What’s in a name? Sometimes everything!
Wort is an old-fashioned word used in many plant names like lungwort, bladderwort, spiderwort, and it is from the Old English word wyrt, which simply meant plant. More precisely, a name given to a beneficial plant, as in the opposite of a weed, like milkweed, knotweed, ragweed. So, motherwort means beneficial mother plant, quite a high calling! And her botanical name is Leonurus cardica which means lion-hearted. So, another common name for motherwort is lion’s heart. Her flowers are small and gathered around the main stem where the leaves join, and they are quite prickly, which makes me think of her strength – ready to protect her children fiercely. Her soft, slightly furry leaves have 5 fingers, like the helping hands of a mother, here to help us with their many hands, when we ask.
I started a lot of herbs from seed last year in February even before the pandemic began. Somehow, I must have known I would have a lot of time to be in my garden. Motherwort was one of the successes, although slow to start. Unknown to me then, she would not flower until this year in 2021. She has had over a year to settle into my garden, set her feet in the ground and claim her space, which she has done, firmly but gently.
I also like knowing that motherwort grows freely in the wild and that she self-seeds like a champion. Originally from Eurasia, she is now naturalized throughout southern Canada and east of the Rocky Mountains and is even commonly deemed a weed because she is so prolific. I am now on the lookout for this hardy purveyor of our Mother Earth’s love and many hands whenever I am out hiking.
As her name so clearly suggests, motherwort is a plant beneficial to mothers, and has been known for the many ways she promotes women’s health for centuries. Comments in Nicholas Culpeper’s 1653 “Complete Herbal” are delightful insights to that time. He writes that this herb is “to strengthen the heart and make a merry, cheerful, blitheful soul” and “it makes women joyful mothers of children and settles their wombs as they should be”, and “is much use for trembling of the heart”.
Sometimes called “mother’s hug in a bottle”, motherwort helps to nourish the emotional heart as well as the physical heart. I am not a trained herbalist, but I am sharing a little overview here to give you a sense of the breadth of its healing properties. Motherwort is indicated for grief, anger and upset, and is said to give the heart of a lion – calm yet strong. It has also been used over the years and still today for all manner of women’s physical health issues from menstruation to menopause, post-natal depression, and even empty nest syndrome. We all need the support of our mothers and our Great Mother, and this plant motherwort is another way that She is here for us.
I like to experiment with plants for my own use, and this year I picked the flowering tops of motherwort for a tincture and a flower essence on May 23rd, and afterwards I realized it was Pentecost, the western Christian holy day to celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Our Lady, 49 days after the resurrection. I didn’t plan it that way, as I was just gauging when the flowering stalks were ready, but I loved the synergy of that connection when I realized it. Motherwort, the mother plant, was picked to be tinctured on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, that divine feminine energy. This could be a potent tincture!
When I sat with the motherwort plant and her flower essence in meditation and prayer, I felt her distinctly in my heart, as a presence, almost with a pressure. And I felt a space open up like a cave, or a womb. In that dreamlike space, I saw many people making their way to this cave womb, and a fire or light was inside and exuded warmth. The saying “to go deep into the heart of the matter” arose and it felt like a deep call to follow my heart’s desire and that I would be given the strength I needed for that journey. Motherwort said to me: “I who am your Mother will always be here for you. All you have to do is ask. I bring you strength and courage to help you know that you are a strong mother too, whether of children and or other beings and creations. We are all mothers. “
Motherwort is one of myriads of ancient and wild mothers saying prayers for us and helping us with their many hands. She reminds me of the images of the many-handed goddesses from many cultures that so lovingly convey this feeling of our Great Mother being able to care for all of us with Her infinite number of hands.
Images: 1) Motherwort flower 2) Motherwort leaf 3) Dance of 1000 Hands of Guan Yin (link for 2-minute video Dance of 1000 Hands – 2min video)