益母草 yì mǔ cǎo
Latin name: Leonurus heterophyllus
This bountiful herb produces rings of beautiful purple and white flowers above a thistle-like knob. Up close, the tiny flowers are quite lovely, but the plants will quickly grow to 4+ feet tall. All of the aerial parts are used and traditionally harvested when in bloom with the flowers and all generally around the time of the summer solstice.
In Chinese Medicine terms, this herb enters the Heart, Liver and Bladder, and acts to promote circulation, dispel blood stasis, regulate the menses, reduce masses, promote urination and relieves swelling and edema. The central stalks are hollow and tube-like following the doctrine of signatures in which plants with that kind of shape are often associated with increased urination. Because of the blood moving action and how it stimulates oxytocin production, this herb is generally contraindicated during pregnancy, but it is used in several formulas for postpartum conditions including abdominal pain after childbirth, delayed menses, and helping to clear the uterus postpartum.
Its action in the heart is reflected in its effects on calming heart rhythm, increasing circulation to the coronary artery, and decreasing blood viscosity and platelet aggregation rates. It can help lower blood pressure, relieve muscle spasms and neuralgias through the ability to increase blood flow through peripheral tissues and allow for better nourishment of the muscles.
It can be safely used as a single herb for tonic purposes and is traditionally combined with Dang Gui to help with postpartum recovery. The flavor is mild, and I recently combined some of the fresh aerial parts with mint, Jiao Gu Lian (a tonic and adaptogenic herb) with a little honey to make a lovely stress-buster tea that was both tasty and effective. I like to think of this tea as my own personal potion for recovery after a stressful day.
What would you call a potion to drink after a day spent slaying dragons? (or a mountain of paperwork at the office!)
As a single herb extract, it can be helpful for headaches, insomnia, vertigo and circulatory paresthesias. Sounds like a great potion for clearing the mind after exposure to evil spells by dark wizards (or that long commute that left you frazzled!).
We will have a dried version of this tea available for sale along with some of the single herb extract. I am looking forward to seeing what other formulas we can incorporate this lovely herb into!
The seeds are also used but considered more astringent and cooling for excessive uterine bleeding or red, painful, swollen eyes. More about those at a later time, so stay tuned...