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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BIRTHWORT
Aristolochiaceae
aka Aristolochia Root, Dutchman's Pipe, Upright Birthwort
(Aristolochia clematitis)
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Images

TOXIC! PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY
Used in Chinese medicine, but subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
ARISTOLOCHIA PRODUCTS BANNED IN THE UNITED STATES - linked to kidney failure.
Used only in small quantity and for a very short term.
Never given to pregnant women!

ALSO SEE Practitioners Alert.

CONTAINS: Aristolochic acid is poisonous and causes serious problems in the digestive tract, inflammation of the kidneys, and miscarriage.

Creeping plant found growing around fences, thickets, field edges, old ruins, rubbles, and vineyards from a long, thin rootstock to 1 to 2 feet tall with an erect stem and kidney (or heart) shaped dark green leaves. Petioles are shorter than the blades. Flowers appear in axillary clusters with a notable curved, tubular calyx. The tube of the calyx is yellow-green, straight and enlarged around the ovary. Fruit said to resemble a human lung.
The Aristolochia genus provides butterfly foodplants.
The name is derived from the Greek 'aristos' (noblest) and 'locheia' (childbirth).



PROPAGATION: By seed in spring; semiripe cuttings in summer; division in early spring or autumn; layering in autumn.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in well-draining soil in sun to part shade. Thin previous year's growth, or cut back to 2 or 3 nodes in late winter. Susceptible to white fly and spider mite when wintered under cover.
PART USED: Roots. Whole plant only when in flower.
HARVEST: Roots in autumn; fruits when ripe. Dried for liquid extracts, decoctions, powders, and tinctures.
FLOWERS: May and June
RELATED SPECIES:
Aristolochia indica: Used in Ayurvedic medicine as an abortifacient.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Acrid, aromatic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, healing, oxytocic (accelerates childbirth), tonic, uterine stimulant.
Has a long history of use in childbirth in promoting uterine contractions during labor. Has also been used for menstrual problems.
Decoction has been used externally for skin infection, skin diseases, wounds, leg ulcers, snakebite and venomous insect bite.

PREPARATIONS: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
PROFESSIONALS ONLY!!
DECOCTION = Boil 2 tbsp fresh plant or rootstock with 1 cup water for 10 minutes, then strain; dose according to professional medical instructions.
COLD EXTRACT = Combine 2 tsp plant or rootstock with 1 cup cold water and let stand 6 to 8 hours; dose according to professional medical instructions.

VETERINARY:
Used in farm animals to strengthen contractions during labor; dose is 2 tsp of dried powdered herb, or 2 Tbsp brewed herb.




FRAIL BIRTHWORT
Aristolochiaceae
(Aristolochia debilis)
imageImage

TOXIC! PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY
Used in Chinese medicine, but subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
ARISTOLOCHIA PRODUCTS BANNED IN THE UNITED STATES - linked to kidney failure.
Used only in small quantity and for a very short term.
Never given to pregnant women!

ALSO SEE Practitioners Alert.

CONTAINS: Aristolochic acid which is poisonous and causes serious problems in the digestive tract, inflammation of the kidneys, and miscarriage. The acid has proven to be an effective anti-tumor agent in animals, but is TOO TOXIC for human use.
The fruit contains a poisonous alkaloid which at high doses brings on cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Perennial of east and central China in lowland meadows, hardy to 30 degrees F, growing to 3 feet with branching, purple stems. Leaves are narrow, ovate-triangular, 1½ to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. Flowers are yellow-green, solitary in axils, followed by globular capsules.
First mentioned in the Chinese text ca. 600AD.



PART USED: Roots [qing mu xiang]. Fruits [ma dou ling].
FLOWERS: June to August
RELATED SPECIES:
CHINESE ARISTOLOCHIA (A. manshuriensis [quan mu tong]: The woody, inner bark of the stem is dried in the sun and has been used to treat diabetes, dropsy, fever, increase urine flow, induce menstruation, as a circulatory stimulant, and to stimulate lactation after labor. Both stems and shoots used in Korea as a diuretic and febrifuge. Contains aristolochic acid (active in CA and SA tumor systems), hederagenin, and oleanolic acid.
HAIRY BIRTHWORT A. mollissima [xun gu fent]: The flower has been used as a diuretic. Whole plant has been used for cancer and as an anodyne in cases of rheumatism. Has also been used to reduce swelling and for intestinal gas. Too TOXIC to use against tumors.
Aristolochia contorta [ma dou ling] image: Native to northern China. The root was originally brought to Indochina from China to use as a purgative against rabies. Antitussive, expectorant, sedative. Has been used like A. debilis. A decoction has been used for cancer. Was mixed with Chelidonium to treat dysentary.
Aristolochia heterophylla [fang ji]: Root has been used for dropsy, gonorrhea, and urinary problems.
Aristolochia moupinensis [huai tong]: Contains aristolochic acid, beta-sitosterol (anti-tumor compounds), and magnoflorine.
Aristolochia westlandii: Roots have been used to treat aches, beri-beri, itching, numbness, rashes, and swollen feet.

MEDICINAL:
Roots are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, lower blood pressure, supress coughs, relax bronchial spasms. Fruit is expectorant.
Has been used to remove obstructions after birth and to treat difficult births.
Roots have been used for arthritis, diarrhea, dysentary, dyspepsia, pus-filled wounds, high blood pressure, snake bites, venomous insect bites and gastric bloating.
Fruit has been used for asthma, wet coughs, bronchitis, high blood pressure, hemorrhoids, itching, excess fluid in the abdominal cavity, opium addiction,, and in Chinese medicine as an antidote to snake poisoning.
Stem has been used to stimulate blood circulation, relieve pain and induce urine flow.
Roots, stems and fruits have been used for abdominal pain, coughing, nausea, snake bite, sore throat and wheezing.
Whole plant has been used for coughs, indigestion, and as a stimulant and tonic.





©2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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