Podcast 199: Herbs A-Z: Lavandula & Leonurus

This week we highlight lavender & motherwort!

Lavandula angustifolia (and many other Lavandula species), a well-known scent to everyone, recognizable and soothing. Lavender relaxes and releases tension. It has a warmth to it, which is more noticeable the more you take or the longer you take it. The flowers are the part that are most popular and available, but we also love to work with lavender leaf! It’s more astringent and less “floral” than the flowers are, and makes a lovely tea.

Leonurus cardiaca is a lion-hearted plant with strong protection for its “babies”, the seeds. Motherwort soothes the human heart and releases tension, draining excess heat. It can also relax the pelvic organs, and because of this, help bring on menstrual flow that is restricted by tension. Despite warnings you may see, motherwort is quite safe even for a pregnant human, at the common dose strengths of Western/American herbal practice.

Lavender & motherwort both feature prominently in our Neurological & Emotional Health course. This course is a user’s guide to your nerves & your emotions – including the difficult and dark ones. We discuss holistic herbalism strategies for addressing both neurological & psychological health issues. It includes a lengthy discussion of herbal pain management strategies, too! In addition, you receive everything that comes with enrollment in our courses, including: lifetime access to current & future course material, twice-weekly live Q&A sessions with us, open discussion threads integrated in each lesson, an active student community, study guides, quizzes & capstone assignments, and more!

If you have a moment, it would help us a lot if you could subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen. This helps others find us more easily. Thank you!!

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:17):
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:20):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja (00:24):
Woohoo. Technically, we’re just a smidge outside of Boston, Massachusetts, because we have finally made it to our new home.

Ryn (00:31):
A smidge or two. A nice little ride along Route 2. Yes.

Katja (00:36):
Still commutable, but…

Ryn (00:39):
Yeah. Well, this week we continue our review of the herbs that we keep on hand in our apothecary. Some of these are not on the shelves at the moment, because we’ve got to build some new shelves to put them on. But they’re going to get there. And they’re going to be the herbs on the shelves.

Katja (00:53):
I ordered the brackets for the new shelves. And my goal is to have those shelves up before the end of this coming week. And then the herbs on our shelves will in fact be back on the shelves. Right now they are literally in IKEA bags on the floor. They’re still mostly in alphabetical order, but they are just in IKEA bags.

Ryn (01:17):
Nevertheless, we will talk today about Lavandula and Leonurus, or lavender and motherwort. And you’re going to love it. That’s what’s up.

Katja (01:28):
But hey, before we do, it’s just a little note to remind you that we are not just podcasters, we’re teachers. Actually, we’re teachers who happen to have a podcast. It’s not the other way around. We just make this podcast, because we really want you to have a chance to get to know us and check out our teaching style before you invest in actually a structured learning program. And we don’t think that anybody should… Like you don’t go to college without visiting the college and checking out all the programs and everything. So, this is kind of the same thing. We want you to have the opportunity to check us out before you enroll in our courses.

Ryn (02:11):
Yeah. But if you like the podcast, then you’ll love our courses.

Katja (02:15):
Then you should enroll in our online courses, yes. Because this podcasts, I mean, we do have this series about some materia medica stuff going on right now. But the podcast is usually kind of like what’s on our mind in the moment or whatever. And the courses are really structured and designed to give you a very comprehensive skill set. So, instead of just kind of oh, okay, now I have this fact, and I have that fact. You have a really comprehensive, strong base of skills that you can work with.

Ryn (02:53):
Yeah. And you know, our courses are primarily taught by video lessons. And they’re designed for you to progress at your own pace with a lot of support as you go along. We don’t want you to feel like you’re sort of one student out there alone in the world, but that you’ve got support from us and from your peers in the student community.

Katja (03:11):
Yeah. We have a thriving student community. We answer written questions every 24 hours. Twice a week we have live Q & A Zoom meetings, so you can interact with us live. There’s a lot of interaction in our programs. You can find all of them at online.commonwealthherbs.com. Weren’t we in the same room as the birds the last time?

Ryn (03:41):
We did. And they were part of the ambience.

Katja (03:44):
Yes. Well, we just happen to be in the same room as the birds one more time. Because right now it’s the least echo-y room in our fairly empty, not unpacked house.

Ryn (03:56):
Yeah, right. Anyway, some birds are there, and they want to contribute to the podcast. They also want to help me remind you that we’re not doctors. Doctors aren’t allowed to have birds. No, that can’t be right.

Katja (04:09):
No, doctors aren’t allowed to have podcasts.

Ryn (04:10):
Oh, there…No that’s not it.

Katja (04:12):
No, that’s not it either.

Ryn (04:13):
Well, anyway, we’re not doctors. We’re herbalist. We’re holistic health educators.

Katja (04:18):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (04:30):
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences, and goals. So, keep in mind that we’re not attempting to present a single dogmatic right way for you to adhere to.

Katja (04:46):
Everyone’s body is different. So, the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some new information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Ryn (04:56):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey, and it doesn’t mean that you’re to blame for your current state of health. But it does mean that the final decision when you’re considering any course of action, whether it was discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always still your choice to make.

Katja (05:15):
The birds are emphatic about these statements.

Ryn (05:19):
Yeah. They feel strongly about these things.

Lavandula angustifolia: Lavender, Volatile Oils & Variety

Katja (05:21):
Yeah. Well, you know, our birds feel pretty strongly about herbs also. And lavender is one of the ones that they like.

Ryn (05:29):
Yeah. When I think of the birds, I think of basil, and I think of pine.

Katja (05:33):
Yeah. Those are the two favorite herbs of our birds. But often I will put in rosemary or lavender or a mint or something. I like to put edible potted plants in for them. And sometimes they get lavender, and they like it. First off, it smells great inside their large enclosure. And I think that it really helps them to have aromatic plants in there.

Ryn (06:02):
I think it is beneficial to them. I mean, these are finches. And they’re what? Some of them are four years old now, six years>.

Katja (06:10):
No. Pepper is like 10 years old.

Ryn (06:12):
Yeah. That’s highly improbable for a finch.

Katja (06:14):
Yeah. I don’t know how Pepper is. Like they’re tiny, tiny, little, tiny birds.

Ryn (06:23):
You look up standard lifespan for these birds in captivity, and it’s like…

Katja (06:28):
I don’t know. It’s not very long. But these birds, the kind that we have, don’t exist in the wild anyway. They were bred this way. So, if you released them into the wild, I don’t think they would be very happy about it. But the point here is that just because they live indoors, doesn’t mean that they need a sterile environment. They still need all of the inputs and stimulus that they would be getting if they were living a wild life, even though this particular species of birds never was wild. And that means smelly plants. So, it’s weird to talk about herbs from the perspective of birds, but I guess we’re doing that today.

Ryn (07:16):
Yeah. It’s good for them. And the thing is that for a lot of the same reasons, it’s good for us. People talk about the benefits of forest bathing or just time in nature, and we can go in many directions with that. The shapes and colors and things that you see in a natural environment are different from a human shaped environment. And there’s some benefit to that. The terrain that you walk on is going to be different and variable. But probably one of the most important aspects about getting into nature is the smells. And not only just the ones that are obvious and apparent to you. But just the fact that you’re breathing in a mixture of phytochemical aromatics every time you wander through the woods or hang out by the beach. There’s a lot of benefit to that. And that is a part of that benefit that you can capture in a bottle or a teacup and have with you even if you’re on the 98th floor of a concrete office building.

Katja (08:07):
Yes. Or in a place where they don’t allow you to have potted plants on your desk. I guess sometimes that’s the case. But yeah, so what we’re referring to there is the essential oils or the volatile oils. When you buy one of those little bottles of essential oils, it is an extraction of only the smelly parts of the plant. There’s nothing else. There are no minerals in there. There’s no chlorophyll. There’s none of that stuff. It’s only the smelly parts, the most lightweight parts of the plant. That’s why they’re called volatile oils. Volatile, because they evaporate easily. Minerals don’t evaporate. If you evaporate off all the water, the minerals are still in the bottom of the pan or whatever, because they’re heavy. They’re too heavy to be carried on the air. And so when we’re talking about lavender or any of the smelly aromatic plants, the benefits you can get from smelling them is because of these volatile oils. And I think one of the things that is really on my mind about those volatile oils is that the antimicrobial activity that they have kind of across the board. Now, there are lots of different kinds of volatile oils, and each one has a somewhat different smell. And so any given plant, any plant that has volatile oil content, has a complex variety of volatile oils that creates the smell we recognize as that particular plant. So, we could make a formula for the smell that we recognize as lavender by looking at all of the volatile oils that we’ve identified. And we could chemically assess the percentages that they are most commonly found in. It’s not the same every single time, but like the most common percentage ranges. And we could recreate synthetic lavender, I guess.

Ryn (10:17):
Well sure, yeah. I mean, and you do find synthetic scents, including of lavender out there in the human world. But there is a pretty substantial difference between a synthetic lavender scent oil versus an actual essential oil from a plant. And I think the biggest difference is that complexity. Sometimes with a synthetic oil, they really just replicate one of the volatiles, like linalool or linalyl acetate.

Katja (10:45):
The most recognizable, yeah.

Ryn (10:49):
But the plant itself has, you know, under notes, and it has these extra elements to it. And there’s also variety there. You know, there’s lots of different varieties of lavender. And when I say variety, I’m trying to encompass both different species within the Lavandula genus, but also hybrids and chemotypes. Chemotype is like it is the same species. Both of these plants are Lavandula angustifolia, for instance. But this one is grown in Spain, and that one is grown in France. And when we smell them, there’s a difference. And when we chemically analyze them, we can quantify or label those differences.

Katja (11:28):
I mean, some of the difference comes just from the soil content. What is the mineral balance or mineral profile of the soil. Or is one of those regions getting more moisture or less moisture or whatever.

Ryn (11:42):
Yeah. You know, so again, just at the species, you’ve got your angustifolia. There’s Lavandula dentata and stoechas. There’s a number of them. Those are some of the most famous ones. But if you go and you look on the taxonomy, there’s a couple hundred identified species of lavender. And then you’ve got a lot of hybrids. There’s a famous one that a lot of people refer to as Lavandin or sometimes as Dutch lavender. And Lavandin is a consistent hybrid people will replicate from Lavandula angustifolia and a variety called latifolia. And the two of them together, they’d make a substantially different smell. The Lavandin is usually considered to have stronger aromatics, but less refined is really often the way that people put it in this discussion. But you yourself may prefer one or another, or you may find one or another to be more successful for you for your purposes, for your needs. Whether that’s to fight an infected wound, or whether it’s to help you relax. And whether you want to drink it as tea, or take it as an aromatic remedy, or have incense, or whatever. Lots of different options to get these to you. So, my encouragement is to try different ones, whenever you get the chance. To be like oh, this is a new species of lavender, or this is a different one. Or to look at smaller scale producers of essential oil, regional ones that are specific, and they say we gather it from this county, you know, or this this administrative district of this country. And to try a bunch of different ones and to feel your way through the differences.

Katja (13:24):
By the way, there are lavender farms in the United States also. I know of one in Kansas. I know of one on Cape Cod here in Massachusetts. But there are way more than that. Those are just two that I happen to know. But large-scale lavender farmers just like the pretty pictures you see of France and whatever. Hey, I want to get back to those volatile oils for a minute, because we started this all off with the birds. Well actually the birds kind of kicked it off, because they really wanted to participate. But I was talking about the birds, and you were talking about how long… They’re

Ryn (14:02):
Their extended life spans.

Katja (14:03):
Longevity they have, yeah.

Ryn (14:04):
Surprising longevity, yeah.

Antimicrobial Aspects & Leaves vs. Flowers

Katja (14:05):
And you know, they’re healthy. They never get sick or whatever. And sure, they have a lot of space to move around in. But I think a big part of it is that they are engaging with smells of living plants on a daily basis. Yeah. And that is something that we can do too as humans, especially at this time of year. We’re recording this at the end of October, so we’re coming into cold and flu season. And this is where, you know, I always start thinking about steams. Although honestly since Covid, I guess we think about steams all year round now. But having these volatile oils from these plants in your life. The more that you breathe in those aromatics, the more that you’re getting that extra protection. Because those volatile oils have antimicrobial action, but it’s only on contact. So, if you drink it as tea, you’re going to get that action in your guts. If you inhale it as steam, or just because you have a plant in your home. Or maybe you’re traveling, and so you have a little bottle of essential oil, whatever. Then that is getting in contact directly into your lungs. And we were talking about the complexity of the living plants and their complex profiles of different volatile oils that make up their smell. And that complexity assists in their antimicrobial action actually. When it’s just one volatile oil, and that’s all you’re getting, well, okay. But what if it was a whole team of them? One person can play soccer against one person. And you can just have fun in the street or whatever and play soccer. But if you have a whole team, then everybody has a job that they’re really good at, and they can work together to do a better job than just one person can do. Okay. It is the same way when we’re talking about antimicrobial action of these volatile oils. When we put them together as a team, they have a broader spectrum of antimicrobial action. Just remember though, it’s on contact. You have to get it in contact with the microbes themselves.

Ryn (16:37):
Yeah. And you know, remember that some of the effects that we get from these when we smell them are about the activation of your olfactory nerves, and to stimulate them, or to sedate them, to wake you up, or to calm you down. Lavender is generally in that calm you down kind of range, you know? Lavender is a relaxant. It’s a soothing agent. It’s got these nervine effects. And all of that applies both to the scent and also to when you prepare tea or take tincture for lavender.

Katja (17:06):
You know, so we started with this antimicrobial action. And I think that most people when they think of lavender, they think about the relaxing action. But we’re only just getting to the relaxing action now. And hey, listen, there’s no reason you can’t have both. Maybe you’ve been working really hard. You’re kind of stressed out. Everybody at work is sick. You don’t want to get sick. You come home. You’re like I better do a steam. And you think oh, I’m going to put lavender in there, because that’ll also help me relax. Two for one.

Ryn (17:41):
Yeah, totally. You know, the other part of lavender that’s worth talking about is the leaf. Because really everything we’ve said so far is pretty much all about those flowers. When you go to the herb shop or the herb retailer online, and you want to buy lavender, you’re almost universally going to only find the flowers. This is the part that people have preferred for medicine for a very long time. And it’s the part that the growers are going to harvest and sell, because that’s what people want, right?

Katja (18:12):
Like that jar of pretty purple.

Ryn (18:14):
Yeah. And they are. They are really pretty. But we’ve had opportunity several times to harvest and to work with the dried leaf from lavender. And it’s really interesting, because it’s quite similar to the flower, but there are some important differences. One of the bigger ones that you’re going to taste or feel in your mouth is that the leaves have astringency that the flowers not so much.

Katja (18:38):
It’s so funny, because as you were talking, I was thinking like you do, right? I was thinking about the next thing I was going to say. And I was thinking about how oh, I just like the leaves so much more. I don’t really know why. And I was thinking, I don’t really know why, right as you were saying, they’re more astringent. And I was like un-huh. That would be why.

Ryn (19:01):
Yeah. That always appeals to you. The astringency level is nearing sage, but perhaps not quite as far as sage.

Katja (19:10):
Yeah. It’s not like oh my God, the first thing I notice about this is how astringent it is. It’s not like that. It’s not uva-ursi. In fact, it’s a level of astringency that I probably would not identify as astringency. I would simply say oh, that’s delicious.

Ryn (19:28):
Yeah. But the leaf, you know, it does, it does still have the lavender scent. If you open the jar. If you were blindfolded, and we lifted it up and had you sniff it, you’d be like lavender. Lavender.

Katja (19:39):
You might be like lavender, I think, or maybe some rosemary. Is it a blend? Yeah.

Ryn (19:45):
Yeah. And if we had the lavender leaf and then the flowers, and we gave them to you one at a time, you’d be like ah, this is super lavender. And that one, I think it’s lavender. And yeah, it’s just the difference, again, in the aromatic profile, right? Which constituents at which concentrations are found in both parts of the plant.

Katja (20:03):
You know, this comes up a lot when I talk about plants. And if you’re a longtime listener of the podcast, you’ve probably encountered this before, where when I talk about goldenrod, or when I talk about meadowsweet, I personally feel very emphatically about the flowers. And I’m not thrilled with the leaves. And usually that is because the leaves carry more bitter constituents, and the flowers carry more aromatic constituents. And in the case of goldenrod, in the case of meadowsweet, I am most interested in the actions of the aromatic constituents. Not because the bitter parts aren’t good, but simply because I have other favorite bitter parts. And so I prefer, when I’m working with those plants, I’m really looking for those aromatic actions. And it’s funny that in lavender actually, my preference is reversed. I actually prefer the leaves. And I think it is that I actually find the leaves somewhat less bitter than the flowers. However I think it’s that astringency, that the leaves have more astringency. Yeah. You still get a lot of aromatics. The profile is a little bit different, but a lot of aromatic action. Just it’s not as bitter, and it has more astringency. Yeah.

Beneficial Bitters & Blends

Ryn (21:35):
So, again, try it yourself. See what you enjoy. I encourage you. Especially if you grow your lavender, and you want to harvest those flowers, go for it. But while you’re there, get the leaves too. Dry them up. See what you think. Make a tea or tincture with it. And you’ll know what you prefer.

Katja (21:54):
You know, the lavender flowers, I said they’re more bitter, and they are. But that might not come up for you, if you just do a quick dunk in your hot water. The bitterness doesn’t really happen… Like many plants, the bitterness doesn’t get started until it’s been a few minutes, right? So, if you’re just like a quick dip of your lavender, then you’ll get all the aromatics and very little of the bitter. I’m just not a quick dip kind of tea drinker.

Ryn (22:28):
No. Usually our herbs are in the container infusing until we’ve squeezed out the last drop of water at the end, you know?

Katja (22:38):
Yeah. For hours is what we’re saying.

Ryn (22:40):
Yeah. They stay in there. But it’s like chamomile, you know. Chamomile has this nice light floral scent and flavor and sweetness. But if you steep it all day, then you get that real bitterness. And that also increases the relaxant capacity of chamomile. With lavender, I’m not sure that that may be the same. Because with lavender a lot of that relaxant effect comes from those volatile. And so then if you have a tightly covered jar, you’ll retain them. But if you had an open cup of tea sitting on the counter next to you, and it gets cold later on. It’s likely to be pronouncedly more bitter and maybe not so pleasant. But I don’t know. If you need a digestive bitter, then you could prepare lavender that way and wait. And that could do the job there too.

Katja (23:24):
Well, and a lavender tincture would be really helpful as a digestive aid, because you would get those bitter constituents, because it’s tincturing for a while, right? But you would retain all of the aromatic constituents as well.

Ryn (23:38):
Yeah. And it has that relaxant quality too. Lavender would be particularly good for where you had some sluggish digestion with cramping. And here you’re going to going to stimulate some movement with the warmth of the aromatics, and then you’re going to release the tension at the same time. That’s nice.

Katja (23:53):
I would find it a little cloying, though, all by itself. So, if you want to make a bitters blend with lavender, I would recommend rosemary and sage in there as well just to really round out the flavor, so that you don’t just have all… Like lavender’s a very high… I’m waving my hand in the air here. It’s like a very floating kind of flavor. And I personally don’t prefer that. I like a little bit more body to my flavor.

Ryn (24:30):
We had a very nice item that had lavender tincture, but it was combined with, I believe, cardamon.

Katja (24:40):

Ryn (24:41):
And I think that that was from…

Katja (24:43):
That was very good.

Ryn (24:44):
Botanica Eclectica. Pretty sure that’s who made that. Yeah, that was very good.

Katja (24:49):
That was very, very good.

Ryn (24:50):
Yeah. So, consider trying your lavender together with one of those pungent spice plants and see if that… It kind of like cut through that quality that you called cloying.

Katja (25:02):
Yeah, it’s not exactly the right word, but I can’t think of the better word. You know, I’m remembering when you got that actually, because you brought it home from some event. And I can remember thinking to myself, lavender tincture, really? Okay. And then I somehow didn’t notice that there was cardamom on the label. I don’t know how I didn’t see that. And then when I tried it, I was like oh my God, this is delicious. And then I was like what is going on here? And that’s when I was like aha, cardamom, yeah. And you were like well yeah, that’s why I got it.

Ryn (25:42):
So yeah, give that a try too. Maybe make a tincture. Make them separate, you know, so you can try a few different combinations. And then see how lavender goes with allspice or grains of paradise or one of the others from that group.

Katja (25:55):
You know, when you’re making tinctures for the first time, like you’re testing out new things, I just want to remind you that you don’t have to make a whole mason jar of tincture. Make a teeny tiny little, like those little two-ounce jars. Those little, tiny jam jars are really good for making tincture testers. You know, whatever little jar you have, do that while you are testing things to see what you like best. And then make your big mason jar.

Leonurus cardiaca: Motherwort & Boundaries

Ryn (26:27):
Yeah. Start slow. That’s good. Yeah. All right. That’s lavender thoughts. Let’s go ahead and talk about motherwort then. So, motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca, what a lovely Latin name. We often sort of do a rough translation and talk about the lion heart. If you want to be pedantic about it, Leonurus actually means the lion’s tail. Leon-urus, yeah. And cardiaca, of course, yeah, that is the heart.

Katja (26:58):
That’s funny.

Ryn (27:00):
The lion-tailed heart? I don’t know. Yeah, you can go with lionheart. That’s fine. And we always come back to that, because this is a really fascinating herb for the set of effects it has on your physical heart, your emotional heart, your spiritual heart. It’s a softening remedy inside the protected parts. But it’s a strengthening or a fortifying remedy for your boundaries. And having the two of those come together from the one plant is just a lovely expression of nature.

Katja (27:32):
I wonder if the cattail aspect of it comes from the way the plant looks.

Ryn (27:38):
I think those puffy little flowers.

Katja (27:39):
Yeah. Which then later become the puffy little seed pods. Which then become the clear boundaries of the plant. Because they turn into super sharp claw structures. And this is always one of the things that represents the boundaries aspect for me, is that motherwort is this beautiful plant. It has sort of, kind of fuzzy-ish sort of leaves. Not like mullein, but like a little softness to it. And then these pink flowers that are literally fuzzy. They’re fuzzy flowers. And they’re a very ballerina pink with a fuchsia trim, whatever.

Ryn (28:31):
Yeah. Some magenta is going on in there.

Katja (28:32):
Yeah. And they’re just very lovely, like super, super hearts and fairies. And then as the plant progresses, and it creates the seed pods, the seed pods are in a circle around the stem. There’s multiple of them at different heights. And they turn into these like spiky balls that completely surround the stem. And the spikes protrude out from the little seed pockets, so that nothing is going to come and eat this thing. It would stab you right in the mouth if you tried to eat these seeds. And that’s the point, right? The plant is trying to protect its seeds, so that they can develop and mature and then eventually fall and make new plant. It’s funny to me all the different things that different plants do to protect their seeds.

Ryn (29:37):
Yeah. You have different strategies, right? Like one is to make a bajillion seeds, and throw them everywhere, and hope that like 100th of a percent of them survive. And then you have this no, I’m not going to make a million, but I’m going to protect them carefully and make sure nobody can just come and grab them easily.

Katja (29:52):
Yeah. Anyway, so I always think about that in terms of the boundaries.

Ryn (30:01):
Yeah. And it’s worth maybe saying for a moment, somebody from a very materialistic, reductionistic, skeptical standpoint can look at these kinds of statements that herbalist make and be like well, what does that even mean? What is the physiological correlate of improved boundaries? And, you know, we can imagine an argument about this in which two people just talk past each other. And they don’t use any of the same language or points of reference or whatever. But I think it is worth paying attention to this kind of thing when it’s persistent in culture, when it’s persistent in practice. When you get different people from times and places that are wildly divergent from one another, but they’re saying things about a plant that are very, very similar or parallel to each other. There is something there, right? We may not have found a way yet to categorize it, or to quantify it, or to identify which pieces of your neural network get activated when you ingest this plant. But some of these things are quite reliable. And I think with motherwort in particular, this is one that you can count on.

Katja (31:11):
Yeah. Very much. On the other hand, if we want to look at it physiologically, there’s a lot of support for the heart that motherwort provides. Especially one of the things that it’s particularly good at is if you have palpitations. You have some anxiousness, and palpitations is how you express that anxiousness. Motherwort really relaxes that, and it has a little astringency to it. And so if you think about it, think about a situation in which your boundaries are getting trampled, and you feel like you don’t have the strength to do anything about it. What happens to your feelings? Yeah, you start to get those palpitations. Your heart starts to be racing. You get a little hot. You’re feeling trampled on, and almost like you’re getting smooshed. And here is a plant that is physically relieving those feelings of anxiousness, right? Relieving the racing heart. The racing heart in itself becomes emotionally debilitating, right, because you’re starting to feel that. You’re starting to feel like oh, there’s nothing I can do. You’re going down that path that you’ve been down before. And so you have this plant that comes in and physiologically stops that process and also provides a little bit of astringency. It pulls you together, right? Like pull yourself together, man. You know, whatever. That’s something going on here. So, when we say that motherwort can help give you stronger boundaries, how do you assert your boundaries? You do have to speak up for yourself.

Ryn (33:01):
Right? Yeah. And with that kind of like anxious, palpitating heart you were describing, it’s a pattern of heat and tension. And motherwort is cooling and relaxing in nature. It’s really excellent If somebody has a lot of heat around the heart, and maybe that’s moving upwards into the head. And they’re flushed and agitated, and they just look uncomfortable. You can give motherwort, and you can see that heat kind of drain right out. You know, when you think about how would you feel if you did have good boundaries? It’s not that you’re just being a jerk about things, right? You are being realistic about what you actually have to offer, and what you choose to offer. And you’re also feeling strong enough or in that certainty that you don’t hesitate to say it, right? Yeah.

Katja (33:47):
Yeah. You don’t have to be mean about it. You don’t have to be overly forceful. You don’t have to be underly forceful. You don’t have to be like well, if it’s okay with you. It’s kind of like hey, do you want Coke or Pepsi? That’s not a scary thing to answer. But hey, can you do a favor for me, or hey, can you work late tomorrow night? That can be scary sometimes. And I think that when we can relax those feelings of anxiousness and hold onto our own structure, like hold ourselves together a little bit, we can approach the kinds of questions that make us feel uncomfortable a lot more like a beverage choice. That doesn’t make us uncomfortable. It’s just like I like Coke. I like Pepsi, whatever, you know? And I like tea personally, but it just doesn’t even matter. And if we can feel calm about it, then we can be like oh, I’m sorry. I can’t actually work late tomorrow night. That won’t fit in my schedule, which you’re allowed to say. You’re allowed to say that you can’t work late tomorrow night.

Emmenagogue Actions & Safety

Ryn (34:57):
Yeah. All right. You know, one other thing I wanted to move into in our discussion of motherwort is the emmenagogue effects. So, this is one of the popular applications for this plant, or one of the famous things you’ll see lots of people repeat about it. And as always, when we bring up emmenagogues, we want to remind you that not all emmenagogues function in the same way, right? So, to bring on the menstruation, you might cause that by squeezing the uterine muscles real hard and trying to squeeze everything right out. Or you might accomplish it by warming up the uterus and the pelvic organs, and allowing blood to flow, and giving them a little bit of metabolic stimulation. Or you can do it by releasing tension that’s preventing flow or preventing release from occurring.

Katja (35:46):
You know, it’s really important to recognize how much tension impacts not just menstruation, but even labor and delivery. If you are very tense, you can stall out labor. If you’re very tense, you can hold on to that labor for a long time, like a couple of days even. Which, if you think about that evolutionarily, that’s very help helpful.

Ryn (36:15):
Tension as a response to danger.

Katja (36:16):
Right. If you’re in an unsafe place, then it’s not going to be a fun time, but you can hold on to that birth process for a little while. Not forever, but for some hours, for a day, for maybe two days. I know this, because I did that. We’d just gone to war in Iraq, and the shock and awe bombing was all over CNN. And I was starting to go into labor. And it didn’t occur to any of us that I should not be watching that, because it was happening, and it was shocking and awe-ful. And so everybody was watching it. And 52 and a half hours later, I actually successfully had a baby. And there was nothing wrong. It was tension. And before that happened to me, I didn’t realize how much we can hold stuff in. Like not just your period, but a whole baby you can hold in with tension. And so when you realize that reality. And then you think about menstruation and think about how much tension are you holding in your pelvis. How much of your stress, how much of your pain, how much of your sadness, or grief, or anger, or whatever else are you holding onto by clenching in your whole pelvic area.

Ryn (37:43):
Yeah. And that type of pelvic clenching is also a fairly common response to trauma and, no surprise, especially sexual trauma. So between relaxation there, between relaxation in the heart, between a feeling of protection in the heart, this is an herb that is really worth considering for trauma and particularly for sexual trauma.

Katja (38:07):
Yeah. And then even double if your sexual trauma has an aspect of really long menstruation. Like you’re dealing with sexual trauma or other kinds of trauma, and you’ve got these 10-day menstrual cycles that just take forever to really get going. Now if that’s not what’s going on for you, I do not find motherwort to be… Like it’s not going to make you bleed harder. It’s not going to…

Ryn (38:36):
Yeah. In some cases it might cause your period to show up a little early, but not every single time. And also, there’s an enormous variation in the doses that one can take for motherwort. You can take dropperful doses. You can take tablespoon doses of this herb. It’s not like toxic in that way. But a lot of people find plenty of relief from five or 10 drops or half a dropperful a few times a day. And, you know, I was looking into safety around the herb and this sort of thing, and it emerged to me that the sort of standard preparations and doses that at least Western herbalists work with habitually here are very safe. And even in pregnancy I would consider them safe. So, you know, doses of like 15 to 30 grams or half an ounce to a full ounce of the dry herb are considered to be high doses. And again, that’s 15 to 30 grams. But if you make a tincture, you’re often making a standard tincture, like a roughly one to five ratio, and that would mean that you need five milliliters or five droppersful of your herb to be the equivalent of one gram. So, if we’re trying to not get to 15 grams a day or 30 grams a day, that comes out to like 75 to 150 mls, that’s two and a half ounces or five ounces of tincture in a day. I don’t think you’re going to consume that.

Katja (40:00):
Yeah. Nobody’s taking that much. No, exactly.

Ryn (40:03):
You’re sort of like standard dose that isn’t really the standard for very many people. But the sort of contemporary American herbalism idea of three droppersful three times a day, that’s far, far below these concerning quantities for that plant.

Katja (40:19):
Yeah. I even want to qualify the idea of that it can make your period early. Because what even is an early period. Like a person who says oh, I was drinking tons of mother wort, and my period came a day early. Okay. Well, was it early or was it earlier than they expected? Do they have a pattern of tension normally that might be not such strong tension that it’s debilitating everything they do, but just a baseline habit of tension. And relaxing that made their flow be less congested, less troublesome. And so to them it looked like it was a day or two early, but it really was just a day or two of clotting or spotting that they were going to have that they didn’t. That’s not early. That’s healthy. So, when it’s just a day or two in a direction, then if you want to say that it’s early, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for myself, I try to resist the urge to use that word, simply because it may have just been that your period went more smoothly. When we use the word early, the next thing that we think is oh no, something is wrong.

Ryn (41:34):
You’ve disrupted my hormone cycles.

Katja (41:36):
Right. And I think that I’ve never seen a case where anything was wrong. I’ve only ever seen a case where the word early really was referring to less hiccups, less stalling, less whatever. And yes, it is that whole concept of oh my god, my hormone cycles or whatever. And I don’t want people’s brains to go there, because that’s not what’s happening. So, that’s why I’m nitpicky about the word. But listen ya’ll, you already know I’m nitpicky about so many words. So, you don’t have to be as nitpicky as me about it. But I just wanted to make the point that we’re not talking about some big hormonal whatever here.

A Bitter Nervine to Return to Normalcy

Ryn (42:21):
Yeah. Motherwort is bitter. We don’t often think of it in a digestive way. But again, if you’re carrying some motherwort tincture with you as a nervine. And then you realize that somebody you’re with needs a bitter to get their digestion moving, you could go with this plant, no problem. Because it’s bitter, it’s often formulated with other herbs that might be a little tastier. Or make it into an elixir or something like that to make it a bit more palatable.

Katja (42:52):
It’s not so bitter that mint is not going to be able to cover it. You know, it’s bitter, but it’s very coverable. You know, like you just toss some mint or some tulsi or something in there. Tulsi’s a mint, but you know what I mean.

Ryn (43:05):
A little chamomile, maybe some ginger. Yeah.

Katja (43:10):
You know, that digestive aspect though, I want to talk about for a minute. Because right now it’s Sunday, and tomorrow is October 31st. And we’ll be kicking off the new Working with Grief course. It’s a different kind of course than other courses we’ve done, because it is integrated learning materials and a private community all in one location together.

Ryn (43:42):
One feed that you get into.

Katja (43:44):
Yeah. On our school website, it’s not like on Facebook or something like that. It’s all in our school website. And so that is going to be eight weeks of material. We’ll be going from the 31st until the winter solstice. Now, of course, you could do it at any time if you were interested in this. You don’t have to start on the same day. But it’s sort of eight weeks of material that can take as long as anybody needs it to take. But one of the things that we’re starting off with is sadness and working with the aspect of sadness within grief. And sadness often is one of those times where you feel very sad. You feel like you are a puddle of sadness, and you can’t eat anything. And you’re just the opposite of held together, right? You are completely fallen apart. Your digestion doesn’t work. Your nothing seems to work. And even if you think about it in terms of tears everywhere and whatever else. And sometimes that is actually a helpful state to be in. There’s nothing wrong with being sad even to a debilitating level for a day or two or for an appropriate amount of time. There’s nothing wrong with spending some time where all you do is stare out the window and cry. That is okay. But at some point, you don’t want to do that anymore. At some point it isn’t serving you anymore. Maybe you get a little stuck there. At some point you just have to eat something. And that is going to be a little different for every person, depending on the sadness that they’re working with, and the situation that they’re in, and whatever else. But that’s one of those times that you can call on motherwort. And especially when someone is dealing with grief or intense sadness, I kind of like to keep it simple. Because there’s not a lot of energy or even like a lot of brain. Your brain is very devoted to the emotional state, and there’s not a lot of extra brain to go around to figure out how to formulate your whatever. And so I love mugwort in this situation, because it’s going to help you pull yourself together a little bit. It’s going to hold your heart, soothe your heart. It’s also going to reign in the tears just a little bit, right, with a little bit of astringency.

Katja (46:36):
And it’s got that bitter action that is going to help you. Not just help you to finally eat something, because maybe it’s been a couple days when you need to do that. But also our cycles of hunger are a representation of normalcy. And so if you think about international travel and getting your internal clock all wrong. One of the fastest ways to reset that is to take some bitters and eat whatever meal is the appropriate time to eat. And to allow mealtimes to help reset your clock, because our bodies are very attuned to that. And so there are times when, you know, in this case I’m thinking about this real debilitating sadness. And you don’t even know what time it is, because you were up all night crying. And now maybe it’s noon, you don’t know. You’re still crying, and you need to move to the next thing. Maybe there are people in your life that depend on you. Children that you have to care for or whatever. And so motherwort can be such a good friend in that time, because it can help to ground you back in some parts of normalcy. And in this kind of sadness that I’m describing, of course, it’s not going to be normal in the blink of an eye. But as you are making a transition to okay, well I do actually have to get up now and care for my body and also maybe the people depending on me. It can be really helpful in that way.

Ryn (48:22):
Yeah, nice. All right. Well, both of these herbs that we highlighted today, the lavender and the motherwort, they’re featured players in our Neurological and Emotional Health course. I wanted to highlight this one particularly today, because we were talking about these two plants. And because who couldn’t use some support for their nerves and their emotions, you know?

Katja (48:43):
Yeah, these days.

Ryn (48:45):
So, this course is kind of like a user’s guide to your nerves and your emotions including the difficult ones and the dark ones like grief, like sadness. But also how to work with plants to try and access some happier emotions, you know? Working with exhilarant plants to lift you up a bit. So, really the whole spread. And we discuss, also, holistic strategies for addressing neurological and psychological health issues. Now that’s a fuzzy line, and we talk a lot about the fuzziness of that line. Is this just in my physical nerves? Is this just in my mind and my emotions? The answer in almost all cases is yes. Yes, and. Yes, both.

Katja (49:24):
Yes, both. Yeah. Especially if you think about – I don’t know – fibromyalgia, or Parkinson’s, or the kinds of nerve disorders that we see as very physiological. They’re never just physiological. They also have an emotional component. They often have a depression component or an anxiousness component, different factors. And the thing is that your nerves are your nerves. So, even if you’re like no, no, this is just a nerve problem, your emotional side still needs support for that.

Ryn (49:57):
Yeah. They’re conveying that. This course also includes a lengthy discussion about pain management strategies with herbs as well. So, it’s pretty valuable in and of itself. If you enroll in this course or really any of our courses, you get all of the things that come with enrollments. And that includes lifetime access to current and future course materials. Twice weekly live Q & A sessions with Ryn and Katja.

Katja (50:23):
Hey, that’s us.

Ryn (50:24):
That is us, yeah. Open discussion threads integrated into every lesson. An active student community, like we mentioned before. Courses have study guides. There are quizzes in there. You can complete a capstone assignment at the end to show that you really learned everything.

Katja (50:38):
Yes. And then you can get your certificate. People like those.

Ryn (50:41):
Yeah. So, if that sounds good to you, then you can check that out. And you can see all of our other courses and our comprehensive programs at online.commonwealthherbs.com. Yeah. All right. That’s it for the podcast this week. Thank you for listening.

Katja (50:59):
That’s not it for motherwort though, because I put motherwort in my tea today.

Ryn (51:02):
Nice. We’ll be back soon. But until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (51:09):
Put some motherwort in it.

Ryn (51:10):
Smell some lavender, and everything will be fine.

Katja (51:13):
Bye bye.


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