What Is Motherwort?

This herb is said to calm anxiety and lower blood pressure

Motherwort powder, tea, and tincture

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca L.) is a perennial herb that grows small pink flowers and large green leaves. It is a member of the mint family and is native to Asia and southeastern Europe, although it now grows worldwide.

Motherwort is thought to have medicinal uses. Some of these potential uses include reducing the risk of heart disease, treating symptoms of menopause and menstruation, reducing anxiety, and treating high blood pressure, among others.

This article will look at current research surrounding the potential uses of motherwort. It will also cover important information regarding side effects, precautions, interactions, storage, and dosage recommendations.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. 

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Furanic diterpenes, alkaloids, sterols, iridoids, flavonoids, ursolic acid, minerals
  • Alternate name(s): Leonurus cardiaca, L. cardiaca, yi mu cao, throw-wort, lion's ear, lion's tail
  • Legal status: Legal, sold over-the-counter in the U.S.
  • Suggested dose: There is no suggested dosage for motherwort. Side effects may occur at doses over 3 grams per day.
  • Safety considerations: Although generally considered safe, motherwort may cause upset stomach and other mild side effects.

Uses of Motherwort

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. 

Motherwort has long been used in several systems of traditional medicine, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). However, few scientific studies have tested the herb's health effects. Still, some preliminary research shows that motherwort may offer potential benefits.

Below is a look at several key findings from research on motherwort.

Heart Health

Preliminary research shows that motherwort may contain heart-protective properties.

One lab study concluded that the antioxidants in motherwort may help protect the heart from damage.

Ursolic acid, one of the active ingredients in motherwort, has also been linked to potential heart health benefits. In animal and lab studies, ursolic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation and slow the development of heart disease.

Unfortunately, however, these positive results have yet to be replicated in humans. And although we can learn from animal and lab studies, human trials are necessary before motherwort can be definitively recommended for heart health.

Anxiety

Despite being touted as a remedy for anxiety, few scientific studies have looked at whether motherwort can help.

A small study from 2011 included 50 people with high blood pressure and accompanying anxiety and sleep disorders. After 28 days of treatment with motherwort, 32% of participants showed a significant improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression, while 48% of participants showed moderate improvements in these symptoms. Interestingly, there was also an improvement in blood pressure.

Since this small study, little research has been conducted on motherwort for anxiety. Updated and larger-scale studies are needed to understand whether there is a relationship between motherwort and anxiety.

Menopause

Motherwort may help menopausal women prevent unplanned weight gain due to changing hormones.

According to one study on menopausal mice, motherwort supplementation for six weeks resulted in lower body weight. The mice were also found to have lower low density-lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol levels, as well as decreased fat in their livers.

However, as with many other potential uses of motherwort, there is little to no scientific evidence that motherwort does indeed decrease the side effects of menopause. More human trials must be done to better support these claims.

Postpartum Bleeding

Traditionally, motherwort has been used in TCM to treat menstrual disorders. The herb has mainly been used for issues like dysmenorrhea (painful periods), amenorrhea (absence of a period), and postpartum bleeding. However, these uses are not well-supported by research.

In one study, an injection of motherwort was found to help reduce blood loss post-cesarean section (c-section) when combined with oxytocin. In the study, some women were given oxytocin alone or in combination with motherwort after receiving a c-section. Those in the motherwort group saw less bleeding in the postpartum period.

Motherwort tea
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

What Are the Side Effects of Motherwort?

Although rare, it's possible to experience side effects when taking motherwort. These side effects may be mild or severe.

The best way to prevent side effects is by taking motherwort as directed.

Common Side Effects

For the most part, motherwort is thought to be safe. However, it may trigger certain side effects like:

Motherwort side effects tend to be mild and should disappear once you stop using the herb. Talk with your healthcare provider if side effects persist.

Severe Side Effects

From the little research we have on motherwort, we know that it is a mostly safe herb. Yet, it is possible to be allergic to motherwort, and an allergic reaction can be serious.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

Seek immediate medical attention if you have an allergic reaction to motherwort.

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 medications or other supplements.

Precautions

Motherwort may not be suitable for everyone.

People who are pregnant should avoid using motherwort. This is because the herb is believed to stimulate the uterus.

There is currently not enough information to know if motherwort is safe to use while nursing. If you are breastfeeding, talk with your healthcare provider before taking motherwort.

Anyone with a bleeding disorder should also take precautions before using motherwort, as the herb may cause bleeding.

It's also important to note that using motherwort in place of standard care for the treatment of any health condition may be harmful to your health. Please seek advice from your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.

Dosage: How Much Motherwort Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs. 

Currently, not enough research exists to make general dosage guidelines for motherwort.

Some research suggests that side effects may become more likely if you take more than 3 grams of motherwort daily. However, this information is not well-supported.

To play it safe, follow the dosage recommendations listed on the packaging of the motherwort supplement you choose. You can also talk with your healthcare provider about the right dosage for you.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Motherwort?

Motherwort is not considered toxic, but you may be more likely to experience side effects if you take a high dose.

According to some reports, side effects (like upset stomach and diarrhea) are more likely in doses larger than 3 grams of motherwort per day.

It should be noted, however, that more research is needed on any potential toxic effects of motherwort. There is not enough safety information on the herb.

Be sure only to use motherwort as directed to avoid any possible side effects or toxicity.

Interactions

Like many herbs, motherwort may interact with various medications, foods, and other supplements. Do not take motherwort with medications without discussing it with your healthcare provider.

Active ingredients in motherwort, including terpenes, are known to interact with Jantoven (warfarin), a popular blood thinner. People on warfarin and other blood thinners should consult with their healthcare provider as it may not be safe to use motherwort.

Motherwort may have sedative properties, which means people taking prescription sedatives or depressants should avoid using the herb. Taking two sedatives at once may cause excessive drowsiness.

Be sure to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel before purchasing a new supplement. This will ensure you know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included in the supplement. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications. 

How to Store Motherwort

To maintain proper shelf-life, it's important to store supplements properly.

Store motherwort in a cool, dry place and keep it out of direct sunlight. Typically, motherwort does not need to be refrigerated but be sure to follow storage directions as recommended on the product label.

Motherwort supplements should be discarded once they reach their expiration date.

Similar Supplements

Other herbs and supplements claim to work similarly to motherwort.

Similar supplements to motherwort include:

  • Garlic: Aside from flavoring food, garlic may also offer heart-protective benefits. One review found that garlic supplementation may reduce blood pressure and total cholesterol, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Chamomile: Typically used as a tea, chamomile may help reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A long-term study found chamomile to significantly reduce moderate-to-severe symptoms of GAD.
  • Red Clover: Red clover, a wild herb, may be able to help relieve some symptoms of menopause. One recent review concluded that supplementing with red clover may reduce the frequency of hot flashes in those going through menopause.
  • Iron: After having a baby, iron is often recommended to help with post-partum bleeding. Iron supplementation (and eating iron-rich foods) in the post-partum period may help prevent anemia caused by blood loss associated with childbirth.

Always talk with your healthcare provider before trying a new supplement. It's typically recommended to avoid taking more than one supplement or herb for the same reason.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does motherwort make you sleepy?

    Motherwort may have sedative effects that could cause sleepiness. In fact, motherwort is sometimes used in traditional medicine as a sedative drug.

    For this reason, people using other sedative medications should avoid using motherwort.

  • Is motherwort safe?

    In general, motherwort is thought to be safe. There have been few reports of adverse events or toxicity associated with using motherwort.

    However, side effects are possible when taking motherwort. Possible side effects include diarrhea, uterine bleeding, and upset stomach.

  • Does motherwort lower blood pressure?

    In small studies, motherwort has been found to help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.

    However, these results have not been repeated in any large-scale studies to date. More research is needed in this area.

Sources of Motherwort & What to Look For

It's important to know what to look for when choosing supplements. With that in mind, there are a few things to consider when it comes to motherwort.

Food Sources of Motherwort

Motherwort is not naturally found in foods.

As an herb, motherwort can be found as a loose-leaf tea that can be brewed with hot or cold water and consumed as a beverage. Otherwise, motherwort is mostly used as a supplement.

Motherwort Supplements

You can find motherwort in many forms, including capsules, tablets, extracts, tinctures, and teas. Motherwort is available on its own but is sometimes combined with other herbs and ingredients to make other supplements.

Many natural foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements sell these motherwort products. You can also purchase motherwort supplements online.

It's worth mentioning that motherwort is said to have an unpleasant smell and taste.

Motherwort is naturally vegan and gluten-free. Some capsules may use gelatin from cows or pigs. However, vegan capsules are available.

Also, remember that dietary supplements aren't tested for safety and are largely unregulated in the U.S. In some cases, ingredient lists and nutrition fact panels are not accurate. For this reason, try to look for supplements tested by third-party agencies like ConsumerLab, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), and NSF International. These agencies review supplements and ensure that product labels are factual.

Summary

Motherwort is an herb that grows worldwide and may offer various health benefits. However, most health claims surrounding motherwort are not well-supported by scientific evidence.

And although it is generally considered safe, side effects and drug interactions are possible when using motherwort. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if you're interested in taking this supplement.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Brittany Lubeck, RD
Brittany Lubeck, RD, is a nutrition writer and registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition. 

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process