On April 16, 2018, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) announced the publication of monograph standards and a therapeutic compendium for motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca and L. quinquelobatus, Lamiaceae) aerial parts. Motherwort aerial parts have been used in Asian healing traditions for approximately 2,500 years, with documented uses in the Western tradition dating back to the 15th century. The plant’s common name refers to its widespread use as a childbirth aid and menopause aid, and for gynecological and reproductive issues. Clinical trials of motherwort also have investigated its potential therapeutic use in patients with hypertension, cardiac palpitations, and anxiety. The aerial parts of motherwort, a member of the mint family, can be prepared as a tisane, tincture, dry extract, or fluid extract, though they are most commonly sold as tisanes or tinctures.
The AHP monograph establishes authenticity, purity, and quality standards for raw materials and preparations. The therapeutic compendium provides a comprehensive review of pharmacological and safety data, including information on pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, actions, medical indications, modern and traditional uses, structure and function claims, dosages, interactions, side effects, contraindications, toxicology, and more.
The publication is the result of a collaboration among AHP and researchers from the University Medical Center Göttingen in Germany; the Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Department of Pharmacognosy in Poland; the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Department of Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, and Phytotherapy in Bucharest, Romania; the University of Vienna in Austria; and the University of Reading in England. The publication’s 12 authors and 19 reviewers are international experts from China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Austria, and the United States.
The macroscopic identification section of the monograph contains detailed, close-up, labeled photographs of fresh and dried motherwort aerial parts to aid field workers and others who handle raw materials. For comparison purposes, this section also includes photographs of Asian motherwort (L. japonicus), which is not accepted as an official motherwort species in Europe, the United States, or Russia. However, L. japonicus is listed in the official pharmacopeias of China, Germany, Japan, and Korea, which has resulted in some confusion in the international market. While these plants have very similar traditional uses, the monograph provides information about the methods to determine their morphological, chemical, and pharmacological differences.
The nomenclature and taxonomy discussion also notes that L. quinquelobatus was once considered a subspecies of L. cardiaca but is currently treated as its own separate species; this, however, is a recent taxonomic change that is not reflected in the American Herbal Products Association’s Herbs of Commerce, 2nd edition. AHP President Roy Upton, the lead author of the monograph, takes great care to point out these taxonomic intricacies, and notes that L. quinquelobatus should not be considered an adulterant if it appears in a motherwort product.
In AHP’s press release that announced the monograph and therapeutic compendium’s publication, Upton was quoted as saying: “Motherwort is an underutilized botanical. Thanks to many international collaborators, this monograph represents the most complete body of information on motherwort to date.”1
Motherwort is used mostly by traditional herbalists, particularly those with female clients. It has yet to appear, for example, in market data compiled by Chicago-based marketing firms SPINS and IRI as reported by the American Botanical Council (ABC) in its annual Herb Market Report. The report provides lists of the 40 top-selling botanicals in both the natural and mainstream market segments. However, with recent clinical studies investigating motherwort’s potential antihypertensive and anxiolytic actions, the botanical could be poised for an increase in popularity among consumers.
AHP’s monograph and therapeutic compendium provide information that can be used by a variety of individuals in the herbal community, from consumers and practitioners to quality control personnel and dietary supplement manufacturers.
ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, praised AHP’s extensive work on the monograph and therapeutic compendium and congratulated the organization for giving attention to a relatively unknown herb. “This is another extraordinary AHP monograph on an important medicinal herb that has not been considered by other standard-setting organizations,” Gafner wrote (email, May 8, 2018). “The document covers the important aspects of the herb in detail, and it even has a separate section on the history of the plant at the end. I found the images and text for the macroscopic identification simply outstanding and believe that this part will be highly beneficial since the botanical material is still predominantly wild-crafted. Overall, this monograph will appeal to a broad audience, not only those who manufacture motherwort dietary supplements, but also those who use it in their medical practice.”
The monograph is available for purchase through the AHP website.2
- AHP Releases Monograph Standards, Motherwort Aerial Parts (Leonurus cardiaca; Leonurus quinquelobatus) Monograph and Therapeutic Compendium. [press release] Scotts Valley, CA: American Herbal Products Association. April 16, 2018. Available at: http://herbal-ahp.org/documents/press_releases/Motherwort%20PR%202018.pdf. Accessed April 30, 2018.
- Secure online ordering. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia website. Available at: http://herbal-ahp.org/order_online.htm. Accessed May 9, 2018.