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Leonurus sibiricus - Siberian Motherwort
- Labiatae - Siberia to East Asia, Central and South America

Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Leonurus
Species: L. sibiricus
Common Names: Siberian motherwort, honeyweed, mahjiki (Japanese), marihuanilla/marijuanillo (Spanish), ich-mau-thao (Vietnamese), i-mu-isa (Chinese)

Leonurus sibiricus, commonly known as Siberian motherwort or Marihuanilla, is an herbaceous plant native to Asia, including southern Siberia, China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It grows wild in the coastal regions of Brazil as well as Chiapas, the southern-most state of Mexico. It has become naturalized in various other parts of the world such as North America. Siberian motherwort appears in the ancient Chinese “Book of Songs,” or Shih Ching, circa 1000-500 BCE under the moniker t’uei, but it is unknown when the plant was first brought to the New World. Similarly, it is unknown when it was first smoked for its inebriating effects.

Siberian motherwort is propagated by seeds, which when lightly covered in soil and moistened well, germinate and grow quickly in full sunlight. The plant is intolerant to frost and should be brought indoors during the winter months. In areas without a winter season or overbearing frost, it can develop into a perennial bush. Despite its aversion to cold, it can thrive in less than ideal conditions but should be well watered and fertilized. It grows well both in full garden beds and planted in pots.

Siberian motherwort grows upright and has only a single stem; it usually grows to be 20cm to 80cm tall, though can reach a height of over 2 meters. It has long petioled (leafstalk) basal leaves, which grow from the stem in a maxilliform manner and are ovate-cordate in shape. The flowers are reddish violet in color, with an oblong upper lip, and can develop into long, beautiful inflorescences. The lower leaves are deciduous and wither when the plant begins to bloom. Blooming occurs in July and can continue into late September, though in climates without a winter season it can flower year round.

Both seeds and sprouts are freely available, though the dried plant material can be difficult to obtain, especially of any quality.  One of the online retailers who almost always has Siberian Motherwort (Marihuanilla) in stock is Shaman’s Garden. 

Alkaloids isolated in Siberian motherwort include cycloleonurinine, leoheterin, leonurine, leosibiricin, leosiberin, leuronurine, prehispanolone, preleoheterin, and stachydrine.

TRADITIONAL USE: Traditionally the flowers are used in devotional and offering rites of Hindus in Assam, called pujas, though no traditional or ritual psychoactive usage is documented. In Veracruz, Mexico, Marihuanilla is used in folk magic to make the “groom return” and in Chiapas, Mexico it is used as a marijuana substitute. In traditional Chinese medicine it is used as a remedy for female menstruation issues, helping circulation and preventing excessive clotting.

TRADITIONAL PREPARATION: Leaves from Marihuanilla are collected while the plant is in bloom, dried, and then smoked in either a pipe or with rolling papers. No toxic dosage is known and typically 1 to 2 grams of the dried leaf is enough for one rolled cigarette. It is often mixed with other herbal smoking blends. As a topical medication, it can be prepared steeped in alcohol. The roots and leaves can also be taken as a tea.

MEDICINAL USE: The seeds, fruits, and leaves of Marihuanilla all are considered to be of medicinal value in various cultures. In traditional Chinese medicine, the herb is used to treat loss of potency in men, postpartum bleeding or painful menstruation in women, and as a diuretic. In Chiapas, Mexico, native cultures drink the root steeped in tea to aid in menstruation and to calm other female reproductive system ailments. The leaves are alcohol soluble; when macerated in alcohol, the tincture can be applied externally to treat rheumatism or arthritis.

TRADITIONAL EFFECTS: The effects of Marihuanilla can be described as mildly narcotic, though not especially pronounced; thus it is sometimes mixed with other herbs and smoking blends to heighten its potency. Potentiators such as B. caapi leaves and Wild Dagga are popular for this purpose. 

In animal studies, narcotic and sedative effects have been observed. When discussing the psychoactive effects, it is interesting to note the alkaloids detected in the plant. The essential oil of Siberian motherwort contains the diterpenes leosibiricin, leosiberin, and the isomer isoleosibrine. These alkaloids provide effects similar to those of Salvinorin A, the main active psychotropic molecule in Salvia divinorum. Siberian motherwort is said to mix well with Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa and that its effects are cannabis-like, although since Cannabis is illegal in most parts of the world, these are only reports and we would never advocate such mixtures for any reason.


Argueta Villamar, Arturo, Leticia M. Cano Asseleih, and Maria Elena Rodarte, eds. 1994. Atlas de las plantas de la medicina tradicional mexicana. 3 vols. Mexico City: INI.

Keng, Hsuan. 1974. Economic plants of ancient north China as mentioned in Shih Ching (Book of Poetry). Economic Botany. 28:391-410.

Plants Profile for Leonurus Sibiricus.

Racs, G., and E. Racs-Kotilla. 1989. Sedative and antihypertensive activity of Leonurus quinquelobatus. Planta Medica. 55:97.

Savona, Giuseppe, Franco Piozzi, Maurizio Bruno, and Benjamin Rodriguez. 1982. Diterpenoids from Leonurus sibiricus. Phytochemistry 21 (11): 2699-701.

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