened over time.
Caution should be exercised in the consumption of motherwort. Too much of it can cause diarrhea and stomach irritation. People with sensitive skin should avoid touching motherwort because skin contact can cause rashes and sun sensitivity. Motherwort also can thin a person’s blood and increase their chance of bleeding easily. To help prevent these problems, pregnant women should not consume motherwort.
It is clear to me why motherwort has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, and why people continue to enjoy its healing benefits today. It not only has the ability to relieve many ailments, but it also makes for a beautiful addition to any garden. I personally love its stately presence in my garden and feel that its lovely flowers truly enhance the natural beauty of my landscape.
Disclaimer: outdoorapothecary.com is informational in nature and is not to be regarded as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. While we strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification.
Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, nor are we nutritionists. It is up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed in this website. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.