Motherwort – characteristics, cultivation and use

a motherwort plant
a motherwort plant

Motherwort quickly catches the eye with its characteristic flowers and leaves. The imposing mint, also known as the lion’s tail or lion’s ear, is an important herb in natural medicine. The ingredients contained in the herb can help with nervous heart problems, alleviate symptoms of hyperthyroidism and mild anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Previously, the leaves of the motherwort were even used in the kitchen.

Profile of motherwort:

Scientific name: Leonurus cardiaca

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: throw-wort, lion’s ear, lion’s tail

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: June – July

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots

Location: sunny locations

Soil quality: nutrient-rich, moderately moist soils

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: nervous heart problems, menopausal symptoms, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, mild depression, flatulence

Use as aromatic herb: soft cheese, potato dishes, cottage cheese, cream cheese

Plant characteristics and classification of motherwort

Origin and occurrence of motherwort

The motherwort originally came from Siberia and spread from there to the Western, Northern, and Western Asian regions. In Europe, the motherwort was often cultivated in peasant and monastery gardens as a medicinal plant. Therefore, the plant is now wild in many regions, although its population is considered endangered by agriculture and grassland management. It is now found worldwide

Above all, it grows on pastures, hedgerows and debris and fallow land.

Plant order of Leonurus cardiaca

Motherwort (Leonurus cariaca) belongs to the large plant family of the mint family (Lamiaceae). The species is thus related to many other herbs and spices such as basil, sage or oregano. The genus of motherwort plants (Leonurus) comprises about 50 known species, all of which are native to Europe or Asia. In addition to motherwort are still the Chinese motherwort (Leonurus japonicus) and the Siberian motherwort (Leonurus sibirica) known representatives of the genus, which are also used in herbal medicine.

Characteristics of motherwort


Motherwort is a perennial and typically herbaceous plant that can reach stature heights between 40 and 100 cm (16 and 40 in). The plant forms a mostly short and lignified root system (actually rhizome) in the soil with brownish color, at the side several more or less fine root hairs go off.


The leaves of motherwort are usually of a light green color. They have a partly heart-shaped, lobed leaf shape with clearly jagged leaf margin. The upper part of the leaves is always three-lobed. All leaves are stalked and distinctly hairy. The leaves sit opposite each other on the four-sided, branched and also hairy stems.


During the flowering season, which usually takes place between mid-June to early September, motherwort forms the typical flowers with a delicate pink to purple flower color. The flowers stand each from the leaf axils and grow upright. The inflorescence is a pseudowhorl. The corolla is usually up to 1 cm long (0.4 in) and is noticeably hairy. The flower lower lip is always in three parts. Its flowers are very attractive to insects.


During fruit ripening, the typical capsule fruits develop from the lip blooms starting in September. These are usually cup-shaped, have a brown color and are up to 3 mm (0.12 in) long. These contain the mostly dark brown to black seeds, which have a clearly edgy and oblong shape.

Motherwort – cultivation and care

The motherwort is a very charming plant that can be grown with simple means. If it is cultivated in the garden, it is a very good food source, especially for bees. It is considered a typical bee pasture.


Motherwort prefers sunny and warm locations with rather nitrogen-rich, moderately moist and well drained soils. Loamy soils should be mixed with aggregates such as quartz sand or lava sand before planting to soften the soil structure.


The seeds are best sown directly in the field between early April to mid-May. Potted cultures for sowing on the balcony and terrace are basically possible, but then rather deeper pots should be chosen. The seeds are only lightly pressed onto the substrate or soil, since motherwort needs light to germ. The planting distance between the individual plants should be at least 35 x 35 cm (14 x 14 in), otherwise there is too much nutrient competition and the plants become vulnerable to disease. The germination period is usually between 14 and 21 days.

If the plant is to grow in pot culture, a commercially available herb soil can be used. Pure potting soil is usually too nutrient-rich. For the cultivation usually also a nutrient-poor soil with high mineral portion is sufficient.


Although motherwort has a certain need for nitrogen, is basically rather undemanding, as regards other nutrients. If high-quality compost is available in the garden, it is sufficient to mix a handful in the soil in spring. If no compost is available, horn meal or horn shavings will do it. Potted crops may need slightly more fertilizer.


As a plant that prefers moderately moist locations, motherwort should be cast at regular intervals. On hot days with no rainfall, the soil should be watered extensively in the mornings or evenings. On moderately warm or cooler days, irrigation is usually sufficient every three to four days. Waterlogging should be avoided in any case. Short dry phases are usually not problematic.

Diseases and pests

In general, motherwort is a very robust plant. Care mistakes or inferior soil, however, can lead to the infestation of powdery mildew. In rare cases, spider mites can affect the leaves of the motherwort. This is usually the case when the plant had to undergo prolonged dry periods.


Motherwort is used to colder climates. Overwintering measures do not have to be taken. The above-ground parts of the plant die off in the autumn and shoot again in the spring.

flowers of motherwort
flowers of motherwort

Use of motherwort

Motherwort as a kitchen herb

Today, motherwort is rarely used as a spice. In the Middle Ages and early modern times, however, the leaves of the herb were often used as a kitchen herb. With its leaves particularly legumes or millet meals were spiced, because of a better digestibility.

The taste of the leaves is aromatic, slightly bitter and slightly resinous. The leaves of the motherwort harmonize well with soft cheese, potato dishes or cottage cheese. However, the herb should only be used very sparingly, since the taste is dominant.

Motherwort as a medicinal herb

In today’s herbal medicine, motherwort and other types of the genus Leonorus are of great interest. The flowering herb of plants can be used in many ways and is also in the current focus of some scientific research.

Motherwort as a herb is only in recent herbal medicine a term. In older herbal books, the plant is indeed mentioned, but there are only very few application instructions. However, a positive effect on the heart seems to have already been known in the early modern period. To what extent the herb was used in ancient times, is hardly known today.

Motherwort can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • angina pectoris
  • anxiety
  • arrhythmia
  • asthma
  • bloating
  • birth
  • heart failure
  • heart problems
  • high blood pressure
  • hot flashes
  • hyperthyroidism
  • indigestion
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • menopausal symptoms
  • mucous congestion
  • nervous anxiety
  • nervousness
  • palpitation
  • Roehmheld syndrome
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach cramps
  • stomach problems
  • struma
  • unrest

Medicinal properties

  • antispasmodic
  • blow promoting
  • improves circulation
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reassuring
  • strengthens the heart

The range of application of motherwort ranges from mental complaints, lighter heart complaints caused by high blood pressure or thyroid problems to chronic thyroid problems. It is also said to help not only with all physical heart ailments, but also figuratively with heartaches such as heartaches and separation pains.

Preparation of a motherwort tea

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how to prepare a motherwort tea by yourself

  1. put one to two teaspoons of motherwort in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling water

  3. let steep for 10 minutes

  4. drink in small sips

  5. from this tea you drink one to three cups daily.

As with all powerful herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. Then you can drink motherwort tea again for six weeks. The break prevents any unwanted long-term effects and the desired maternity effectiveness is maintained and does not diminish through habituation.

Preparation of a „heart tea“

The following tea mixture is suitable for people with mild heart failure, nervous heart problems and high blood pressure.

40 gr / 1.40 oz motherwort herb

10 gr / 0.35 oz hawthorn blossoms and leaves

10 gr / 0.35 oz mistletoe herb

10 gr / 0.35 oz Verbena leaves

10 gr / 0.35 oz lemon balm leaves

10 gr / 0.35 oz St. John’s wort herb

10 gr / 0.35 oz passionflower herb

Preparation of a motherwort tincture

  • put motherwort in a screw-top jar
  • dash with double grain or spirit until all parts of the plant are covered
  • allow the mixture to draw for 2 to 6 weeks
  • then strain and fill in a dark bottle

This tincture is taken one to three times a day 10-50 drops. If the tincture is too concentrated, you can dilute it with water.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Motherwort – What to pay attention to?

Motherwort is a well-known perennial, which is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental plant in the garden. On plant markets or in plant centers, there are occasionally fresh plants to buy. Here, care should be taken that the leaves have no white or yellow margins. In most cases, the pots are too small, in which the plants are kept. It is therefore advisable to plant it in the garden bed or to re-pot quickly into a planter with sufficient volume. Motherwort can form deep rhizomes, the pot should also have a corresponding depth. The price per plant is about 4 to 6 EUR/$.

You can get seeds in the plant trade and in various online shops. However, the seeds should not be older than two years altogether, as otherwise the germination success can be omitted. The price per package is about 2 EUR/$.

For herbal medicine applications dried and crushed motherwort herb can already be purchased from herbalists and pharmacies. High-quality herb consists of only very small woody parts or few stems. The price is about 15 to 20 EUR/$ per kg (2 lbs).

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