Herb: Ma Dou Ling


Latin name: Aristolochia contorta


Synonyms: Aristolochia nipponica


Family: Aristolochiaceae (Birthwort Family)



Medicinal use of Ma Dou Ling:

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. It is also used to resolve phlegm and lower blood pressure. It has an antibacterial action, effective against Staphylococcus aureus, Pneumococci, bacillus dysentericae etc. The root contains aristolochic acid. This has anti-cancer properties and can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Aristolochic acid can also be used in the treatment of acute and serious infections such as TB, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and infantile pneumonia. It also increases the cellular immunity and phagocytosis function of the phagocytic cells. Aristolochic acid is said to be too toxic for clinical use. The root is used as a purgative in the treatment of rabies and also has sedative properties.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
May to
July

Habitat of the herb:

Osier beds. Thickets on mountain slopes or in valleys at elvations of 500 - 1200 metres in China. Edges of mountain woods in Korea.

Edible parts of Ma Dou Ling:

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

Propagation of the herb:

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. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 3 months at 20C. Stored seed germinates better if it is given 3 months cold stratification at 5C. 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. Root cuttings in winter.

Cultivation of Ma Dou Ling:

Osier beds. Thickets on mountain slopes or in valleys at elvations of 500 - 1200 metres in China. Edges of mountain woods in Korea.

Known hazards of Aristolochia contorta:

We have no specific details for this species but most members of this genus have poisonous roots and stems. 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. Another report says that it is an active antitumour agent but is too toxic for clinical use. 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.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.