As a cardiovascular tonic, Motherwort is hard to beat. Due to the presence of the chemical alkaloid leonurine, a mild vasodilator, this herb acts as an anti-spasmodic to relax smooth muscles, one of those muscles being the heart. Its calming nature has also been shown to slow heart palpitations and a rapid heartbeat, making it an excellent remedy for cardiac anxiety.
Motherwort helps regulate tachicardia (uneven heart beats), especially when due to stress and anxiety; this happens very quickly after dosage and can be a powerful ally for someone who feels their heart beat frequently due to tension and anxiety and especially for someone whose fear of having anxiety can turn into panic.
Other important compounds found in this plant include iridoid glycosides, which in conjunction with the plant alkaloids can help to decrease cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent blood clots and blood platelet aggregation, slow down heart rate and decrease blood pressure and improve heart circulation.
Sometimes called “Mother’s hug in a bottle”, Motherwort helps to nourish the emotional heart too. Indicated for grief, anger and upset, this plant is said to give the heart of a lion – calm yet strong.
As an emmenogogue, Motherwort acts as a uterine tonic which helps to regulate menstruation, bring on delayed periods and can reduce smooth muscle cramping – particularly menstrual cramps.
Motherwort can also help relieve premenstrual tension and discomfort. Most menstrual cramps are partially due to inadequate circulation in the pelvis. Motherwort may help calm menstrual pain by both reducing spasms in the uterus and improving blood flow to the pelvis.
Though it is not to be used until labour, Motherwort can ease early labour pains if they begin prematurely. It can also alleviate the restlessness, anxiety, tension and insomnia some women experience during labour. Post natally, it is given to help the uterus relax and return to normal.
Folklore and history
17th centaury herbalist the famous Culpepper wrote, "There is no better herb to take melancholy vapors from the heart... and make a merry, cheerful soul." As well as viewing this herb as an anti-depressant, he also saw it to be good for heart palpitations, fainting, swooning, for settling women's wombs, to help with childbirth and bring on delayed or suppressed menstruation.
The Motherwort herb is especially aligned with the healing of women – hence the name! However, that’s not to say it cannot be an extremely beneficial herb for men too.
Its Latin name “Leonurus Cardiaca” means “Lion’s Heart”, with cardiaca referencing the heart – the organ this plant has a strong affinity with.
It was used by the Ancient Greeks to soothe anxiety in pregnant women, and for what we now know as post natal depression. It was introduced to North America by the colonists, where it was used by the Cherokee Indians as a sedative for nervous afflictions, whilst the 19th century Eclectics recommended Motherwort as an emmenogogue (to promote menstruation), and an aid in the expulsion of afterbirth.
Not recommended for people taking anticoagulants - blood thinners, aspirin, garlic, willow bark, vitamin E in supplement form, or people with clotting disorders.
Do not use if pregnant or lactating.