What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Motherwort?

As its Latin name cardiaca suggests, motherwort has traditionally been used to treat heart conditions. The ancient Greeks and Romans employed motherwort to treat heart palpitations as well as depression, which they considered a problem of the heart. Centuries later, Europeans would believe motherwort helpful for "infirmities of the heart" but also considered the herb to have strengthening and stimulating effects on the uterus, using it to bring on a delayed menstrual period, as an aid during labor, and to relax a woman's womb after childbirth.

These uses of motherwort correspond well with those in traditional Chinese medicine, which employs the Asian variety, Leonurus artemisia, to treat menstrual disorders or to help a woman expel a dead fetus and placenta from her womb. 1 In...

Germany's Commission E has authorized motherwort for the treatment of rapid or irregular heatbeat caused by anxiety and stress , as well as part of an overall treatment plan for an overactive thyroid ( hyperthyroidism , a condition that also causes irregualr heartbeat). 2 However, as yet there is no real evidence to support these uses of the herb. The best that can be said is that in one test tube study motherwort slowed the beating of normal rat heart cells and inhibited the effects of substances that usually speed up heart cell contractions. 3 Two other test tube studies suggest that leonurine, a compound found in some species of motherwort, may affect the uterus. 4 One of these studies found that low concentrations of leonurine induced uterine contractions, but that higher...

Safety Issues

The safety of motherwort has not been well studied; however, obvious Motherwort side effects appear to be rare. Some people have reported occasional allergic reactions and gastrointestinal distress.

Because of the herb's traditional use for uterine stimulation and the corroborating results of some test tube studies,1 motherwort should not be used by pregnant women until further scientific investigation has been performed.

In addition, preliminary animal evidence suggests that women with a history of breast cancer, or those at high risk for developing it, should avoid motherwort.2 Safety in young children, nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.