Yi Mu Cao
Botanical name: Leonurus artemisia
Common name: Motherwort (Chinese)
Literal name translation: benefit mother herb
Family: Lamiaceae, mint family
Part used in Chinese medicine: leaves and stems
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Invigorates blood, regulates menstruation, promotes urination,
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Leonurus artemisia; 08/2007; author Tauolunga; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Leonurus artemisia; 06/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 3: Leonurus artemisia; 06/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Leonurus artemisia, or Chinese motherwort, is an annual or biennial growing throughout China in most every province and in a wide variety of environments. It has been found in low grasslands, and as high as 10,000 feet elevation. The botanical name Leonurus artemisia is a synonym for Leonurus heterophylla, so either name may be used. Both Chinese motherwort and the common European motherwort (Leonuras cardiaca) have been used for many centuries for similar medicinal purposes, particularly for gynecology and circulatory problems. The genus name, Leonurus, comes from the Latin words “leon” (lion) and “oura” (tail), referring to a comparison of the tall flower stalks to a lion’s tail.
Growing and Propagation
The plant grows to 2-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. It is easy to grow in average to poor garden soil, with minimal water, and prefers full sun but will do fine in part shade. It thrives best in rich, warm, moist loamy soil. Many white to pinkish-purple flowers bloom in July through September on single flower stalks, though in very warm climates it will flower in April through May and complete its life cycle before the peak of hot weather occurs. Seeds generally ripen from August to September.
For propagation, seed is harvested from plants in mid-autumn after seed has ripened. Plants are easy to grow and will sometimes self-sow if left to go to seed in the garden. Plant seeds about 1/2 inch deep directly in the ground in early spring and they will germinate in about 10-15 days.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, the timing of harvest is important in order to obtain optimal concentration of the active chemical constituents. The whole plant should be harvested in late summer or early fall, when it is in full bloom, but before seeds have begun to form. The whole plant is dug up, roots are cut off, and the stems with leaves intact are dried in the sun. It can then be cut into sections for storage.
For medicinal use, the young tender plants with many leaves are best. Older plants have thick stems and fewer leaves and are not considered good quality for herbal medicine. The seeds (Chong Wei Zi) are also used in Chinese medicine.