Home China Chinese Herbal Medicine: The Legend of Yimu Cao (Motherwort)

Chinese Herbal Medicine: The Legend of Yimu Cao (Motherwort)

In Chinese herbal medicine, Yimu Cao, also called motherwort, is so named because this herb can benefit mothers in many ways. Yimu Cao is a flowering plant of the mint family. The plant grows about 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) in height. It can be found along roadsides or in wild areas.

There is a story from long ago that a mother had been sick since her son was born, with abdominal pain and irregular menstruation due to blood coagulation after childbirth. Her 10-year-old son saw his mother had been suffering for so long, and tried to persuade his mother to see a doctor. The mother always told him they couldn’t afford it.

Motherwort, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Yimu Cao
Yimu Cao grows about 1-3 feet (30-90 cm) in height. It can be found along roadsides or in wild areas. (Image: John Powers via flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

The boy decided to see a herbalist on his own. He bought a herb from the herbalist and decocted it. After taking it, his mother felt a little better. The boy then went back to the herbalist and asked if he could get some more herbs.

However, this time the herbalist asked for 500 pounds (225 kg) of rice. The boy was so sad because there was no way that he could come up with so much rice. Suddenly, he had an idea. He asked the herbalist if he could pay the rice after his mother had been cured. The herbalist agreed to the proposal.

At midnight, the boy secretly followed the herbalist as he climbed a mountain to dig up the herb. After the herbalist left, the boy dug up some herbs and brought them home. The next day, the boy went to see the herbalist to apologize that he was unable to come up with the 500 pounds of rice, so he would not be able to buy the herb.

The mother was cured by the herb her son had picked for her. And the herb has been called Yimu Cao (meaning good for mother) in Chinese herbal medicine ever since.

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