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Leonurus cardiaca

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Leonurus cardiaca














L. cardiaca

Binomial Name

Leonurus cardiaca



Physical characteristics

This is an upright prickly bush with a height of up to 5 feet and a width of 2 feet. The flowers are pale pink to purple, very hairy, in whorls of 6 to 12, alternating up the stems with leaves. The leaves are dark green above, pale below, oak-shaped and deeply lobed into three, especially at the bottom. Blooms in late-June to August.

The early Greeks gave motherwort to pregnant women suffering from anxiety. This use continued and gave the herb the name mother wort, or “mother’s herb.” Its other prominent action is on the heart, giving it the species name cardiaca or the Greek kardiaca, or heart. Leonurus comes from the Greek leon for “lion” and ouros for “tail”, as the plant was thought to resemble the tail of a lion. There is an old tale about a town whose water source is a stream flowing through banks of motherwort. Many of the townspeople lived to be 130 years old and recall one who reportedly lived to 300 years. In ancient China, motherwort was reputed to promote longevity. In Europe, motherwort first became known as a treatment for cattle diseases. Colonists introduced motherwort into North America and the 19th century Eclectics recommended it as a menstruation promoter and aid to expelling the afterbirth. They did not consider it a heart remedy at all. The Cherokees used the herb as a sedative for nervous afflictions. In the Victorian Language of Flowers it symbolizes concealed love.


essential oil, alkaloids (stachydrine, leonurinine), glycosides (leonurine, leonuridin), flavonoids, diterpenes, caffeic acid, tannins, vitamin A.

Medicinal uses

Motherwort is primarily an herb of the heart. Several species have sedative effects, decreasing muscle spasms and temporarily lowering blood pressure. Chinese studies found that extracts decrease clotting and the level of fat in the blood and can slow heart palpitations and rapid heartbeat. Another of motherwort’s uses is to improve fertility and reduce anxiety associated with childbirth, postpartum depression, and menopause. If used in early labor it will ease labor pains and calms the nerves after childbirth. It also reduces fevers, and is especially suggested for illnesses associated with nervousness or delirium. Motherwort was formerly used to treat rheumatism and lung problems, like bronchitis and asthma.

Motherwort may help an overactive thyroid but does not depress normal thyroid function. Chinese medicine uses the seeds to aid in urination; cool the body system; treat excessive menstrual flow, absence of menstruation.
Motherwort leaves occasionally produce skin dermatitis when touched. Because of the possible anti-clotting effect those with clotting disorders should avoid it.

Other uses

None known

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