“Wort” is an old word for “herb” and this “Mother’s Herb” is a beautiful perennial in the Mint Family. It is a traditional female tonic from puberty to menopause and is also used for heart and lungs. Motherwort’s botanical name, means “lion-hearted; many herbalists consider this plant one of the best for “gladdening and strengthening the heart.”
Motherwort is a vigorous grower that can reach 8 feet or more. As with other mint species, it has square stems and its foliage emits a pungent odor if crushed. It is sometimes considered invasive. Lower leaves have five cleft lobes with coarse teeth, upper leaves have three lobes and top leaves are oblong with one pair of coarse teeth. Plants produce clusters of pink to purple flowers that rise along prickly sepals and bloom from midsummer through early fall.
Motherwort is easy to grow from seeds, transplants or division. It adapts to most soils but prefers well-draining ones. If started from seed, it is necessary to cold stratify them for a few weeks before planting. This tricks them into thinking they have gone through winter and the time has come to sprout. Broadcast seeds in late spring and very lightly cover them. They take about a week to sprout and strong seedlings can be thinned to a few feet apart.
You can also sow seeds directly in the garden in the fall or start cold stratified seeds in flats a few weeks before last frost. Motherwort grows quickly and spreads by rhizomes. Established plants can be dug up, divided and relocated in spring or fall during dormancy.
Once established, motherwort is hardy and drought tolerant and is rarely affected by pests or diseases. It is a great bee forage plant.
Motherwort has been used for centuries to regulate the menstrual cycle and to treat menopausal and menstrual complaints such as nervousness, insomnia, heart palpitations and rapid heart rate. It helps improve fertility and reduce anxiety associated with childbirth and postpartum depression and it also promotes a mother’s milk flow.