Employed by the ancient Greeks to reduce anxiety during childbirth, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is primarily used as a tea or tincture for its potential medicinal properties.
Also called lion’s tail, motherwort is an upright, prickly bush with dark green leaves and furry purple or pink flowers.
It’s native to Asia and Southeastern Europe but can now be found worldwide. In the United States, it’s considered an invasive species.
Unlike some other herbs in the mint family, it has an unpleasant smell and bitter flavor.
This article reviews motherwort, including its potential benefits and side effects.
Potential benefits of motherwort
Motherwort has been used for thousands of years to treat various conditions, including heart disease, anxiety, and irregular menstruation.
Though many of its traditional uses have not been scientifically studied, research indicates that the herb has some potential health benefits.
Motherwort contains numerous plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties, including flavonoids, sterols, triterpenes, and tannins.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect your cells from damage caused by potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals.
Research shows that antioxidants may help protect against several conditions, including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
May lower heart rate and blood pressure
One traditional use of motherwort is to help reduce rapid or irregular heart rate caused by stress or anxiety.
In test-tube and animal studies, motherwort extract exhibited antiarrhythmic effects, suggesting that it could help lower elevated heart rate. However, these effects have not been observed in humans.
One 28-day study in 50 adults with high blood pressure and anxiety observed that supplementing with motherwort extract reduced heart rate, but the change was insignificant.
However, the findings noted significant improvements in blood pressure levels. Still, the study was quite small, and similar results have not yet been replicated.
Despite limited research, some European countries have approved the use of motherwort to support heart health and help treat hyperthyroidism, stress, and anxiety.
May aid heart health
Ursolic acid, leonurine, and flavonoids are compounds in motherwort that have exhibited heart-protective effects in rat studies. Yet, these results have not been confirmed in humans.
Nevertheless, while not specific to flavonoids in motherwort, observational studies in humans have shown a relationship between total flavonoid intake and a decreased risk of developing and dying of heart disease.
Other potential benefits
While research is limited, motherwort may offer additional benefits, including:
- May reduce postpartum blood loss. Early research suggests that treatment with motherwort and oxytocin may significantly reduce the risk of postpartum blood loss, compared with oxytocin alone
- May alleviate anxiety and depression. While limited in scope, early human and rat studies show a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression after taking motherwort or leonurine extracts daily for up to 4 weeks.
- May decrease inflammation. Test-tube and animal studies have found that the leonurine in motherwort has anti-inflammatory properties. However, these results haven’t been confirmed in humans.
Motherwort contains several antioxidants and has been linked to various health benefits. These include a reduced risk of heart disease, as well as decreased blood pressure and heart rate caused by stress or anxiety.
Possible side effects
Current research on motherwort’s effects in humans is limited. As a result, the herb’s safety and potential side effects are not fully understood.
Based on recent findings, the potential side effects of consuming excess motherwort include diarrhea, uterine bleeding, and stomach pain.
Given that motherwort has the potential to affect heart rate and rhythm, those on heart rate medications, such as beta-blockers, and people with low blood pressure should consult their healthcare provider before trying this supplement.
Furthermore, the herb has been shown to interact with the blood thinner warfarin and should not be taken by anyone on blood-thinning medication unless cleared by a medical professional.
Finally, due to a lack of research and its potential to stimulate uterine contractions, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are also advised to avoid motherwort.
Consuming excess motherwort could result in diarrhea, uterine bleeding, and stomach pain. Pregnant and breastfeeding women and those on heart rate or blood-thinning medications should avoid motherwort unless cleared by a medical professional.
As research in humans is limited, there’s currently no set recommended dosage for motherwort.
However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommends consuming less than 3 grams of powdered extract per day to avoid potential side effects.
Motherwort can be purchased as loose leaf tea or in tincture and capsule forms.
When consumed as a tea, motherwort is often combined with honey, ginger, lemon, sugar, or other strong flavors to help combat its bitterness.
Given that limited research has been conducted on motherwort’s effects in humans, recommendations for optimal dosing don’t exist. To avoid potential side effects, current guidelines recommend taking less than 3 grams of powdered extract per day.
The bottom line
Motherwort is an herb that has been used for thousands of years by those looking to reap its potential health benefits, particularly those related to heart health and anxiety.
However, research on its effectiveness and safety in humans is lacking. As such, more studies are needed before it can be recommended for health purposes.
If you want to try motherwort, speak with your healthcare provider first. You can find tinctures and teas in local specialty stores or online.
Title: What Is Motherwort? Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage