Motherwort or Marijuanilla has a long history of use as a herb in traditional medicine in Central Europe, Asia and North America.
Like many other plants, it has been used for a variety of ills, and consumed. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection in women, hence the name Motherwort.
Motherwort is especially valuable in the treatment of weaknesses and disorders, allaying nervous irritability, inducing quiet and passivity of the whole nervous system. It is also seen as a remedy for heart palpitations, it has a strengthening effect, especially on a weak heart. The antispasmodic and sedative effects promote relaxation rather than drowsiness.
The leaves are antispasmodic, astringent, cardiac, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, sedative, stomachic, tonic and uterine stimulant. They are taken internally in the treatment of heart complaints (notably palpitations) and problems associated with menstruation, childbirth and menopause, especially of nervous origin. Although an infusion can be used, the taste is so bitter that the plant is usually made into a conserve or syrup. An alcoholic extract is said to possess superior action to valerian (Valeriana officinalis).
The plant has been found effective in the treatment of functional heart complaints due to autonomic imbalance, and also as an anti-thyroid treatment, though it needs to be taken for several months for these effects to be noticed. The whole herb is harvested in August when in flower and can be dried for later use.
The herb contains the alkaloid leonurine, which is a mild vasodilator and has a relaxing effect on smooth muscles. For this reason, it has long been used as a cardiac tonic, nervine, and an emmenagogue. Among other biochemical constituents, it also contains bitter iridoid glycosides, diterpinoids, flavonoids (including rutin and quercetin), tannins, volatile oils, and vitamin A.
It is highly recommended for combating stress and promoting relaxation during pregnancy, also claiming that, given during labor, it prevents hemorrhage. Michael Tierra, on the other hand, contraindicates it for internal use during pregnancy, claiming that it has the tendency to cause bleeding and may induce miscarriage.
It was historically used in China to prevent pregnancy and to regulate menstruation. Motherwort is also used to ease stomach gas and cramping, menopausal problems, and insomnia, although it may be habit forming if used regularly to combat sleeplessness.