Let we share with you my very favorite plant for soothing, healing and helping when you need it most. It is Motherwort—Leonurus cardiaca. In the Chinese pharmacopeia it’s known as Yi Mu Cao, meaning “Lion's Tail.” A herb of the heart, this humble plant grows in waste lands. Motherwort is the most comforting herb I have ever found anywhere. It brings a sense of inner security and calm strength unequalled by anything, except perhaps a love affair of the deepest order—maybe not even that.
This wonderful herb has gained its name from the ancient practice of using it to reduce anxiety during pregnancy. The plant has good sedative properties— well validated by scientific experiment. It is able to calm the nervous system while at the same time acting as a tonic to the while body. Culpepper, who believed that motherwort belonged to the goddess Venus and to the astrological sign of Leo, wrote "There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapors from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry." I think this sums up the virtues of my beloved motherwort superbly.
Its leaves are full of mind-altering natural chemicals. Studies in China have shown that these decrease the levels of blood lipids and exert a regulating action on muscles like the womb and the heart, bringing peace in their wake. This is one of the reasons why, in addition to being used by women to ease hot flushes, banish insomnia, and restore elasticity to the walls of the vagina, it is an excellent herb for the treatment of many heart conditions in men. No wonder it’s the most physically and psychologically healing plant I know.
This magical plant is also rich in alkaloids. It’s bitter as an infusion. So it can be easier to take as a tincture or make into a herbal vinegar. Take 10 to 25 drops of the tincture made from the fresh plant, or 1 to 2 teaspoons of the herb vinegar as desired. A herb for all seasons, here are just a few of the gifts it can bestow upon you:
Motherwort reduces fevers and is often used to treat illnesses with delirium. It is often used to treat lung issues like bronchitis and asthma, and is sometimes taken in conjunction with mullein.
It calms nerves. In fact there is something so calming and balancing about motherwort that it is hard to describe if you have never experienced it. Used frequently it can relieve anxiety, uplift the nervous system, and relax tensions, while raising vitality. I often turn to it when I know I need to confront a situation that I believe is likely to be stressful.
Motherwort can also minimize hot flushes and reduce their intensity, length, and frequency while helping to calm the dizziness or faintness that sometimes comes with them. This is probably thanks to its ability to oxygenate the blood in both men and women, tonify the thyroid, liver, and heart, and invigorate circulation all round. For best results use it regularly for 12 weeks or longer. Although sometimes, 10 to 15 drops or so of the tincture in a little spring water can ease a hot flush while it’s happening.
If you want to sleep peacefully and undisturbed, motherwort can be a good friend. It’s also useful if you awaken in the night with sweats and have trouble dropping off again. Take 10 to 20 drops of the tincture kept at the side of your bed with a glass of spring water and swallow some each time you wake up.
It’s a natural diuretic as well. A little motherwort every few hours can reduce water retention. This is especially useful after a flight if your legs and feet have become swollen.
As for clearing menstrual and uterine cramps if your menstrual flow is absent or light to moderate, I’ve never found anything more effective. Use 5 to 10 drops of the tincture in a little water every few minutes until they have gone then repeat as necessary. Prolonged use strengthens the muscles of the womb, and even makes it resistant to cramping in the future.
Finally, in my own experience, this magical plant even seems to enhance women’s self esteem, would you believe? Ten to twenty drops of tincture of motherwort works wonders whenever you are feeling unsettled. Alternatively you can take 5 to 15 drops of the tincture every day for a month or two to stabilize emotions long term. It also strengthens the heart and helps you feel courageous even when the chips are down.
There are a couple of important cautions in regard to using motherwort that you should know about. If you are taking blood-thinning drugs—and I sincerely hope you are not—then don’t use motherwort. Finally, if your menstrual flow is very heavy, motherwort could well make it heavier, so avoid it in this case. Meanwhile, I leave you with a wonderful Chinese belief from ancient times when there were many stories of both men and women whose water source was a stream flowing through the banks of motherwort: these people were believed to have lived 130 years or even longer.