Leonurus japonicus Houtt.: ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology of an important traditional Chinese medicine

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Feb 27;152(1):14-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.052. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Leonurus japonicus Houtt. (Labiatae), commonly called Chinese motherwort ([Symbol: see text]), is an herbaceous flowering plant native to Asia. For thousands of years in China, the aerial part of Leonurus japonicus has been used to treat menoxenia, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, lochia, edema of the body, oliguresis, sores, ulcerations and other diseases in women. Now, Leonurus japonicus is listed in the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China. The present paper reviewed the ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, biological actions and toxicology of Leonurus japonicus.

Materials and methods: Information on Leonurus japonicus was gathered via the Internet (using Elsevier, ACS, Medline Plus, CNKI, VIP, Web of Science, Google Scholar and Baidu Scholar) and libraries.

Results: Approximately 140 chemical compounds have been isolated from Leonurus japonicus, and the major components have been determined to be alkaloids, diterpenes and flavones. Among these active compounds, the effects of leonurine and stachydrine have been widely investigated. The primary active components in Leonurus japonicus possess wide pharmacological actions, such as effects on the uterus as well as cardioprotective, anti-oxidative, neuroprotective and anti-cancer activities.

Conclusions: Modern pharmacological studies have demonstrated that Leonurus japonicus has marked bioactivities, especially on the uterus and as a cardioprotective agent. These activities are related to its traditional use and provide prospects for the development of novel drugs, therapeutics and health care products for women. However, the toxicity of Leonurus japonicus will require further study, and the nomenclature for Leonurus japonicus will require additional clarification.

Keywords: Cardioprotective activity; Effects on the uterus; Leonurine; Leonurus japonicus; Stachydrine; Women's diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leonurus / chemistry*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Plant Extracts