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Leonurus sibiricus L. (Labiatae alt. Lamiaceae)


Leonurus japonicus Houtt. [1]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Kacang Ma [2]
English: Siberian Motherwort, Motherwort, Honeyweed [3], Herba Leonuri [4]
China: Xi Ye Yi Mu Cao [1]
Brazil: Erva-macae [5]
Maori (Cook Islands): Vavai Tara [6]

General Information


Leonurus sibiricus is native to temperate Asia, but is found in many parts of the world.  It grows in grassy areas in the lowlands.

L. sibiricus is an annual or short-lived perennial herb. The stems consist of 4-angled and furrowed, measure 5-15dm long, puberulent to glabrate. The leaves  are variable, lower ones broadly ovate to deltate in outline, measure 5-11cm long and  4-6.5cm wide, deeply palmately lobed, upper leaves gradually reduced in size and with fewer and smaller lobes, those of the inflorescence linear, unlobed, both surfaces puberulent and measure petioles 2-4cm in long. The flowers are sessile, in dense verticillasters, bracteoles linear, up to ca. 7mm long, spinose; calyx turbinate, measure 4-5mm long, enlarging to measure 6-7mm long in fruit, glabrous to sparsely puberulent, the teeth subulate; corolla white, pink or reddish, measure 10-15mm long, puberulent, upper lobe obovate, pubescent on outer side. The nutlets are brown, ellipsoid, ca. 2mm long. [6]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant. [2][7][8]

Chemical Constituents

The furanoditerpenelactones and diterpene-lactones, leonotinin, leonotin, dubiin and nepetaefuran  from were isolated from the aerial parts of L. sibiricus. [5]  The plant also contains guanidine derivatives and alkaloids, the labdane diterpenes, sibiricinones A-E, 15-epi-sibiricinones D and E, flavone genkwanin, 15-epimeric mixtures of diterpenes, leopersins B and C, (+)-pinoresinol O-b-D-glucopyranoside, 8-acetylharpagid, apigenin 7-O-b-D-glucopyranoside, apigenin 7-neohesperidoside and quercetin 3-neohesperidoside. [7-10]

Traditional Use:

The roots and leaves are used as a febrifuge. [7] The seeds are used in Chinese medicine as a constructive and aphrodisiac, the dried plant is used as a tonic and as a general remedy for puerperal and menstrual disorders to relieve menstrual pain and excessive bleeding.  It is a traditional emmenagogue (an agent that promotes menstrual discharge) and an antipyretic in China. [11] The leaves are used in the treatment of chronic rheumatism while the juice of the leaves is antibacterial and is extensively used in the treatment of psoriasis, scabies and chronic skin eruptions.  L. sibiricus is a respiratory stimulant with curare like effect on motor endings. [7][9]  It is used as folk medicine for the treatment of cough and bronchitis. [5][9]  The stems and leaves are added to chicken soup for consumption by mothers during confinement . [2]

L. sibiricus is used in the West Indies as a cough syrup and an antipyretic for the treatment of malaria. The juice of the fresh plant is used to treat hemoptysis, edema, gout, and arthritis. [8] It is popularly used in Brazil for cold, diarrhea and digestive complaints. [12]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antibacterial activity 

The CCl4 and chloroform extracts of the aerial parts of L. sibiricus (500μg/disc) showed a broad spectrum antibacterial activity in the disc diffusion method assay against Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae, Shigella dysenteriae, Shigella. boydii. [7]

The ethanol extract of L. sibiricus was active against E. coli, Micrococcus luteus and Bacillus subtilis although other studies found the plant to be inactive against Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Candida albicans, S. epidermidis and B. subtilis. [13]

L. japonicus seed extract strongly inhibited the growth of fungal and bacterial pathogens. The protein that was purified from the seed extract has a small molecular mass of 7.8kDa, an isoelectric point of 8.2 and was heat stable.  The seed protein produced more pronounced hyphal growth inhibition against hyphomycete fungi, such as Alternaria alternata, Cercospora personata, and Aspergillus niger.  Overexpression of this seed protein in transgenic tobacco significantly enhanced resistance of the tobacco to fungal and bacterial pathogens without any visible alteration in plant growth and development. [11]

Anticancer activity

The furanoditerpenelactones and the diterpene-lactones, leonotinin, leonotin, dubiin and nepetaefuran exhibited moderate cytotoxic activity (IC50 of 50-60µg/mL) against leukemia cells (L 1210) in tissue culture. [5]

The effects of adsorbed and unabsorbed fractions of L. sibiricus separated by ion-exchange resins were studied in lesions of the mammary gland and uterus of GR/A mice. [14] Both the adsorbed and unadsorbed fractions of L. sibiricus suppressed the incidence of palpable mammary tumours and retarded their growth.  There was no difference in effect between the two fractions.  Both fractions did not affect pregnancy-dependent mammary tumours, mammary hyperplastic alveolar nodules or uterine adenomyosis. [14] In contrast, the development of pregnancy-dependent mammary tumours (PDMT) and mammary cancers that originated from PDMT in mice was enhanced by chronic ingestion of a methanol extract of the above-ground parts of L. sibiricus (0.5% in drinking water). [15] However, the development of mammary cancer that originated from hyperplastic alveolar nodules was markedly suppressed as was the incidence of uterine adenomyosis.  L. sibiricus stimulated the urinary excretion of allantoin, creatine and creatinine and also the glucose tolerance. [15] These findings suggest that the full manifestation of the medicinal effects of L. sibiricus is dependent on synergistic interactions between the different components. [14]

Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity

The methanolic extract of L. sibiricus aerial parts showed significant analgesic effect in acetic acid-induced writhing in mice and anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenin induced rat paw edema in rats. The extract (250 and 500mg/kg, i.p.) inhibited writhing by 44.15% and 69.68%, respectively, which was comparable to that produced by the positive control, diclofenac sodium (25mg/kg, i.p.) which produced an inhibition of 74.67%.  The extract (200 and 400mg/kg, p.o.) also produced a significant dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenin induced rat paw edema in rats, an effect that was comparable to that of phenylbutazone(100mg/kg, p.o.), a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent that was the positive control. [16]

Antioxidant activity

The hot-water extract of L. sibiricus showed considerable anti-oxidant and antimutagenic properties without any cytotoxic effects when examined in an Escherichia coli system. L. sibiricus hot water extract (5mg/mL) was highly active at scavenging superoxide anion radicals (85.4%) and inhibited xanthine oxidase (89% inhibition) but showed a lower hydroxyl radical scavenging activity (56.9%).  The extract of L. sibiricus also inhibited lipid peroxidation in an ex vivo antioxidant assay system using rabbit erythrocyte membrane ghost. [4]

Antiviral activity

L. sibiricus extract showed potent anti-influenza virus activity. [9] The MeOH extract of the aerial parts of L. sibiricus (100mg/mL) did not produce significant inhibitory effects on HIV-1 protease activity, an important target in the design of antiviral agents for AIDS. [17]

Uterine activity

A decoction of L. sibiricus produced a stimulatory action on the mouse uterus in vitro which was related to stimulation of uterine H1- and a-adrenergic receptors. [18]


The CH2Cl2-MeOH extract from the aerial parts of L. sibiricus elicited an LC50 of 12ppm in the brine shrimp (Artemia salina Leach) lethality assay. [12]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Use in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation


  2. Tawan CS, Sim SL, Ho WS , Lau CY. Studies on medicinal and large scale agriculture potential of other crops and plants: Leonurus Sibiricus L. (Kacang Ma) - A potential medicinal herb in Sarawak. Research Update, 2(1): 2005.
  3. USDA Plants Database.
  4. Nam SH and Kang MY.  Antioxidant Activity of 13 Medicinal Plants.  Pharmaceutical Biology, 42(6): 409-415, 2004. 
  5. Satoh M, Satoh Y, Isobe K, Fujimoto Y.  Studies on the Constituents of Leonurus sibiricus L.  Chem. Pharm. Bull., 51(3) 341-342, 2003. 
  6. PIER Species Info. 
  7. Ahmed F, Islam MA, Rahman MM.  Antibacterial activity of Leonurus sibiricus aerial parts.  Fitoterapia, 77: 316–317, 2006.
  8. Boalino DM, McLean S, Reynolds WF, Tinto WF.  Labdane Diterpenes of Leonurus sibiricus. J. Nat. Prod., 67: 714-717, 2004.
  9. Fumito K, Ken'ichiro H, Masashi Y, Daisuke T,  Etsuko A, Yuto K, Hiroshi N.  Diterpenoids from Leonurus sibiricus L.  Koryo, Terupen oyobi Seiyu Kagaku ni kansuru Toronkai Koen Yoshishu, 49: 299-301, 2005.
  10. Hayashi K, Ikoma R, Deyama T.  Phenolic Compounds and Iridoids from Leonurus sibiricus.  Nat Med., 55(5): 276, 2001.
  11. Yang X, Xiao Y, Wang X, Pei Y.  Expression of a novel small antimicrobial protein from the seeds of motherwort (Leonurus japonicus) confers disease resistance in tobacco.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 73(3): 939-946, 2007.
  12. De Almeida Alves TM, Silva AF, Brandão M, Grandi TSM, Smânia EFA, Smânia Júnior A, Zani CL.  Biological Screening of Brazilian Medicinal Plants.  Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, 95(3): 367-373, 2000.
  13. De Souza GC, Haas APS, von Poser GL, Schapoval EES, Elisabetsky E.  Ethnopharmacological studies of antimicrobial remedies in the south of Brazil.  Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 90(1): 135-143, 2004.
  14. Nagasawa H, Inatomi H, Suzuki M, Mori T.  Further study on the effects of motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus L) on preneoplastic and neoplastic mammary gland growth in multiparous GR/A mice. Anticancer Res., 12(1):141-143, 1992.
  15. Nagasawa H, Onoyama T, Suzuki M, Hibino A, Segawa T, Inatomi H.  Effects of motherwort (Leonurus sibiricus L) on preneoplastic and  neoplastic mammary gland growth in multiparous GR/A mice. Anticancer Res., 10(4):1019-1023, 1990.
  16. Islam MA, Ahmed F, Das AK, Bachar SC.  Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of Leonurus sibiricus.  Fitoterapia, 76: 359-362, 2005.
  17. Min BS, Bae KH, Kim YH, Miyashiro H, Hattori M, Shimotohno K.  Screening of Korean Plants Against Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Protease.  Phytother. Res., 13: 680-682, 1999.
  18. Shi M, Chang L, He G.  [Stimulating action of Carthamus tinctorius L., Angelica sinensis  (Oliv.) Diels and Leonurus sibiricus L. on the uterus]  Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih, 20(3):173-175, 1995.

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