The Heart of a Lion
by Jackie Dobrinska
Lion heart (Leonurus cardiaca) is the botanical name for motherwort, a mint with a reputed big heart who likes to impact the hearts of others.
A common “weed” found in most city lots and almost any disturbed area, Motherwort has a square stem and opposite leaves. The palmately lobed leaves have serrated margins with petioles. They are hairy, dull green on top, pale below and have an intensely bitter taste. On the upper portion of the plant, the small, pink to lilac colored flowers whirl and often have a furry lower lip. They bloom between June and August. Like the abundant mother who always have a gift to give without attachments, Motherwort self-sows very freely but doesn’t spread by her roots.
Wort is an Old English word often employed before the 17th century to refer to a plant with beneficial qualities. Mother, simply refers to her place as one of the triple goddesses – chickweed (maiden), motherwort (mother), mugwort (crone).
The Japanese, who made motherwort into a wine, drank her for longevity – illustrated in an old tale about a town whose water source is a stream flowing through banks of motherwort. Many of the townspeople lived to be 130 years old and one reportedly lived to 300 years.
In Europe, motherwort first became known for “hysterical” conditions and “melancholy” (since she can make you feel like you’re sitting in a mother’s lap). Colonists introduced motherwort into North America and the 19th century Eclectics recommended it as a menstruation promoter and aid to expelling the afterbirth. The Cherokees used the herb as a sedative for nervous afflictions, and the Victorian Language of Flowers says it symbolizes concealed love.
Today, motherwort is primarily used by herbalists as a heart tonic, studies showing that it can decrease muscle spasms and temporarily lower blood pressure.
Motherwort is specific for frenzied children, menopausal and premenstrual women, and pretty much any one who is feeling crazed. It is one of our favorite calmatives and versatile motherwort can ease discomfort in the lower back, moontime blues and crampiness, feelings of being troubled by traumatic memories, emotional heartbreak, tummy troubles, or oral "owies". A brief note though: many herbalists recommend avoiding it during pregnancy.
Motherwort reminds us to trust ourselves and have confidence that the ultimate outcome will be best for all involved in the fullness of time. This message in itself is calming to the heart and to any of our inner pain. Her ability to calm and nourish very much feels like the balm of a loving mother.