Approximately four species of upright biennials and perennials make up this genus, which is distributed throughout temperate Eurasia. They are widely grown in herb gardens and are attractive in spring, when the divided, deeply veined foliage is at its best. Leonurus cardiaca was prescribed in ancient Greece for anxiety in pregnant women; hence the name "motherwort". Research has proved that it is effective in calming the heart and reduces the risk of thrombosis. There has been much confusion over the identity of motherworts used in Chinese medicine. Studies by Shiu Ying Hu and Harvard University in the 1970's concluded that L. heterophyllus was the same plant also known as Stachys artemisia; taxonomically, the correct name therefore became a combination of the two: L. artemisia. The differences between L. artemisia and L. sibiricus are small: the former has rather smaller flowers than the latter, with upper and lower lips about equal in length and undivided leaves on the upper part of the stem. However, some authorities regard L. heterophyllus and Stachys artemisia as synonyms of Leonurus sibiricus—in other words, all three entities are the same species. For this reason, and the fact that all motherworts are thought to have similar properties, L. artemisia is not described seperately here. The uses of L. artemisia were described 2000 years ago in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing; L. sibiricus (as L. heterophyllus) was first mentioned in the Illustrated Classic of the Materia Medica by Su Song (CE1061). Motherwort is unusual among Chinese herbs in being often prescribed as a "simple" (that is, not mixed with other herbs).

Motherwort, a plant that belongs to the mint family, has a shaggy leaf resembling a lion's tail, from which it gets its scientific name: Leonorus, a combination of the Latin word leo, meaning "lion", and the Greek word oura, meaning "tail". The second part of its name, cardiaca, comes from the Greek word for heart. Together they describe motherwort's major functions. It helps relieve the pain of childbirth, stimulate uterine contractions after delivery, and ease postpartum anxiety. It also calms heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and rapid heartbeat.

Strong-smelling perennial with purple stems and palmate, deeply lobed leaves, to 7cm (3n) long. Mauve-pink to white, downy flowers with purple-spotted lips are produced in axillary whorls from mid-summer to mid-autumn.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Lion's Ear, Lion's Tail, Roman Motherwort, Throwwort
Botanical Name:
Leonurus cardiaca
Native Location:
Europe, S and C Russia
Well-drained, moist soil in sun or partial shade.
By seed sown in spring; by division in spring or autumn (L. cardiaca).
Plants are cut when flowering, but before the seeds are set, and dried for infusions, liquid extracts, and tinctures (L. cardiaca), or in decoctions, pills, powders, and poultices (L. sibiricus). Seeds (L. sibiricus) are collected when ripe in autumn by drying the whole plant, and threshing and sifting it to remove seeds.
1.2m (4ft)
60cm (24in)
Parts Used:
Whole plant
Two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans used motherwort to treat anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness in pregnant women—hence its common name. Today pregnant women are cautioned against using motherwort because it is a uterine stimulant. Nevertheless the herb is one of the best for treating problematic symptoms associated with childbirth, menstruation, and menopause, especially when anxiety is an underlying condition. Motherwort's Latin name, cardiaca, refers to the herb's other great therapeutic use: treating heart disease. Motherwort's heart-healing properties have been known worldwide for centuries. In Russia the herb is called pustirnik serdechny, for "heart herb" and in one popular Russian folk remedy, the flowers and leaves are mixed with vodka to make a winter tonic. In China, motherwort is one of the leading hypertension (high blood pressure) remedies, and the herb is famously associated with longevity—extreme longevity. One Chinese myth claims that a young thief, banished for life to a nearly barren and unpopulated valley region, was forced to drink water every day from a pond contaminated with motherwort plants. The young criminal lived to be 300 years old! Motherwort probably won't extend your life another century, but it may make your heart stronger for this one.
A very bitter, diuretic herb that acts as a circulatory and uterine stimulant, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes spasms. It is a sedative and nerve tonic and has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for heart complaints (notably palpatations) and problems associated with menstruation, childbirth, and menopause, especially of nervous origin. Not given to pregnant women.
To treat asthma, lack of menstruation, menopausal symptoms, flatulence, and hyperthyroidism. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of motherwort to treat poorly functioning thyroid gland and nervous heart complaints.
Motherwort has antianxiety, antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, blood-pressure lowering, cardiotonic, diuretic, circulatory-stimulating, and sedating properties. It is also a uterine stimulant and an emmenagogue—an herb that induces delayed menstruation. Numerous clinical studies confirm that motherwort is an excellent heart tonic. It eases the pain of angina, inhibits blood clotting, lowers blood pressure, reduces heart palpitations, and strengthens heart muscle. Motherwort is taken internally to treat anxiety, cramps, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, insomnia, irregular or painful menstruation, menopausal symptoms, stress, and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat).
Motherwort is available as dried herb and in capsules, tinctures, and teas. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 1 cup a day, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of motherwort is approximately 4.5 gm of the herb or 2 to 4 ml of liquid extract (1:1) taken three times daily.
Do not use motherwort if you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive. If you have a blood-clotting disorder or are taking anticoagulants, consult a medical practitioner before taking motherwort. In some sensitive individuals, motherwort may cause dermatitis.
Possible Side Effects:
Motherwort's side effects include allergic reactions, uterine bleeding, diarrhea, and stomach irritation. Motherwort contains cardiac glycosides, which can help control irregular heartbeat, reduce the backup of blood and fluid in the body, and increase blood flow through the kidneys, helping to excrete sodium and relieve swelling in body tissues. However, a buildup of cardiac glycosides can occur, especially when the herb is combined with certain medications or other herbs that contain cardiac glycosides, causing arrhythmia, abnormally slow heartbeat, heart failure, and even death.
Drug Interactions:
Taking motherwort with these drugs may increase skin sensitivity to sunlight:
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
Ciprofloxacin, (Ciloxan, Cipro)
Doxycycline, (Apo-Doxy, Vibramycin)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Etodolac, (Lodine, Utradol)
Fluphenazine, (Modecate, Prolixin)
Fosinopril, (Monopril)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Gatifloxacin, (Tequin, Zymar)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Ibuprofen, (Advil, Motrin)
Indomethacin, (Indocin, Novo-Methacin)
Ketoprofen, (Orudis, Rhodis)
Ketorolac, (Acular, Toradol)
Lansoprazole, (Prevacid)
Levofloxacin, (Levaquin, Quixin)
Lisinopril, (Prinivil, Zestril)
Loratadine, (Alavert, Claritin)
Methotrexate, (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Nortriptyline, (Aventyl HCl, Pamelor)
Ofloxacin, (Floxin, Ocuflox)
Omeprazole, (Losec, Prilosec)
Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
Quinapril, (Accupril)
Risperidone, (Risperdal)
Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
Tetracycline, (Novo-Tetra, Sumycin)
Taking motherwort with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising:
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking motherwort with these drugs may increase the risk of bradycardia (slow heart rate):
Acebutolol, (Novo-Acebutolol, Sectral)
Atenolol, (Apo-Atenol, Tenormin)
Befunolol, (Bentos, Betaclar)
Betaxolol, (Betoptic S, Kerlone)
Bisoprolol, (Monocor, Zebeta)
Carteolol, (Cartrol, Ocupress)
Carvedilol, (Coreg)
Celiprolol, (Celiprolol)
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
Esmolol, (Brevibloc)
Labetalol, (Normodyne, Trandate)
Levobetaxolol, (Betaxon)
Levobunolol, (Betagan, Novo-Levobunolol)
Metipranolol, (OptiPranolol)
Metoprolol, (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Nadolol, (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Oxprenolol, (Slow-Trasicor, Trasicor)
Pindolol, (Apo-Pindol, Novo-Pindol)
Propranolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Sotalol, (Betapace, Sorine)
Timolol, (Betimol, Timoptic)
Taking motherwort with thee drugs may interfere with absorption of the drug:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (FeroGrad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Taking motherwort with this drug may be harmful:
Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)—May increase the risk of excessively low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.
Lab Test Alterations:
May increase thyroid function and test results in those with hyperthyroidism.
Disease Effects:
May interfere with treatment for heart ailments.
Supplement Interactions:
Increased risk of cardiac glycoside toxicity when used with other herbs that contain cardiac glycosides, such as Black Hellebore, Calotropis, and others.
Culinary Uses:
Flowering tops are used to flavor beer and stout. Flowers are added to soups and made into tea.
The Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 258
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.340-343
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp.81-82