Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wortcunning: Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

Photo by Cody Hough

Other Names: Heart-Wort, Lion's Tail, Lion-Hearted, Throw-Wort.

Description: Motherwort is a hardy perennial that grows to 3 or 4 feet tall. It has squared and hollow stems, with serrated leaves and pretty pink or white flowers that come out between June to August.

This plant is a member of the mint family, and is sometimes considered a 'weed'. It is native to Asia and Europe, and can often be found growing along roadsides, fences, meadows, and 'waste' areas.

Warnings: As with all herbs, one should make sure to be thoroughly informed before ingesting them, and is best to do so under the guidance of a qualified healer. Motherwort is reported to cause dermatitis by touching the plant for sensitive individuals, and ingesting the oil can cause photosensitivity. It is also cautioned that it may induce miscarriage during pregnancy.

Susun Weed in her book the Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year 'Limit the use of Motherwort if you begin to feel that you can't get through the day without it, as this calming herb may be habit forming' when using for sleeplessness.

Cultivating: Motherwort can be propagated by seed, or can be readily bought as a plant. If growing from seed, plant as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring, and when there is no threat of frost. If you are planting an already grown plant, that can be done anytime from spring to late summer.

It prefers well-drained soil, and to be planted in full sun to partial shade, about 12 inches from each other. Water as necessary, keeping the soil slightly moist.

Recommended not to harvest in the first year, so the plant can establish it self. When harvesting, collect the leaves and flowers by clipping the stalk, when the flowers are fully blooming, between early July to August. Be sure to leave enough flowers so has some seeds left over to re-sow itself.

Medicinal/Remedial Properties and Lore: Antirheumatic, antispasmodic, aodyne, astringent, cardiac, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, tonic.

Motherwort has been noted for its healing virtues by various cultures throughout history. In early Greece, it was given to mothers-to-be who were suffering from nervousness, which is possibly why the plant became known as 'mother's wort/herb'.

According to Herbalpedia the ancient Chinese used the herb to promote longevity, and in Europe it was first used as a treatment for ailments in cattle.

Today it is often recommended by herbalists for heart conditions, anxiety, sleeplessness, epilepsy, to ease childbirth, and is very helpful for menopausal women.

Magical Properties and Lore: Motherwort is an excellent herb to use for protection, especially for women and children. Planted around the home, or hanging above the doorway, it is said to keep away evil spirits and other unwelcome guests. Used in a Witch Bottle it can be used to protect from or reverse a curse.

It is associated with Venus, the Moon, and Women's Mysteries, and is an excellent herb to use during a lunar ritual, or to honour Goddesses of fertility and motherhood.

Also helpful to bring a sense of purpose to one who feels lost in their life, as well to attract joy and success.

Other Uses: An excellent plant to have in the garden as it will attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and it is also said to improve soil conditions in the garden.



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