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Aristolochia clematitis - L.
Common Name Birthwort
Family Aristolochiaceae
USDA hardiness 5-9
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  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Aristolochia clematitis Birthwort

Aristolochia clematitis Birthwort
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Aristolochia clematitis 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.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.


 Cultivated Beds;
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.

Abortifacient;  Antiinflammatory;  Antispasmodic;  Diaphoretic;  Emmenagogue;  Febrifuge;  Oxytoxic;  Stimulant.

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].
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].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
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Aristolochia contortaMa Dou Ling13
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Aristolochia kaempferi 02
Aristolochia macrophyllaPipevine, Dutchman's Pipe01
Aristolochia molissima 02
Aristolochia reticulataTexas Dutchman's Pipe02
Aristolochia rotundaSnakeroot02
Aristolochia serpentariaVirginia Snakeroot03
Aristolochia tomentosaDutchman's Pipe, Woolly dutchman's pipe02
Asarum arifolium 01
Asarum blumei 01
Asarum canadenseSnake Root, Canadian wildginger, Canada Wild Ginger, Wild Ginger33
Asarum caudatumWild Ginger, British Columbia wildginger32
Asarum dilatatum 20
Asarum europaeumAsarabacca, European Wild Ginger02
Asarum forbesiiDu Heng01
Asarum heterotropoides 02
Asarum maximum 01
Asarum nipponicum 10
Asarum reflexum 20
Asarum shuttleworthiiAsarabacca, Mottled Wild Ginger20
Asarum sieboldiiWild Ginger02
Asarum takaoi 10


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Readers comment
Judy Showers   Mon Jul 17 2006
Mine is blooming for the first time this year. I hope I get seeds from it, so I can swap & share.
Rodica   Wed Jul 19 2006
Hello Judy, Do you actually grow it in your garden? I've been looking for it for a while now and I would like if you can send me a few seeds when you will able to. Can you please write to me at rodicav@yahoo.com? Thanks a lot
Vlasta   Wed Nov 14 2007
Be careful: A US-Croatian team confirmed that poisoned bread causes a kidney disease endemic to the Balkans - and verified that the same toxic ingredient was in herbal supplements used around the world

The Scientist, magazine of the Life Sciences Linked to a kidney disease endemic to the Balkans - Endemic Nephropathy or aristolochic acid nephropathy

Beth Holden   Tue Nov 27 2007
This is a dangerous plant and should not be consumed, even in small amounts. Accidental inclusion with wheat harvest in eastern Europe has been implicated in hundreds of cases of kidney failure, renal cancer and death. Also linked to kidney failure/death when taken as an herbal supplement. The first class-action lawsuit in China was filed about this herb. Avoid.

Manna from Hell scientific evidence of sickenss/death from this plant

Andrew Zador   Sun Dec 9 2007
WARNING: This stuff is A PROVEN NEPHRO-CARCINOGEN - SEE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristolochia_clematitis and article from The Scientist: http://strongmail.the-scientist.com/track?type=click&mailingid=441&messageid=1&databaseid=8&serial=878182400&emailid=amzador@golden.net&userid=4345&extra=&&&2008&&&http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/53787/

THE SCIENTIST - "Manna from Hell" Conclusive link to kidney cancer for this plant

   Tue Apr 29 2008
Hi, I have just found this plant in flower in a corner of our field, here in the South of France, near the Spanish Border. 29th May, 2008
Marinella Zepigi   Tue Jun 10 2008

Acta plantarum forum botanico Description - Photos - Aristolochia clematitis L.

Florin_mol   Wed Jan 6 2010
I used this plant for a few months as I suffer from a severe seborrheic dermatitis. Actually this plant is the best and the cheapest option you have. I have tried before different types of shampoo recommended for this type of illness from Nizoral to most of the Ducray gamma with very little result as the eczemas were back after 2 days. I've used internally but in small quantity but at that time I didn't knew is that toxic. Now I will never use it internally but externally is a very good remedy in my case. Rodica If you read this and if you still have seeds please contact me because I'm interested on growing it. You can find me on http://www.romani-online.co.uk/ with the nick florin_mol . My name is Florin Moldovanu. Thank you.
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Subject : Aristolochia clematitis  

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