Motherwort benefits are numerous and varied, and it is a superior herb for relieving anxiety, constraint, spasm, palpitations, and for strengthening the emotional heart

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is one of the most versatile plant medicines I know of. Herbalists speak of connector herbs, plant medicines that, when combined with other herbs, improve the formula’s overall function because their medicinal virtues  influence so many places in our physiology. Motherwort is such an herb.

Motherwort benefits are significant, working simultaneously through the nervous system as an antispasmodic and an antianxiety herb, through the cardiovascular system as a regulator and enlivener of circulation, and through the liver and gallbladder, helping them to function smoothly. In Chinese medicine, liver and gallbladder constraint impede smooth flow of qi and blood, creating constriction virtually anywhere in the body, which in turn can cause tension, anxiety, irritability, pain and disruption of normal function. 

Motherwort benefits extend to the liver, gallbladder, and digestion, the heart, cardiovascular system and female reproductive system, and the brain and nervous system. In all of these places motherwort helps to ease tension, release spasm and constriction so that qi and the nervous system can flow and function better and more smoothly. Today we are especially looking at motherwort benefits for the emotional and physical heart.

Motherwort benefits for the cardiovascular system and the solar plexus

Motherwort’s scientific name is Leonurus cardiaca, Leonurus means lion and cardiaca refers to the heart. Taken together, it means lion-hearted, and motherwort truly lives up to its name. This herb is much used — in formulas or by itself — to help us  gather and galvanize courage, gumption, emotional strength, decisiveness and conviction. Such feelings emanate prominently from the heart and solar plexus chakras. That’s where our vow, commitment and desire to move forward come from. Motherwort strengthens and fortifies these qualities. It helps us stand firm and hold our ground.

Motherwort both consolidates and gladdens the heart. Culpepper says, “There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapors from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry.”

Motherwort is superlative cardiovascular medicine, and especially so if we hold tension there. It addresses symptoms such as tightness in the chest and heart palpitations, and even more so if caused by hyperthyroidism or menopause. It is one of the best connector herbs between the cardiovascular system and nervous system.

It is also a cardiotonic that strengthens and tones the heart. It is effective for cardiac debility, high blood pressure, and  tachycardia, especially when associated with anxiety or agitation. Motherwort also protects the heart from fevers (scarlet fever, rheumatic fever), likely due to its alkaloid content. In Chinese medicine, motherwort is considered an herb that regulates and invigorates blood circulation. This refers to its ability to resolve stagnancy, constriction and stuckness. This ability to regulate and invigorate blood is especially beneficial for helping to correct the physical and mental-emotional discomfort caused by menstrual irregularities, especially amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea.

In astrological and magical circles, motherwort is considered to be feminine in nature, to be ruled by Venus (water element), and to reside in the sign of Leo (fire sign). It is a potent combination of water and fire elements. It is a strengthening herb, imbuing a person with a sense of purpose and confidence (stout heart and inner trust), and a sense of joy and satisfaction in good efforts that unfold smoothly and work toward positive outcomes. 


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Motherwort benefits to the nervous system

Although often regarded as a female reproductive system herb, motherwort is equally renowned for its beneficial effect on the nervous system. It is, in my opinion, among the best and most reliable constraint-releasing, antispasmodic, calmative nervines. It is useful for anyone, on a par with and even better than skullcap, although different in its action. This plant is ideal for allaying anxiety and agitation in general, and especially called upon when associated with PMS or menopause. It is also useful in treatment of hysteria, chorea (jerky involuntary movements affecting especially the shoulders, hips, and face), delirium tremens, restless leg syndrome, irritable habits and persistent nervous excitability, spasmodic emotions, or any acute or chronic illness that is accompanied by restlessness, wakefulness, disturbed sleep, spinal irritation, neuralgic pains in the stomach and head, and/or symptoms associated with liver and gallbladder disharmonies. 

Interesting information and some additional motherwort benefits 

Motherwort has also been used as an herb for protection and counter-magic. It is an often-used ingredient in potions drunk during lunar rituals, and it is also used in female rite-of-passage rituals to encourage embodying strong, lion-hearted feminine nature. Motherwort’s three distinct leaf shapes reinforce this idea, as they are symbolic of the maiden-mother-crone trinity, further cementing its reputation as a powerful herb for women. 

Motherwort benefits pollinators as well. It was originally introduced to North America in order to attract bumble bees. The fresh or dried flowers can also be used as a flavoring in soups, particularly lentil or split pea. It has also been used as a flavoring agent in beer. 

Chinese motherwort (yi mu cao) (L. heterophyllus) is used similarly to its Western cousin for menstrual irregularities, invigorating blood, breaking up blood stagnation and masses, and for reducing edema.

Understand cautions and contraindications, in addition to the motherwort benefits listed above

The three main cautions and contraindications for motherwort are pregnancy, menorrhagia and hypothyroidism. Due to its blood-invigorating properties, it is not recommended for use during pregnancy or if menstrual flow is too heavy. Motherwort also depresses thyroid function to a degree (also the case for lemon balm). So, if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you may want to think twice before using motherwort. If, however, you already take medication for hypothyroidism, then it doesn’t matter, as that amount of motherwort will not impede the dominating effect of the pharmaceutical medication. Lastly, skin contact with this plant has been known to cause photodermatitis in susceptible people. 

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