Botanical: Leonurus cardiaca
Family: Labiatae (mint)
Other common names: Lion's Tail, Lion's Ear, Throw Wort, Roman Motherwort, Leonurus
As its name implies, Motherwort is a wonderful support for women's health and is used to ease menstrual cramps, PMS and menstrual-related headaches, as well as relieve menopausal symptoms. But it is also a great relaxant that helps to alleviate stress, depression, anxiety and nervous disorders. Motherwort is considered a fine cardiotonic that may be useful for reducing heart palpitations, relaxing coronary arteries and increasing circulation to the heart.
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Motherwort is a hardy perennial that is native to Europe and central Asia and has been naturalized in the northern part of the United States and all over Europe and North Africa. It is a pungent, bitter and drying herb that grows to a height of five feet in waste places, along roads and in vineyards in no special soils; and since ancient times, the aerial parts have been (and continue to be) an important part of herbal medicine. The plant's three-point leaves are palmate, and its flowers are small, pink-to- lilac, blooming June and August. The Greeks and Romans proclaimed the plant's sedative powers and valued it as a remedy for heart disease, palpitations, depression and as an herbal painkiller during childbirth. Motherwort's botanical genus, Leonurus, is derived from the Latin, leo, meaning "lion," and the Greek, oura, meaning "tail," and kardiaca, meaning "heart." It is also interesting to note that the Latin botanical specific, cardiacus, may be translated into "troubles of the heart," because it was thought to be effective in calming the heart. One of its common names, Lion's Tail, described the shaggy shape of the leaves, and the name Motherwort is an obvious reference to the medicinal applications used since ancient times for stimulating the uterus during childbirth and easing its pain. In 1652, the respected English herbalist, Nicholas Culpeper, praised Motherwort as a cardiotonic when he wrote that there was "no better herb to take melancholy vapours from the heart and to strengthen it." Chinese herbalists used Motherwort for menstrual disorders, and the Japanese drank it in a tea to prolong life. Early Herbals recommended the plant for calming the spirits, and English colonists brought the herb to America for all the uses that had spread throughout Europe over the centuries. Some of the constituents in Motherwort include flavonoids, rutin, alkaloids (including stachydrine and leonurine), resin, bitter glycosides, alpha-pinene, catechin, isoquercitrin, saponin, tannin, ursolic acid, beta-carotene, essential oil and vitamins A and C.
Motherwort has been used for centuries as a calmative and nervine that induces passivity in the whole nervous system and alleviates depression, nervous complaints, hysteria and palpitations of the heart (particularly when they arise from hysteric causes). It is also said to be an effective painkiller that eases headaches and an herbal sedative that helps to treat insomnia. As a tranquilizer, it is thought to be good for tremors, convulsions and delirium; and as an antispasmodic, it relieves stomach and menstrual cramps.
As a support for women's health, Motherwort is well known as an emmenagogue, an agent that promotes menstrual flow and controls its flow. It is good for other "female troubles," by encouraging and easing uterine contractions during childbirth (which facilitates delivery) and as a pain reliever, easing the pain of childbirth, menstrual cramping and menstrual-related headaches. Motherwort is said to balance hormones and is believed to relieve the discomforts of PMS and the unpleasant symptoms of menopause. After childbirth, the herb has been used to tone and restore uterine health and reduce the risk of postpartum bleeding.
Studies completed at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute have shown that Motherwort has demonstrated estrogenic activity in animal experiments and may thus be helpful in alleviating many discomforts associated with menopause (hot flashes, depression, etc.). The research found that Motherwort interacted strongly with estrogen receptors in female rats, indicating that they have an estrogen-like effect in the body.
Motherwort has been used since ancient times to "strengthen and gladden the heart." As a cardiac tonic, it is said to reduce heart palpitations, echoing its ancient use in calming troubles of the heart. The herb is thought to strengthen the heartbeat without increasing the pulse rate and to sedate and relax the coronary arteries, resulting in increased circulation to the heart. The glycosides appear to have a short-term ability to lower blood pressure and reduce blood platelet aggregation (blood clumping). It may also treat heart disorders caused by anxiety and has been used in treating hyperthyroidism and goiter, due to nervous heart palpitations.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been using Motherwort as a specific for the liver and to treat hepatic infections, which may also result in brighter eyes and improved vision.
Motherwort is thought to be a fine stomachic, easing stomach pain and cramps and relieving gas.
Pregnant women should avoid Motherwort Herbal Supplement, as it stimulates uterine contractions, but it may be used during labor. Those who have heart conditions should not use this herb without the advice of a physician. Motherwort may produce allergic reactions to those susceptible to dermatitis. It is not recommended for people with clotting disorders, high blood pressure or heart disease without first consulting a physician. Women who have a family or personal history of cancers that are linked to higher levels of estrogen, including breast and uterine cancer, should consult a physician before using Motherwort.