Seven Herbs for the Modern Woman Series :: Motherwort

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Motherwort & Lavender in the gardens
This is the first post of a series of seven inspired by some thoughts on the interesting cultural landscape modern women are now navigating.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be making some introductions to some particularly supportive herbs (they do become like friends, so please forgive my ensuing personification of them!) that have a special affinity for women.  You may like to welcome them in for tea if you strike a pleasant chord...

Just as a teacher shouldn’t have their favourite students, or a mother a favourite child, herbalists shouldn’t favour certain plants too much, or they run the risk of constricting their repetoire.  But I have to secretly confess that I have a very soft spot for motherwort and it will always be found in one of my more beautiful tea canisters on my shelf at any time.  

Whilst some herbs take a while to take effect, after your first sip of motherwort tea, or nip of tincture, you’ll be feeling the effects within moments.  A unique sense of settling into yourself.  A plugging into a calmer, more grounded energy source that bring body, mind and soul into a curious alignment.   Like her namesake, this ‘mother’ holds you when you need to be held and guides you into line when your anxieties are fraying your nerves and sending you slightly nuts.  

This plant brings the sort of the sobering feeling you get after a conversation with your mum (or any such nurturing female figure) that says, “don’t worry, this is perfectly normal to feel this way darling, have a rest and you’ll feel much better”.  This holding quality is remarkable, I have not found it in any other plants so far.  By supporting this alignment, motherwort helps us to find that stiller space within ourselves to allow shift to happen, transform deeper parts of ourselves and support us through transition of any nature.  For this reason motherwort is a wonderful herb for women going through any major change, whether that be puberty, easing into motherhood (not appropriate for pregnancy though), menopause, regulating your menstrual cycle after coming off the pill, supporting through grief or upheavals of any nature.  

My good friend and fellow herbalist Gabby and I as students at the Gould’s Herb Farm in Tasmania.
Looking quite raptured by motherwort! 
Also wonderful for those who are a little worn out from all that caring, whether that be for others or larger world issues.  Perfectly suited for those that tend towards anxiety that manifests in the chest and heart area, such as panic attacks, chest tightness, heart palpitations or soothing out speed-y constitutions.  

Now before you go out a buy yourself a big bag of motherwort tea or a punnet of seedlings, be warned it is very bitter taken as a water extract! Some people (including myself) come to love the grounding sensation of that bitterness, yet for newbies to the spectrum of strange and wonderful herbal flavours, it may not be all that pleasant.  So please be warned and know that it’s much nicer to take as a tincture.  

Watercolour of Motherwort by Jacopo Ligozzi, 16th Century
Here’s a posy of favourite combinations to try:  
  • 1 part motherwort to 1 part skullcap to 1/4 part lavender as a tea if you don’t mind a bitter brew, but honey does round it all out very nicely.  This can also be made into a tincture combination which can be kept in your bag and used in a similar way to Rescue Remedy (with just a bit more physical clout!).  All three plants are members of the calming mint family and make a very synergistic trio.  

  • Motherwort, raspberry leaf and red clover nourishing infusions*.  This mineral dense and highly nourishing preparation is my number one recommendation for women coming off the pill and helping their body to find its own balance again.  This blend can smooth out the transition and address many of the symptoms of hormone upheaval, such as mood swings, acne or fluid retention.  (Again not appropriate if you are actively trying to conceive during this time).  

  • Motherwort flower honey, if you grow in your garden (being in the lavender family it will thrive in any temperate climate) you can clip the flowering tops off in spring and cover in honey in a jar. This medicinal honey can then be used to sweeten other cups of herbal tea.  Completely lush.  

  • This is an IBS remedy that comes from an old folk recipe recorded by the infamous Maud Grieve.  Take a jar and fill it with 4 parts motherwort, 1 part lavender, 1/8 parts (each of) cinnamon, anise, ginger and nutmeg.  Pour over with brandy, and allow to sit for 1 month, shaking daily.  Strain and use in 1/2 teaspoon doses to settle the mind and digestive system.  Doesn’t that recipe just sing itself off the screen?  Those aromatic spices completely bring out the best side of motherwort.  Just writing this I’m thinking how this could make quite the cocktail...I’ll get back to you on that one!
  • This is a rosy tisane made of herbs that all have an affinity for the heart and makes for a very supportive brew.  Motherwort, hawthorn leaves and flowers, hibiscus, rose petals and rose hips.  This is very good for women who are entering their wisdom years as hawthorn and hibiscus are both very protective of the cardiovascular system.   I can make a coverted announcement that I have just started up a little etsy store to make some of my favourite herbal teas, lotions and potions available for people to purchase!  This blend in one of my six botanical infusions, which I’ve called Hearten.  If this blend tickles your fancy, you can pop over here and do a little browsing.  

Hearten // a cheerful and rosy tisane.  
So as an “end of lesson” round up, motherwort is the plant to turn to when you need a warm hug and reassuring word.  I have come to think of its bitterness as helping us to digest the bitterness of life with a bit more strength and resilience.  Nothing can change those outside factors, but you can certainly change how they affect you and what you can then do about it.  Motherwort is a perfect teacher for this.  

*nourishing infusions are made by preparing in the evening by adding a small handful of herb to a teapot, or heatproof glass jar, and then cover with boiling water and let it steep overnight. In the morning you can strain it and reheat, enjoying 2 or 3 cups throughout the day.

If you’re in Australia and would like to find certified organic and locally grown motherwort, Tasmanian Highland Herbs and Southern Light Herbs cultivate beautiful quality herbs.  


  1. A lovely post about a wonderful herb. :)

    1. Thank you Lucinda :) she’s the apple of my herbal eye!

  2. I'm a big fan of motherwort too, Clara. Btw, if you do read Eating Wildly, you'll see how I first stumbled upon it in Boulder, Colorado and how it changed my life. It's so lovely to meet someone else who loves this nourishing plant as much as I do. Cheers!

  3. Oooo, I really look forward to reading that Ava! Motherwort lovers unite. This plant has changed my life also. A cup of strong motherwort tea is a remedy for so many things!


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