I’ve long been interested in natural health. I make my own cleaners and personal care products, and I use essential oils, but the herb has always intrigued (and intimidated) me. Gone it seems are the days when someone would say, “What’s your ailment? Go fetch this plant. It will help.”
The truth is, we still can. Herbs haven’t changed all that much, but our reliance on Western medicine has. We reach for our sleep aids instead of lavender and catnip. We get cortisone shots instead of mullein tea, and we buy expensive creams and salves instead of first reaching for yarrow or plantain.
I have recently been bitten by the herbalism bug (thanks to our very own Natural Living Mamma, Amanda) and have been researching common remedies for local plants. It turns out I have, in my very own yard, at least 3 plants I can actively (and safely) use in aiding my family’s health.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it? So today I want to teach you about motherwort.
***This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition and is for informational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and you should seek the care of a physician before making any health or medical related decisions.***
Motherwort: A Mother’s Herb
Motherwort is a distinctive plant. It has veined and sharply lobed leaves, and when motherwort flowers it sends up a tall stalk covered with small purple flowers. These flowers turn into sharp pods that will attach to passersby to spread the seeds. Bees seem to love motherwort, and I had to leave several fine specimens in my yard when I was cutting because I couldn’t bear to steal them from our friendly pollinators.
Motherwort is often referred to as a “mother’s herb”. As an emmenagogue it can be used to help regulate and start menstrual flow, or to ease pain during childbirth. Because it is an emmenagogue it should not be used during pregnancy, but can be used in the days post partum to ease anxiety and prevent uterine infection.
Motherwort is also described as “cooling”. It is cooling to the body, and cooling to the emotions. Cooling to the body, motherwort has traditionally been used as a heart tonic to calm palpitations, lower blood pressure, and ease the nervous system. If you have a heart condition, please discuss your care with your doctor before using motherwort to treat it.
Cooling to the emotions: motherwort can be a great help in times of stress. It’s often said to use motherwort when you are in need of mothering. Therefore, it is a great herb for treating anxiety, a broken heart, or to ease you through transitional phases.
Motherwort tends to be a pretty bitter herb, something I noticed when cutting plants. If I touched my mouth at all I could taste the bitterness. For this reason, many people don’t enjoy a motherwort tea. Making a tincture instead can be a more effective way of ingesting this herb.
To avoid a bitter tasting tea, I made a tincture out of the motherwort I cut from my yard. In a classic “do what I say, not as I do” scenario, make sure you chop your motherwort immediately after cutting it. If you decide to let it sit on your porch for a day or two (ahem), the plant continues go to seed making it exponentially tougher, sharper, and more difficult to chop. Fresh motherwort is easier to cut up than drying motherwort.
Preparing Your Tincture
If you are using a fresh plant you can cut up the stalks, flowers, leaves, and all. Chop your herb and loosely pack it into a glass mason jar. Add vodka or another alcohol (at least 80 proof) to cover the herbs, put on a lid, and place it in a dark place to steep for several weeks (at least 3, preferably 6). You should shake the jar a couple times a day for the first week.
***Note from Amanda -If you would like more information this is the “folk method” for preparing a tincture. You can learn more about medicine making in Natural Herbal Living Magazine’s free issue “Approaching An Herbal Practice” which you get free for signing up for their news letter – on the home page.
Once your tincture has finished steeping, strain out the herbs with muslin or cheesecloth. Pour your tincture into a clean glass container, label it “Fresh Mother Wort Tincture in (name your alcohol here) and add the date – and store it out of direct sunlight. Tinctures can last up to 5 years.
Administering Your Tincture
It takes approximately 120 drops to make one teaspoon. Keep this in mind when you’re administering your tinctures. If you want 30 drops, that would be approximately 1/4 tsp. Measuring is much faster than counting each time!
Because a tincture is made in alcohol it can be pretty strong. Many people find adding their tincture to a glass of water is a more palatable way of taking it. Also note that every body is different and you’ll need to decide what concentration and frequency works best for you.
Begin with 10-20 drops of motherwort tincture in a small amount of water. I’ve read you can take up to 1 Tbsp a day (360 drops), so repeat or increase your dosage as necessary.
Have you ever used motherwort? Did you learn any new applications for this herb?