Motherwort: An Ally for Soft Power

Motherwort first revealed herself to me eight years ago at the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium in Laytonville California. I looked over the forty or so unfamiliar, robust green allies in 4-inch pots at the Insta-Garden, a pop-up nursery of medicinal plants tucked behind the 30-foot tepees under the shade of the black oaks.

Lack of confidence overwhelmed me and I doubted whether I could make medicine with these unknown allies. I had made lotions and potions for years from herbs that I knew well, such as lavender, rosemary, sage and basil.  Just when I was ready to run Tina Glaessner asked how she could help. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was only clear on my dilemma. I had just left the family home where my soon-to-be ex-husband and I had raised our boys.

“Oh, you need Motherwort,” she said emphatically and handed over the spiky, serious looking plant. “This lovely plant has been used for centuries to help women and anxiety. She’ll give you the courage and strength you need. Her Latin name is Leonurus cardiac, Lion-hearted.” She pointed to a long branch with a spiky three leaved end. “It even looks like a lion’s tail.”

I could feel the energy and power pulsating off Motherwort. It was a relief and intimidating all at once. Could I really step into power amidst the guilt and fear I felt? Tina assured me with sisterly love that I could and I must. After all, what choice was there?

So I planted Motherwort in the yard directly out the kitchen back door of our new apartment. She would be my secret ally, my holy host to lead and protect me as I mothered, nurtured and guided my uprooted, pre-teen boys.

Power of Empirical Evidence

But I didn’t make medicine of this plant. Instead I worked on an energetic level with my plant. I visited her every day to gain strength for the most difficult job on the planet. I got a tincture from the natural foods store, which I took religiously and panicked whenever the bottle hid in the bowels of my purse.

Many have doubts whether or not they can unravel contraindications of different herbs, allay dire warnings from misinformed allopathic doctors and forge ahead to make their own herbal medicine. And that’s okay. We begin where we can. Most herbalists agree the best way to start working with herbs is by sitting with a plant that you want to incorporate in your medicinal tool chest or magical cache. Simply experience the herb. Notice how much sunlight or water they prefer or how the new shoots grow.

Motherwort is a perennial bush that grows up to 5 feet and 2 feet wide with deeply lobed leaves that are dark green on top and lighter beneath.  The flowers are pale pink to purple, very hairy, in whorls of 6 to 12, alternating up the stems with leaves. She prefers full sun and light, well-drained soil, spaced 12-15 inches apart and will reseed itself quite effectively.

While working with any new plant, take notes on the thoughts that pass through your mind when you are with the plant. You may find that Motherwort will powerfully bring you back to your center. The herb grants a new level on confidence and recalls an inner strength by reducing stress and disquiet.

Motherwort tends toward strengthening the Divine Feminine. As an emmenagogue, it is used to stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. It enhances fertility while reducing anxiety associated with childbirth, postpartum depression, and menopause.

While the name and the above mentioned uses indicate that Motherwort is a favored herbal ally for women, it is also an effective heart tonic. Studies have shown Motherwort can decrease muscle spasms, clotting and the level of fat in the blood and slow heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat.  It helps promote relaxation, encourages a positive mood and calms an edgy mind. It has been used to reduce fevers as well.

Making Tincture on a Full Moon

Motherwort helped me through the roughest transition of my life, but over the years, I forgot about my herbal ally, like a forgotten favorite hammer at the bottom of my tool chest. But our herbal friends have a way of reminding us they are omnipresent instruments of healing, even when we forget them. I had been writing a newsletter for my cousin Elise Higley who owns Oshala Farms, taking my payments in teas and dried herbs. One day I decided to get a pound of Motherwort – or perhaps she decided for me.

It was a full moon the night my firstborn Skyler boarded the plane for college in Hawaii where he would study ecology and play soccer for the university. I was excited for Skyler’s adventure, glad to have some space from the one who knows every single one of my buttons and wanting to hold onto him at the same time. I packed a gallon jar 2/3rd full of dried Motherwort and covered it with a gallon of Vodka for the Gods; the name seemed appropriate. When harvesting your Motherwort for tinctures, clip leaves anywhere from late June into August, being sure to leave enough flower stalks for reseeding to occur.

I placed the jar on the balcony where it would receive the full lunar energy. I placed my hands over the jar, sending all my intentions for smooth transition and the strength to handle anything not so smooth (for him and me). I brought the Motherwort tincture in the morning and took it back out when the moon rose.

After three days I brought the Motherwort tincture into the house to remain snuggled in my medicine hutch for two moons. No sooner had I closed the cabinet door then the phone rang. Skyler injured his ankle on the first training and didn’t know if was broken, sprained or whether or not he’d be out for the season. He was sad, mad and lonely. Oh how I wished that Motherwort tincture was ready. Once again I relied on the energetic power of this plant to help me and simply put a little herb in a pouch to carry around.

Two months passed and we all started to calm down until Skyler decided he wanted to move home. Goddess bless me! But the eight weeks had passed and the Motherwort tincture was ready. It’s typically recommended that you take 10-20 drops of tincture for relief of anxiety. I didn’t think that would do the trick. Skyler and I had a very loving and tumultuous relationship and I didn’t know if enough time had passed to change the dynamics. I strained the plant matter, which I scattered throughout my garden. And I poured myself a small shot. Within minutes a calm washed over me that was so complete, so utterly delicious that I just knew with total confidence that we would all be okay.

Now some herbalists warn of addictive qualities connected to Motherwort. Although I have only experienced a sense of euphoria that was light and simply joyful, not at all obsessive or possessive, anyone could have a different reaction. In my experience Motherwort has been a firm teacher of boundaries and perspective – like a resolute mother or the Wheel of Fortune tarot card that grants you permission and fortitude to determine the way you view your outcome. In this column, I focus on the powerful magickal and emotional components rather than delve deep into medicinal constituents. And in this article in particular, I am placing the emphasis on the empirical training, on your personal connection to Motherwort.

Motherwort tincture has a bit of a kick since it’s quite bitter (which is why Motherwort infusions are for the very brave of heart). The acrid flavor coincides with the liver and thereby the third chakra, your seat of power. It moves mightily and yet it is a soft power, a decidedly feminine power that is mixed with incredible joy and lightness of heart. Another great use of Motherwort is in an herbal vinegar for salads to pasta.

Motherwort Nettle Vinegar

Also made in the folk style, use equal parts dried Motherwort and Nettles and cover completely with apple cider vinegar. You may consider adding huckleberry, blueberry, elderberries or lemon balm for flavor. Make sure the herbs are covered by the vinegar or you will get mold. Top the jar with wax paper, before putting the lid on, otherwise it will corrode the metal of the lid. Shake daily. Start tasting after a couple of weeks up to one month. Strain when you get the flavor you like.

Motherwort is an incredible herbal ally for healing protection and a penetrating power that is soft and unending, and won’t let you forget her, just like The Mother’s Love.


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