Motherwort Health Benefits and Uses

Chinese herbal medicine
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Motherwort is an herb in the mint family. Available in dietary supplement form, motherwort is a source of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and leonurine, a compound found to promote the relaxation of blood vessel walls in preliminary studies.

Uses for Motherwort

Motherwort is said to help with a variety of health conditions, such as:

When applied to the skin, motherwort is thought to promote healing from shingles.

In addition, motherwort is sometimes used to regulate menstrual periods. Proponents suggest that motherwort can stimulate uterine blood flow.

Benefits of Motherwort

Although motherwort has long been used in several systems of traditional medicine (including traditional Chinese medicine), few scientific studies have tested the herb's health effects. Still, some preliminary research shows that motherwort may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at several key study findings on motherwort:

Anxiety and High Blood Pressure

So far, few scientific studies have looked at whether motherwort can help people with anxiety. A small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2011 included 50 people with high blood pressure and related psychological issues (such as anxiety). After 28 days of treatment with motherwort, 32 percent of participants showed a significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, 48 percent of participants showed a moderate improvement. There was also an improvement in blood pressure.

Inflammation

Motherwort may help curb inflammation, according to a study published in Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology in 2009. In tests on human cells, scientists determined that motherwort slowed up the release of a number of pro-inflammatory compounds. Given this finding, the study's authors concluded that motherwort may help control inflammatory diseases.

Cancer

Preliminary research suggests that motherwort may possess cancer-fighting properties. In a 2003 study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, for example, tests on human cancer cells showed that motherwort may help induce apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

It should be noted that more research is needed before motherwort can be recommended in the treatment or prevention of cancer.

Side Effects and Safety

Motherwort may trigger a number of side effects, such as diarrhea, drowsiness, sedation, altered heart rate and rhythm, low blood pressure, and uterine bleeding and contractions. People with low blood pressure should avoid motherwort. Because of its effects on the uterus, pregnant women shouldn't take motherwort. Breastfeeding women also shouldn't take motherwort.

When applied to the skin, motherwort may increase sensitivity to the sun and boost the likelihood of sun damage.

Since so few studies have tested motherwort's health effects in humans, it's unknown whether this herb is safe for long-term or regular use or how it might interact with medication or other supplements. For instance, motherwort has been found to have antiplatelet activity, so it shouldn't be taken by people with bleeding disorders or by people taking blood-thinners such as warfarin. It also affects heart rate and rhythm, so it should not be taken with other medication without discussing it first with your doctor. Motherwort shouldn't be taken with sedative medications. Avoid taking it within two weeks of scheduled surgery.

What's more, it's important to note that using motherwort in place of standard care in the treatment of a heart condition (or any other health condition) may be harmful to your health.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb.

In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Where to Find It

Many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements sell motherwort in tincture, tea, capsule, and tablet form. You can also purchase motherwort supplements online.

The Takeaway

There is a lack of clinical research on the effects and safety of motherwort. If you're considering using this herb for any condition, make sure to talk to your doctor first.

A number of other remedies may help to improve your heart health. Getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, following a diet rich in vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables, managing your everyday stress, limiting your alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking may help to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

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