In medieval times motherwort was widely cultivated as a medicinal plant as it was considered to be of value for female complaints – hence the name.
Motherwort, leonurus cardiaca, is a sturdy square- stemmed perennial herb, growing 2-3 ft (6 -9 cm) tall. It was once a familiar plant in country gardens, where it was grown simply as a medicinal plant. It is rarely found in the wild and then only as a garden escape. Motherwort is easy to distinguish amongst others of the same species by its leaves, which are deeply divided into three or five lobes. The straight simple stems are covered with short bristly hairs. The flowers are a dull pink and grow in the axils of the upper leaves. They bloom from July to September. The whole plant has a strong pungent smell and a very bitter taste.
Motherwort is a hardy plant and once established will readily self-seed, appearing in odd spots all over the garden. Sow the seeds in spring directly into their flowering position in a sunny place in ordinary garden soil. When large enough thin out the seedlings to 12 in (30 cm) apart.
The flowering tips of motherwort are used in the home and these are gathered for drying in August when the plant is in full flower. Gloves should be worn by those with sensitive skins as direct contact with the plant can cause skin problems. The herb is dried and stored in the usual way.
Motherwort is considered to be a helpful remedy for nervous tension, migraine, neuralgia and menstrual problems. It is also very beneficial for stomach cramps. It is one of the best tonic herbs, and is most effective if the bitter-tasting tea is taken.
* To make the tea: Pour I cup of boiling water on to 1 teaspoon of dried herb. Leave it to infuse for 10 minutes before straining, Honey can be added to taste to soften the bitter flavour. A small glassful should be taken after meals once or twice a day. The tea is also a good remedy for the discomfort of flatulence and can act as a mild sedative.
A more palatable way to take motherwort as a tonic is in the form of a syrup.
* To make the syrup: Pour a cupful of boiling water on to 1 tablespoon of dried motherwort. Leave it to infuse for 10 minutes, then strain the infusion into an enamel pan and add 1 cup of water and 4 tablespoons of honey. Heat the mixture slowly to boiling point and then simmer gently until a syrup consistency has been reached. When it has cooled, pour it into screwtop bottles and take a teaspoonful of the syrup after meals once or twice a day.