Perennial herb growing to 5 ft (1.5 m). Has toothed, palm-shaped leaves and double-lipped pink flowers blossoming in clusters.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to central Asia, motherwort is now naturalized in much of Europe and North America. It grows wild in woodlands, in open areas, and along roadsides. It is also cultivated as a garden plant. Motherwort is harvested when it comes into flower in summer.
Motherwort contains alkaloids (including L-stachydrine), an iridoid (leonurine), diterpenes, flavonoids, caffeic acid, and tannins.
History & Folklore
As its species name cardiaca indicates, motherwort has long been considered a heart remedy. The herbalist Nicholas Culpeper stated that “there is no better herb to drive away melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful” (1652). The Italian physician and herbalist Pierandrea Matteoli held it “useful for palpitations and a pounding heart, spasms and paralysis… [it] thins thick and viscid humours [and] stimulates urine and menstrual bleeding” (1548).
Medicinal Actions & Uses
A remedy for the heart and nerves and often prescribed for palpitations, motherwort strengthens heart function, especially where it is weak. Antispasmodic and sedative, the herb promotes relaxation rather than drowsiness. However, motherwort stimulates the muscles of the uterus, and is particularly suitable for delayed periods, period pain, and premenstrual syndrome (especially if shock or distress is a factor). It should not be used if menstrual bleeding is heavy.
Two East Asian species, L. heterophyllus (from China) and L. sibiricus (from Siberia), are both used therapeutically for the same purposes as motherwort. L. heterophyllus appears to lower blood pressure and to induce menstruation.
Do not take motherwort during pregnancy. It should also be avoided where there is heavy menstrual bleeding.