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Birthwort

  • Aristolochia clematitis L.
  • Aristolochiaceae
  • Birthwort family



Common Names

herbsAristolochia root
herbsMa-tou-ling
herbsUpright birthwort


Parts Usually Used

Rootstock, flowers


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Birthwort is a perennial plant; the erect, yellow-green, somewhat sinuous stem grows 1-3 feet tall from a long, thin rootstock. The dark green leaves are kidney-shaped and short-petioled. The flowers occur in axillary clusters and feature a yellowish-green, curved, tubular calyx. Flowering time is May to June.

Other varieties: Virginia snakeroot (A. serpentaria), Dutchman's-pipe (A. tomentosa).


Where Found

Found growing in fence rows, tickets, field edges, and vineyards.


Medicinal Properties

Diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, oxytocic, stimulant


Uses

The ancient Egyptians used birthwort for snakebite. Used for uterine contractions in childbirth, indigestion, dysmenorrhea, menstrual problems. The decoction used externally for wounds, sores, and leg ulcers.


Formulas or Dosages

Use the entire plant when it is in flower, otherwise use only the rootstock.

Decoction: use 2 tbsp. fresh plant or rootstock with 1 cup water. Boil for 10 minutes, then strain. Dosage as directed by a doctor.

Cold extract: Use 1 tsp. plant or rootstock with 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 6 to 8 hours. Dosage is directed by a doctor.


Warning

Birthwort contains a substance that acts similar to poisonous alkaloid colchicine. Use with care, preferably with medical supervision. Do not take during pregnancy, only during labor at childbirth. Use only under medical supervision.

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