Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Other common names include Throw-wort, Lion's Ear, and Lion's Tail. Lion's Tail also being a common name for Leonotis leonurus, and Lion's Ear, a common name for Leonotis nepetifolia. Originally from Central Asia and southeastern Europe, it is now found worldwide, spread largely due to its use as a herbal remedy.
L. cardiaca has a squarish stem which is clad in short hairs and is often purplish, especially near the nodes. The opposite leaves have serrated margins and are palmately lobed with long petioles; basal leaves are wedge shaped with three points while the upper leaves have five. They are slightly hairy above and greyish beneath. Flowers appear in leaf axils on the upper part of the plant and have three-lobed bracts. The calyx of each flower is bell-shaped and has five lobes. The corolla is irregular, 8 to 12 mm (0.3 to 0.5 in) long, fused, long-tubed with two lips. The upper lip is convex and covered with white hairs and the lower lip is three-lobed and downward-curving and spotted with red. The flowers are pink to lilac in colour often with furry lower lips. There are four stamens, two short and two longer, and the fruit is a four-chambered schizocarp. The plant grows to about 60 to 100 cm (24 to 39 in) in height and blooms during July and August.
Distribution and habitat
Motherwort is probably native to the southeastern part of Europe and central Asia where it has been cultivated since ancient times. Its natural habitat is beside roadsides, in vacant fields, waste ground, rubbish dumps and other disturbed areas. This plant prefers well drained soil and a partly shady location. It is hardy in USDA climate zones 4–8.
Traditional medicinal uses
||This section needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. (July 2012)|
Motherwort has a long history of use as a herb in traditional medicine in Central Europe, Asia and North America. Like many other plants, it has been used for a variety of ills. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection in women, hence the name Motherwort.
The herb contains the alkaloid leonurine, which is a mild vasodilator and has a relaxing effect on smooth muscles. For this reason, it has long been used as a cardiac tonic, nervine, and an emmenagogue. Among other biochemical constituents, it also contains bitter iridoid glycosides, diterpinoids, flavonoids (including rutin and quercetin), tannins, volatile oils, and vitamin A.
Susun Weed recommends it for combating stress and promoting relaxation during pregnancy, also claiming that, given during labor, it prevents hemorrhage. Michael Tierra, on the other hand, contraindicates it for internal use during pregnancy, claiming that it has the tendency to cause bleeding and may induce miscarriage. It was historically used in China to prevent pregnancy and to regulate menstruation. Motherwort is also used to ease stomach gas and cramping, menopausal problems, and insomnia, although Susun Weed warns it may be habit forming if used regularly to combat sleeplessness. According to Tierra, the traditional Chinese medicine energy and flavors are bitter, spicy, and slightly cold, and the systems affected are the pericardium and liver. The fresh or dried leaves, which are called yìmǔcǎo (益母草), are used and the recommended dosage is the standard infusion of one ounce herb to one pint boiling water, 2–6 mL of 1 in 5 tincture or 2–4 mL of 1:1 fluid extract, either in 25% ethanol, three times daily.
Yìmǔcǎo is believed to enter the bladder, heart, and liver meridians in traditional Chinese Medicine theory.
- Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
- Lust, John The Herb Book (1974) New York, New York: Bantam.
- Moore, Michael Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (1979) Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Museum of New Mexico Press
- Tierra, Michael The Way of Herbs (1980) New York, New York: Pocket Books.
- Weed, Susun S. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (1986) Woodstock, New York.
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