Motherwort came from central Eurasia originally, but has spread to all temperate areas of the world, primarily as a garden plant but also as an escaped weed. A similar plant, Leonurus heterophyllus, is used in China. The Chinese name for motherwort is yi mu cao, meaning “benefit mother herb.” The leaves and flowers of this mint family plant are used as medicine. In Chinese herbal medicine, the seeds are also employed.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
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Motherwort has traditionally been thought to stimulate absent or diminished menses, though it has not been studied clinically.
Herbal emmenagogues traditionally regarded as stimulating absent or diminished menses are motherwort, rue, partridge berry, and yarrow. None of these herbs has undergone modern clinical trials to determine their efficacy. All emmenagogues should be avoided in pregnancy, as they may possibly cause a spontaneous abortion.
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Motherwort is one of a group of “nerve tonic” (nervine) herbs used in traditional herbal medicine for people with anxiety, with few reports of toxicity.
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Motherwort is an herb with weak estrogen-like actions similar to soy. In one trial, a formula containing licorice, burdock, dong quai, wild yam, and motherwort reduced menopause symptoms.
A variety of herbs with weak estrogen-like actions similar to the effects of soy have traditionally been used for women with menopausal symptoms.4 These herbs include licorice, alfalfa, and red clover. In a double-blind trial, a formula containing tinctures of licorice, burdock, dong quai, wild yam, and motherwort (30 drops three times daily) was found to reduce symptoms of menopause.5 No effects on hormone levels were detected in this study. In a separate double-blind trial, supplementation with dong quai (4.5 grams three times daily in capsules) had no effect on menopausal symptoms or hormone levels.6 A double-blind trial using a standardized extract of subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum), a relative of red clover, containing 40 mg isoflavones per tablet did not impact symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, though it did improve function of the arteries.7 An extract of red clover, providing 82 mg of isoflavones per day, also was ineffective in a 12-week double-blind study.8 In another double-blind study, however, administration of 80 mg of isoflavones per day from red clover reduced the frequency of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. The benefit was noticeable after 4 weeks of treatment and became more pronounced after a total of 12 weeks.9
The use of motherwort is practically the same in European folk medicine and traditional Chinese herbal medicine. It was widely used to regulate menses and to treat associated conditions.1 It was also considered a helpful diuretic and heart-strengthening herb by herbalists in both cultures, particularly to alleviate heart palpitations associated with anxiety attacks.2 Europeans used motherwort as a sedative as well.3
The identities of the active constituents of motherwort are not entirely clear, though they likely include compounds in its volatile oil and the alkaloids. Little research has been done on motherwort in the West. Animal research performed in China suggests that motherwort alkaloids can calm the central nervous system and stimulate the uterus to contract.10 A report suggests that preliminary human trials have found that Chinese motherwort stimulates uterine contraction after delivery and may alleviate glomerulonephritis (kidney disease secondary to infection).11 However, insufficient details were provided to assess the quality or results of these studies.
A tea can be prepared by steeping approximately 3/4 teaspoon (4.5 grams) of the cut herb in 1/2–3/4 cups (150 ml) of water.12 Three cups (750 ml) of the tea may be consumed daily. Alternatively, a tincture, 1/2–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, can be taken.
1. Foster S. Herbal Renaissance. Layton UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1993, 151–2.
2. Weiss RF. Meuss AR (trans). Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985, 186–7.
3. Weiss RF. Meuss AR (trans). Herbal Medicine. Gothenberg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1985, 186–7.
4. Crawford AM. The Herbal Menopause Book. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1996.
5. Hudson TS, Standish L, Breed C, et al. Clinical and endocrinological effects of a menopausal botanical formula. J Naturopathic Med 1997;7(1):73–7.
6. Hirata JD, Swiersz LM, Zell B, et al. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 1997;68:981–6.
7. Nestel PJ, Pomeroy S, Kay S, et al. Isoflavones from red clover improve systemic arterial compliance but not plasma lipids in menopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84:895–8.
8. Tice JA, Ettinger B, Ensrud K, et al. Phytoestrogen supplements for the treatment of hot flashes: the Isoflavone Clover Extract (ICE) Study: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2003;290:207–14.
9. van de Weijer PHM, Barentsen R. Isoflavones from red clover (Promensil®) significantly reduce menopausal hot flush symptoms compared with placebo. Maturitas 2002;42:187–93.
10. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, rev ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 273–4.
11. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, rev ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 273–4.
12. Blumenthal M (ed). Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medical Communications, 2000, 267–9.
13. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 68–9.
14. Bensky D, Gamble A, Kaptchuk T. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, rev ed. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1993, 273–4.
Last Review: 05-01-2013
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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