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Aristolochia - L.                
                 
Common Name Birthwort
Family Aristolochiaceae
Synonyms
Known Hazards The root and stem are poisonous[19]. 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].
Habitats Waste ground, gardens, orchards etc[9].
Range E. and S.E. Europe. Naturalized in Britain[17].
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Aristolochia is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.7 m (2ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. It is in leaf 11-May It is in flower from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.

USDA hardiness zone : 5-9


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

Aristolochia Birthwort


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cleaned-Illustration_Aristolochia_clematitis.jpg
Aristolochia Birthwort
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bogdan
   
Habitats       
Edible Uses                                         
None known
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.



Birthwort has a very long history of medicinal use, though it has been little researched scientifically and is little used by present-day herbalists[254, 268]. It is an aromatic tonic herb that stimulates the uterus, reduces inflammation, controls bacterial infections and promotes healing[238]. The juice from the stems was used to induce childbirth[268]. The plant contains aristolochic acid which, whilst stimulating white blood cell activity and speeding the healing of wounds, is also carcinogenic and damaging to the kidneys[254]. The flowering herb, with or without the root, is abortifacient, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, oxytocic and stimulant[7, 9, 21, 100, 200]. Another report says that the root is used on its own[238] whilst a third says that either the fresh flowering herb or the dried rootstock can be used[268]. The plant should not be used internally without experienced supervision, externally it is used in the treatment of slow-healing cuts, eczema, infected toe and finger nails etc[9]. Use with caution, internal consumption can cause damage to the kidneys and uterine bleeding[7, 9, 21]. It should not be used by pregnant women[238].
Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a well-drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter, in sun or semi-shade[1, 134]. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[134]. The plant has an invasive root system[233]. Most species in this genus have malodorous flowers, often smelling like decaying flesh[245], that are pollinated by flies[200]. The insects that pollinate this plant become trapped in the hairy throat of the flower[233]. Birthwort was formerly cultivated as a medicinal plant in most of Europe[50].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
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 20°c[134]. Stored seed germinates better if it is given 3 months cold stratification at 5°c[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].
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
50200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[50]? Flora Europaea
An immense work in 6 volumes (including the index). The standard reference flora for europe, it is very terse though and with very little extra information. Not for the casual reader.
[100]Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide.
An excellent and well illustrated pocket guide for those with very large pockets. Also gives some details on plant uses.
[134]Rice. G. (Editor) Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[233]Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[245]Genders. R. Scented Flora of the World.
An excellent, comprehensive book on scented plants giving a few other plant uses and brief cultivation details. There are no illustrations.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
[268]Stuart. M. (Editor) The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism
Excellent herbal with good concise information on over 400 herbs.

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Subject : Aristolochia  
             

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