Common name: Motherwort
Other names: Lions tale, heart wort
Latin name: Leonurus cardiaca
Affinities: Nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, digestive system
Actions: Cardiac tonic, sedative, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, vasoconstrictor, hypotensive, heart tonic, digestive bitter, antidepressant
Specific indications: Anxiety with heart palpitations, over rapid heartbeat, delayed menstruation, mental stress, poor sleep, weak digestion, menstrual cramps, pelvic inflammation, depression
Diseases: Anxiety(3), depression(3), insomnia(3), hypertension(3), hyperthyroidism(3)
Parts used: Aerial parts
Energetics: Cooling, drying
Characteristics: Leonurus cardiac is a perennial herb widespread in Europe and is commonly found in rural areas in lowlands and foothills (Wojtyniak et al., 2013). It is also is found in East Asia from the Himalayas and eastern Siberia, northern Africa, and North America.
History: The Romans and Greeks used motherwort to treat heart palpitations and depression (Castleman, 2001). In ancient China, Chinese motherwort, used in many of the same ways as Western, was said to promote longevity. 17th century herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper wrote, ‘There is no better herb to take melancholy vapours from the heart … and make me a merry cheery soul’. Culpeper mainly saw motherwort as a medicine for depression, however, he also said it was much use in ‘tremblings of the heart (palpitations) and faintings’. As the centuries past, herbalists used motherwort in contradictory ways, both to relax the uterus during pregnancy and after childbirth, and, stimulating menstruation and labour’. However, it eventually became to be known as a uterine stimulant.
Colonists brought motherwort with them into North America and the 19th century Eclectic physicians used the herb (Castleman, 2001), in Kings American Dispensory, an Eclectic text, it was written, ‘(motherwort) is recommended in nervous complaints, pains peculiar to females… all chronic diseases attended with restlessness, wakefulness, disturbed sleep, spinal irritation, and neuralgic pains in the stomach and head, and in liver affections.’ (Felter and Lloyd, 1898).
Current applications: David Hoffman in his book, ‘Holistic Herbal’, states, ‘(motherwort) is an excellent tonic for the heart, stregthening without straining’ (Hoffman, 1988). It is specific for delayed or suppressed menstruation, over-rapid heart beat, and all heart conditions associated with anxiety. Matthew Wood mentions motherwort is indicated for, headache, insomnia, hyperthyroidism, feeble digestion, heart palpitations, hyperthyroidism, female cramps and pelvic inflammation, and premenstrual tension (Wood, 2011).
Science: Motherwort has been largely examined ex vivo, not in humans. Authors have found that Chinese motherwort has anti-inflammatory and anti-tumour activity on isolated cells (Shin et al., 2009; Chinwala et al., 2003). European motherwort has been shown to have anti-oxidant effects (Bernatoniene et al., 2008). One human study tested motherwort alongside hops, valerian, and lemon balm to find it had significant effects against insomnia in comparison with a placebo (double blind placebo controlled trial), although only the abstract of this paper is available (Widy-Tyszkiewicz et al., 1997).
Safety: Motherwort is safe, even for pregnant women and those breastfeeding.
Dosage: 5-60 drops 3-4 times daily.
Research on models
Anti-inflammatory activity: One study tested if Chinese motherwort reduced the inflammatory activity of mast cells (Shin et al., 2009). It was found to inhibit secretion of inflammatory markers, TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-8.
Anti-tumour activity: A study tested if Chinese motherwort could inhibit proliferation of tumour cell lines (Chinwala et al., 2003). They found it could in 7 different cancer cell lines and that it also induced apoptosis.
Anti-oxidant activity: One study found that European motherwort displayed anti-oxidant activity alongside maidenhair tree and hawthorn (Bernatoniene et al., 2008).
Bernatoniene, Jurga, et al. “The comparison of anti-oxidative kinetics in vitro of the fluid extract from maidenhair tree, motherwort and hawthorn.” Acta poloniae pharmaceutica 66.4 (2008): 415-421.
Castleman, Michael. “The new healing herbs.” Bantam Book, New York (2001): 465-471.
Chinwala, Maimoona G., et al. “In vitro anticancer activities of Leonurus heterophyllus sweet (Chinese motherwort herb).” The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 9.4 (2003): 511-518.
Felter, Harvey and Lloyd, John. King’s American Dispensatory, 1898.
Hoffman, David. Holistic herbal. Element Books, 1988.
Shin, Hye-Young, et al. “Anti-inflammatory activity of Motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus L.).” Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology 31.2 (2009): 209-213.
Widy-Tyszkiewicz, E., and R. Schminda. “A randomized double blind study of sedative effects of phytotherapeutic containing valerian, hops, balm and motherwort versus placebo.” Herba Polonica 2.43 (1997): 154-159.
Wojtyniak, Katarzyna, Marcin Szymański, and Irena Matławska. “Leonurus cardiaca L.(motherwort): a review of its phytochemistry and pharmacology.” Phytotherapy Research 27.8 (2013): 1115-1120.
Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal, Volume I: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. North Atlantic Books, 2011.