Motherwort, A Valuable Herbal Ally for New Mothers

I always come back to motherwort for new moms and have used it for at least two of my three postpartums. As the name implies, it was traditionally used for moms who had recently given birth (and beyond) because it is wonderful for calming anxiety, soothing overwhelm and comforting a melancholy heart. Honestly, with birth having become looked upon as a traumatic event, it'd probably be great for dads too.


Before getting too far into the details, it is important to begin by stating that this herb is not appropriate for pregnant women as it is an emmenagogue (stimulates uterine contractions and can bring about bleeding and lead to miscarriage). I've previously always associated "emmenagogue" with bringing about menstruation, but in researching motherwort, I learned that emmenagogues (usually correlated with bitter and pungent herbs) also clear blood clots and generally promote circulation. Also, motherwort can be used to lower thyroid function. Great if you're one of those rare people that has thyroid hormones that measure too high, but most people fall into the "too low" category of that teetertotter. Regardless, I have hypothyroid and I still think the benefits of this plant ally outweigh this particular contraindication and I have not personally noticed my tests reflect a lower number over periods while taking it.

Origin Story

The Latin name for motherwort is Leonurus cardiaca, or lion-hearted, meaning it gives strength and courage, spiritually and emotionally. It's suggested that it does not so much give one additional strength and courage, so much as activate the strength and courage the person already holds within their constitution. The "wort" portion of the name is simply a derivative of "wyrte" which is the old English name for plant. It originated in Central Asia where it is known as Yi Mu Cao, but it grows well enough here near the Rocky Mountains to have earned the title "weed" and can be found growing wild near rivers and streams.

Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspectives

In the Ayurvedic tradition, motherwort is recognized as a cooling emmenagogue that increases Vata while decreasing Pitta and Kapha. As a cooling herb, it is promoted as a better choice for menstrual irregularities, uterine infections and bleeding. It is said to work on the Ayurvedic apana vayu system governing the downward elimination system. For it's apana vayu properties, it might be tempting to use during labor, but I have heard at least one story that would dissuade me from doing that. I think it's safest used after baby has been birthed. Maidenwort (chickweed), motherwort, and cronewort (mugwort) form the trinity of herbs that were once recognized to support women's health and reproduction throughout the different phases and stages of her lifetime, dating back to ancient Chinese texts written over 6000 years ago. In TCM, motherwort is used to clear out stagnant blood. I have also seen zuo yuezi (Chinese sitting the month) recipes that use the fresh motherwort leaves and stalks in dishes. I feel like that would make for a very bitter dish, but I als