Botanical and Common Names
- Family Aristolochiaceae
- Aristolochia clematitis (Birthwort)
- Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia Snakeroot, Virginia Snakeroot, Snakeweed)
- Aristolochia reticulata (Snakeroot)
- Aristolochia klugii (Amazonian Snakeroot/Birthwort)
- Aristolochia bracteata (Sudanese Snakeroot/Birthwort)
- Aristolochia rotunda (European Snakeroot/Birthwort)
- Aristolochia kaempferi and A. fangchi (Chinese Snakeroot/Birthwort)
- Aristolochia indica (Indian Birthwort)
- Aristolochia mexicana, A. watsonii, A. wrightii (Indian Root, Birthroot, Snakeroot, Dutchman’s Pipe, Spanish: Yerba del Indio, Raiz del India, Inmortal, Comino, Guaco, Yerba del Pasmo, Tlacopatli (Nahuatl)
- Aristolochia grandiflora (Duck Flower, Alcatraz, Spanish: Hierba del Indio, Contribo)
- This genus of plant is rarely used anymore because it is so dangerous. Therefore, it should be used only under strict knowledgeable supervision.
- It is contraindicated in pregnancy.
- Since it is highly toxic, it can lead to the development of tumors if low doses are taken over an extended period of time.
Indigenous to Mediterranean regions, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus, this perennial is also found in numerous other regions. The plant grows to about three feet and has an unpleasant smell. The flowers are a dirty yellow and briefly trap the insects that pollinate them.
The Duck Flower grows in the southern part of Mexico to Panama. It is a hairy vine that grows along streams and in other wet areas. The leaves are long-stemmed and appear heart-shaped. Before opening, the vine resembles the shape of a duck with the stalk appearing like a bill and a slender tail dangling at the other end.
Aristolochia means “excellent birth” and refers to the traditional use of the fresh juice to induce labour. Indian Root was used mainly in childbirth. In England, it was known as birthwort and used for this purpose.
Theophrastus (c. 372-286 BCE) records that the plant was used to treat disorders of the uterus, reptile bites, and sores to the head.
Of the 350 or so species of Aristolochia, several carry the common name of snakeroot because many of the species were used by Native Americans to treat snake bites. They also employed the plants to treat stomachaches, toothaches, and fevers.
In the 16th century when Francisco Hernández was cataloging the flora of “New Spain”, he came across a plant that looked like the same as the herb he knew back in Europe. The Mexican species, however, can have enormous flowers. He reported that the Aztecs used it to treat abscesses, dysentery, deafness, and various other ailments.
- induces menstration
- wound healer
- aristolochic acids
- volatile oil
- Root, aerial parts.
- Aristolochic acid not only stimulates white blood cell activity, it is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys. However, it is an effective wound healer, according to Chinese research.