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Motherwort: An Herb of the Heart

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiac), also known as lion’s ear, lion’s tail and throw-wort, is a perennial plant that is native to Europe, Central Asia, Russia and Scandinavia. With hairy, palm-shaped, toothed leaves and tall, reddish stems that support clusters of delicate, lipped, pink-to-purple blossoms, it is an attractive plant grown in ornamental gardens as well as in medicinal herb gardens. Of course, as a member of the mint family, the herb can easily escape cultivation. In fact, after its introduction in the 19th century, motherwort is now naturalized in North America, where it is commonly found in wayside places.

The genus name for motherwort, Leonuris, means “lion heart” in Latin and is a reference to centuries of traditional use of the herb as a heart tonic and medicine for cardiac arrhythmias and palpitations. In Chinese medicine, motherwort is often combined with hawthorn and used as a preventative to stroke.

The plant contains several active compounds, including the alkaloids stachydrine and leonurinine, which have been shown to lower blood pressure in studies with animal subjects. These compounds appear to increase blood flow to the heart by relaxing coronary arteries and inhibiting clotting of the blood, but without increasing pulse rate. The German Commission E has approved of the use of motherwort for the treatment of irregular heartbeat in people with thyroid disorders.

Motherwort also has a long history of use in addressing complaints associated with premenstrual syndrome, irregular menstruation, menopause and hyperthyroidism. The herb is also used to help the uterus relax after childbirth and to ease anxiety and postpartum depression in the mother.

Motherwort is fondly regarded as an herb of the heart – not just for its pharmacological actions, but for emotional support as well. A tincture of the herb taken whenever your heart feels heavy or after experiencing trauma due to a separation from a loved one – a broken heart, in other words – can be very therapeutic.

Motherwort Moon Cycle Tonic

Prepare the following herbs as a tea or tincture at the onset of ovulation to help promote regularity and reduce cramps, irritability and anxiety before and during menstruation. For tea, steep 2 teaspoons of herb mixture in 1 cup of boiling water; drink 3 cups a day. For tincture, take 25-40 drops in water or juice three times per day.

3 parts vitex berries (chasteberry)

2 parts motherwort

2 parts lemon balm

2 parts crampbark

1 part passionflower

Motherwort Menopause Formula

Prepare the following herbs as a tincture and take 25-40 drops in water or juice, three times per day.

3 parts vitex berries (chasteberry)

2 parts motherwort

1 part skullcap

1 part oatstraw

Safety Precautions

  • Because of this herb’s action on the uterus, do not use this herb during pregnancy or childbirth without the careful supervision of a qualified health care practitioner experienced in the use of this herb.

  • Do not give motherwort products to young children.

  • If you have a heart condition or high blood pressure for which you take pharmaceutical medicines, consult your physician before using this herb.

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