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Aristolochia contorta - Bunge.

Ma Dou Ling

AuthorBunge. Botanical references58, 74, 266
FamilyAristolochiaceae GenusAristolochia
SynonymsAristolochia nipponica - Makino.
Known Hazardswarning signWe have no specific details for this species but most members of this genus have poisonous roots and stems[179]. The plant contains aristolochic acid, this has received rather mixed reports on its toxicity. According to one report aristolochic acid stimulates white blood cell activity and speeds the healing of wounds, but is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys[254]. Another report says that it is an active antitumour agent but is too toxic for clinical use[218]. Another report says that aristolochic acid has anti-cancer properties and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy and that it also increases the cellular immunity and phagocytosis function of the phagocytic cells[176].
RangeE. Asia - China, Japan, Korea, Manchuria.
HabitatOsier beds[74]. Thickets on mountain slopes or in valleys at elvations of 500 - 1200 metres in China[266]. Edges of mountain woods in Korea[279].
Edibility Ratingapple icon 1 (1-5) Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man icon of perennial/biennial/annual Perennial growing to 1.5m.
It is hardy to zone 0. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.


Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves.

Leaves - cooked. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiasthmatic; Antiseptic; Antitussive; Cancer; Expectorant; Sedative.

The fruit and its capsule are antiasthmatic, antiseptic, antitussive and expectorant. A decoction of the fruit is used in the treatment of cancer, coughs, inflammation of the respiratory organs, haemorrhoids and hypertension[176, 218, 279]. It is also used to resolve phlegm and lower blood pressure[176]. It has an antibacterial action, effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Pneumococci, bacillus dysentericae etc[176]. The root contains aristolochic acid. This has anti-cancer properties and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy[176]. Aristolochic acid can also be used in the treatment of acute and serious infections such as TB, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and infantile pneumonia[176]. It also increases the cellular immunity and phagocytosis function of the phagocytic cells[176]. Aristolochic acid is said to be too toxic for clinical use[218]. The root is used as a purgative in the treatment of rabies and also has sedative properties[218].

Other Uses

None known

Cultivation details

We have very little information on this species and do not know if it will be hardy in Britain, though judging by its native range it should succeed outdoors in many parts of this country. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Prefers a well-drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter, in sun or semi-shade[134, 200]. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[134]. Most species in this genus have malodorous flowers that are pollinated by flies[200].


Seed - best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Pre-soak stored seed for 48 hours in hand-hot water and surface sow in a greenhouse[134]. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 3 months at 20c[134]. Stored seed germinates better if it is given 3 months cold stratification at 5c[200]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Division in autumn[200]. Root cuttings in winter[200].



[58] Ohwi. G. Flora of Japan. (English translation) Smithsonian Institution 1965
The standard work. Brilliant, but not for the casual reader.

[74] Komarov. V. L. Flora of the USSR. Israel Program for Scientific Translation 1968
An immense (25 or more large volumes) and not yet completed translation of the Russian flora. Full of information on plant uses and habitats but heavy going for casual readers.

[134] Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2. Thompson and Morgan. 1988
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.

[176] Yeung. Him-Che. Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas. Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles 1985
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.

[179] Reid. B. E. Famine Foods of the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao. Taipei. Southern Materials Centre 1977
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.

[200] Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

[218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

[254] Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London 1996 ISBN 9-780751-303148
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

[266] Flora of China 1994
On-line version of the Flora - an excellent resource giving basic info on habitat and some uses.

[279] Medicinal Plants in the Republic of Korea World Health Organisation, Manila 1998 ISBN 92 9061 120 0
An excellent book with terse details about the medicinal uses of the plants with references to scientific trials. All plants are described, illustrated and brief details of habitats given.



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