AskDefine | Define motherwort

Dictionary Definition

motherwort n : bitter Old World herb of hedgerows and woodland margins having toothed leaves and white or pale pink flowers [syn: Leonurus cardiaca]

Extensive Definition

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is a flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae. Other common names include Throw-wort, Lion's Ear, and Lion's Tail. The latter two are also common names for Leonotis leonurus. Originally from Central Asia it is now found worldwide, spread largely due to its use as a herbal remedy.
L. cardiaca, a member of the mint family, has a square stem and opposite leaves. The basal leaves are wedge shaped with 3 points while the upper leaves are more latticed. Flowers appear in leaf axils on the upper part of the plant and it blooms between June - August. The flowers are small, pink to lilac in colour often with furry lower lips. The plant grows to about 60-100 cm in height. It can be found along roadsides and in vacant fields and other waste areas.

Medicinal uses

Motherwort has a long history of medicinal use. The plant and its use as a medicinal herb originated in Central Europe and Asia, although it has long been in use in the North America as well. It is very useful for a variety of ills, and is very nourishing, much like stinging nettle or dandelion. 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. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection.
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 are used, and the recommended dosage is the standard infusion of one ounce herb to one pint boiling water or 10-30 drops of tincture three times daily.


  • Wild Flowers Worth Knowing
  • 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.
motherwort in Bulgarian: Дяволска уста
motherwort in Czech: Srdečník obecný
motherwort in German: Echtes Herzgespann
motherwort in French: Agripaume
motherwort in Upper Sorbian: Somoćana křižowka
motherwort in Dutch: Hartgespan
motherwort in Polish: Serdecznik pospolity
motherwort in Russian: Пустырник
motherwort in Slovak: Srdcovník obyčajný
motherwort in Swedish: Hjärtstilla
motherwort in Ukrainian: Собача кропива п'ятилопатева
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