Motherwort – Leonurus Cardiaca: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Heart Herb of Wild Plants

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Motherwort is an edible and medicinal wild plant that I wish was native to Ontario. This herb is so popular it has been planted all around the world.

Motherwort is uncommon here, yet it spontaneously showed up in my brush pile beside my driveway one year. It does have lookalikes, particularly in the mint family. Pennyroyal comes to mind.

Motherwort - Leonurus Cardiaca
Motherwort – Leonurus Cardiaca

Edible Uses of Motherwort

The tiny fresh or dried flowers can be used for flavoring in cooking and beverages. The taste reminds me of sucking a popsicle stick right after the pop is gone. Slightly sweetish and extremely woody.

Medicinal Uses of Motherwort

Motherwort is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Nervous
  • Reproductive

Medicinal tags include Antispasmodic, Astringent, Emmenagogue, and Nervine. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes for PMS, nervous irritability, delayed menses from stress, menopause, and other uterus related ailments. Do not use during pregnancy as it’s also an emmenagogue/uterine stimulant, but under supervision it can be used close to delivery to ease false labor pains and anxiety about the impending birth.

“Heart herb” is a folk name and its Latin name cardiaca is also after its heart strengthen properties.

It also has a similar tranquilizing effect as valerian.

For both the uterine and heart usage one beneficial active compound is leonurine. Stachydrine is another of its chemical constituents, which may be useful in treating a wide variety of disease and injury. Hopefully when I re-edit our plant blogs (citing scientific studies), motherwort will have been studied more.

Motherwort - Leonurus Cardiaca
Motherwort – Leonurus Cardiaca

Alternative Uses of Throw-wort

You can obtain a dark olive-green dye from the leaf juice.

Growing Leonurus Cardiaca

Motherwort randomly appeared in one of my brush piles. The brush is most frequented by chipmunks and other rodent-kind, so I expect one of these relations brought it over. Perhaps it had a whole spikey seedy flowerhead stuck to itself. They are spikey like burdock. Sadly it is not native, and herbalists were probably the main reason it has spread worldwide to compete with native plants. Oops. It can be aggressive too. So it’s one of those medicines best contained in a greenhouse or pot. Or at least contained (it spreads by rhizomes too) and harvested before going to seed.

The strange thing about motherwort is its invasive tendency seems to be a newer issue? Hmmm. Perhaps because the herbalists that grew it were tending and harvesting it and now that herbs are trendy, and perhaps motherwort is trendy too, amateurs aren’t minding their patches? They are forgotten and go to seed and suddenly motherwort is all around town? It’s a theory.


Don’t use during pregnancy (exceptions- see under Medicinal Uses)

Can cause contact dermatitis and the essential oil is photosensitive.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Herb Bible

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

A Modern Herbal (Volume 2, I-Z and Indexes)

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