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.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Refer to label instructions
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.
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
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
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
How It Works
Yi Mu Cao
How It Works
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.
How to Use It
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.
Yi Mu Cao
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Yi Mu Cao
One source suggests that a single application of motherwort extract (concentration not reported) in excess of 3 grams may cause diarrhea, uterine bleeding, and stomach irritation.13 It should be avoided in pregnancy as large amounts may cause uterine contraction and potential miscarriage.14
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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