July 14 2024

Medicinal uses of common Motherwort(Leonurus cardiaca)


Motherwort(<em>Leonurus Cardiaca</em>)

Motherwort is a,perennial plant native of the European continent, that also spread to Asia, North America and New Zealand. In the British Isles was introduced during the Middle Ages. In the Iberian Peninsula it is very difficult to find the feral motherwort, since that does not grow spontaneously in the area. Some rare specimens can be found in the Pyrenean mountain range.

This plant grows up to 1 m. tall, presenting a strong unpleasant odor and a bitter taste. Motherwort leaves are lobed with long petioles and a dark green color. The flowers are hairy, of a pale purple color, in whorls scattered throughout the stem.

Flowering occurs throughout the warm season, from June to September in the northern hemisphere. The leaves and flowers are harvested during the flowering phase.

botanical varieties     

Are known different varieties of the plant Leonurus Cardiaca, which share its medicinal properties. These include the varieties vulgaris, villosus, tataricus, glaucescens and quinquelobatus.


The plant contains diterpene bitter principles, iridoid monoterpenes, flavonoids, including routine, quercetin, leunucardin, stachydrine, leonurine, betaine, caffeic acid derivatives, pyrogallic tannins and traces of a volatile oil[1]. Also have been identified recently other labdane diterpenes oxyethyleopersin derivative 15-C, 15-C and 15 oxymethyleopersin-epimethyleopersin C[2]. Diterpene furans accumulate only on the aerial parts of the plant[3]. Other compounds recognized recently include ursane triterpenoid derivatives, such as ursolic, corosolic and euscaphic acids and ilelatifol D[4].

Butanol extract of motherwort contains a glucoside, the lavandulifolioside. This substance has a negative chronotropic effect on the heart, lengthening the interval PQ, QT and QRS complex, thereby lowering blood pressure[5].

Traditional uses     

Leonurus Cardiaca is considered a general protector against diseases of women, especially those related to the uterus and menstruation. The plant would have emmenagogue properties attributed to the alkaloid and has been applied in folk medicine for amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), painful menstruation, premenstrual syndrome and menopausal hot flashes.

An extended theory about Motherwort indicates that this medicinal herb would act as a cardiac tonic, sedative and hypotensive, lowering blood pressure. The plant would act as a therapeutic agent with an extended effect in functional neurogenic heart disorders.

Other attributed properties include antispasmodic, laxative, digestive, sudorific, hypnotic, sedative and anti-diarrhea(by tannins). Sedative and spasmolytic properties complement those of other plants, such as Valeriana officinalis and others, and containing substances with sedative effect, such as benzaldehyde, alpha-pinene, caryophyllene, limonene and oleanolic acid.

This plant is used in nervous disorders of cardiac origin (British Herbal Compendium) and as an adjunct in the overactive thyroid (German Commission E). Also is recommed as antispasmodic agent (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia). In the Isle of Man, motherwort was used as a general tonic well into the 40s of last century.

In folk medicine and homeopathy, Herba Leonuri cardiacae is also used against angina, tachyarrhythmias and other cardiac disorders[6], amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, and anemia. In folk veterinary medicine, it is used to help to maintain lactation and as supplement for pregnant pets[7].

Clinical studies     

There has been published a single trial, lasting ten days, comparing tincture of motherwort with melatonin, finds a reduction of the threshold of retinal light sensitivity and an improvement of emotional state and anxiety in young subjects treated with melatonin. Changes induced by tincture were similar, although less intense [8].

It has been conducted a multicenter trial in China between April and August 2007, aimed to evaluate the effect of motherwort on the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage by cesarean. The design was single-blind trial, including 440 patients undergoing cesarean in 15 teaching hospitals. The patient group was assigned to one of three study groups or branches: motherwort, motherwort plus oxytocin and oxytocin alone. No significant differences were found regarding blood loss between all the three groups up to 48 hours after surgery, although the incidence of bleeding was higher in the group of patients treated with the herb. The best results were obtained in the group of patients receiving combined treatment with leonurus and oxytocin but show not statistically significant differences. Two cases of allergic reactions were recorded[9].

Experimental studies     

Hypotensive effect

The administration of motherwort extract on isolated rabbit heart produced a reduction in blood pressure in the left ventricle and a relative increase in coronary flow in an experimental model[6].

According to an experimental study, leonurine, an alkaloid present in the plant, is an effective inhibitor of vascular smooth muscle tone, which could contribute to the antipresor effect[1].

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects

The ursane triterpenoids are excellent inhibitors of superoxide produced in cell activity, that show a strong antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity[4].

Other studies corroborate this effect, not only by plant but also by the flavonoids in it[10][11].


A toxicological study in laboratory mice allowed to observe that the neurological, behavioral and autonomic response were typical of sedatives and hypnotics, showing potentiation with barbiturates and valerian root powder[12].


There is a lack of good scientific information, as published papers are insufficient to assess the efficacy and safety of use of motherwort herb, so it is not advisable to consume this plant for medicinal purposes, unless new studies could refute this criterion .


1: Chen CX, Kwan CY. Endothelium-independent vasorelaxation by leonurine, a plant alkaloid purified from Chinese motherwort. Life Sci. 2001 Jan 12;68(8):953-60.
2: Agnihotri VK, Elsohly HN, Smillie TJ, Khan IA, Walker LA. New labdane diterpenes from Leonurus cardiaca. Planta Med. 2008 Aug;74(10):1288-90.
3: Knöss W, Zapp J. Accumulation of furanic labdane diterpenes in Marrubium vulgare and Leonurus cardiaca. Planta Med. 1998 May;64(4):357-61.
4: Ali MS, Ibrahim SA, Jalil S, Choudhary MI. Ursolic acid: a potent inhibitor of superoxides produced in the cellular system. Phytother Res. 2007 Jun;21(6):558-61.
5: Milkowska-Leyck K, Filipek B, Strzelecka H. Pharmacological effects of lavandulifolioside from Leonurus cardiaca. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002 Apr;80(1):85-90.
6: Ritter M, Melichar K, Strahler S, Kuchta K, Schulte J, Sartiani L, Cerbai E, Mugelli A, Mohr FW, Rauwald HW, Dhein S. Cardiac and electrophysiological effects of primary and refined extracts from Leonurus cardiaca L. (Ph.Eur.). Planta Med. 2010 Apr;76(6):572-82.
7: Lans C, Turner N, Brauer G, Khan T. Medicinal plants used in British Columbia, Canada for reproductive health in pets. Prev Vet Med. 2009 Aug 1;90(3-4):268-73.
8: Ovanesov KB, Ovanesova IM, Arushanian EB. [Effects of melatonin and motherwort tincture on the emotional state and visual functions in anxious subjects]. Eksp Klin Farmakol. 2006 Nov-Dec;69(6):17-9.
9: Lin JH, Lin QD, Liu XH, Yan JY, He J, Li L, Gu H, Sun LZ, Zhang JP, Yu S, Ma YY, Niu JM, Xia Y, Zhao SC, Li W, Wang HL, Wang BS. [Multi-center study of motherwort injection to prevent postpartum hemorrhage after caesarian section]. Zhonghua Fu Chan Ke Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;44(3):175-8.
10: Bernatoniene J, Kucinskaite A, Masteikova R, Kalveniene Z, Kasparaviciene G, Savickas A. The comparison of anti-oxidative kinetics in vitro of the fluid extract from maidenhair tree, motherwort and hawthorn. Acta Pol Pharm. 2009 Jul-Aug;66(4):415-21.
11: Masteiková R, Muselík J, Bernatoniene J, Majiene D, Savickas A, Malinauskas F, Bernatoniene R, Peciura R, Chalupová Z, Dvorácková K. [Antioxidant activity of tinctures prepared from hawthorn fruits and motherwort herb]. Ceska Slov Farm. 2008 Jan;57(1):35-8.
12: Gedevanishvili MD, Sikharulidze IS, Gogotidze NM. [Toxicological approach to evaluation of bioavailability of powdered medicinal herbs]. Georgian Med News. 2006 May;(134):121-4.

Date of page update: May 25, 2010.


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