Motherwort is an annual plant with a straight stem having clusters of small purple or pink flowers native to Europe and Asia. The parts that grow above the ground are used to make medicine. Motherwort is a very common herb. If you live in the northeast and have a garden, or know of a vacant lot in the city, you probably already have motherwort growing near you. Motherwort has been used for centuries to treat conditions related to childbirth. Motherwort has the ability to act as a galactagogue, meaning it promotes a mother’s milk flow. It also has been used as a uterine tonic before and after childbirth.
Due to the presence of the chemical alkaloid leonurine, a mild vasodilator, motherwort acts as an anti-spasmodic to relax smooth muscles, one of those muscles being the heart. Chinese studies have also found motherwort to decrease clotting and the level of fat in the blood. That it can, in its calming nature, slow heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat. Motherwort has a mildly diuretic affect and also aids in high blood pressure. Known as a longevity herb in China, motherwort has a broad range of useful applications.
Motherwort is fast relief for those with menstrual cramps. A 5-10 drop dose, taken at the first twinge of pain and repeated every 10-15 minutes, or as needed, will do the trick for most women. The herb regulates the menses, and is a strong emmenagogue, helping to stimulate delayed periods. An infusion of the leaves and flowers has bitter flavour and is used as an analgesic. Do not use motherwort early in pregnancy as it encourages miscarriage. Postpartum, motherwort lifts the spirit and promotes tranquility.
Motherwort also may be helpful in treating breast cancer, insomnia and inflammatory diseases. A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that motherwort aqueous ethanol extract is toxic to breast cancer cells. This herb should not be used before consulting a health care provider.