Explore the Healing Powers of Houttuynia Cordata Flowers

Houttuynia cordata, During the summer, when the stems and leaves of Houttuynia cordata are lush and the spikes are abundant, they are harvested, impurities are removed, and the plant is dried.

Herbal Characteristics: The stem is a flattened cylinder, twisted, 20–35cm in length, and 0.2–0.3cm in diameter; the surface is brownish-yellow with several longitudinal ridges and distinct nodes, with residual fibrous roots present on the lower nodes; it is brittle and easily broken.

The leaves are alternate, with the blades crinkled and shrunken, but heart-shaped when flattened, 3–5cm long and 3–4.5cm wide; they taper to a point, with smooth edges; the upper surface is dark yellow-green to dark brown, the underside grey-green or grey-brown; the leafstalk is slender, with the base and stipules fused to form a sheath.

Houttuynia cordata

The spicate inflorescence is terminal and brownish-yellow. When crushed, it emits a fishy smell.

Houttuynia cordata has a pungent taste and a cool nature, associated with the lung meridian. It can clear heat, detoxify, reduce swelling, heal sores, promote urination and relieve dampness, clear heat and stop dysentery, and aid digestion and appetite.

It is used to treat conditions such as high fever, toxic heat, damp evil, lung abscesses, sores and swellings, hemorrhoids with bleeding, and accumulated heat in the spleen and stomach.

Modern pharmacological experiments indicate that this herb has antibacterial, antiviral, immune-boosting, and diuretic effects.

I. Discussion on Medicinal Properties

Houttuynia cordata

Efficacy and Primary Treatment Applications

This herb is utilized for its heat-clearing and detoxifying effects and is particularly effective in promoting urination and reducing swelling.

It is prescribed for the treatment of pneumonia, lung abscesses, dysentery, malaria, edema, gonorrhea, leucorrhea, carbuncles, hemorrhoids, prolapse of the rectum, eczema, alopecia, and scabies.

Dosage and Administration

For oral use: Decoct in water, taking 9 to 15 grams of the dried herb (30 to 60 grams fresh); alternatively, the juice can be extracted and consumed. For external use: Use the decoction for steaming and washing affected areas, or apply the crushed herb directly.

Cautions and Contraindications

Those with deficiency-cold syndromes and yin-type ulcers should avoid using this herb.

II. Selected Applications

Clinical Applications

  • Dysentery: 20 grams of Houttuynia cordata and 6 grams of hawthorn charcoal, decocted in water with honey added for consumption.
  • Common Cold and Fever: 20 grams of fine-leaved sweet tea plant and 16 grams of Houttuynia cordata, decocted in water for oral use, or ground into fine powder, boiled, filtered, and concentrated, then mixed with the powder to make tablets, 0.3 grams per tablet, taken 3 times daily, 3-4 tablets each time, with a reduced dose for children.
  • Epidemic Mumps: A suitable amount of fresh Houttuynia cordata, crushed and applied externally to the affected area, wrapped with adhesive plaster, changed twice daily.
  • Lung Abscess: 30 grams of Houttuynia cordata and 15 grams of Platycodon grandiflorum, decocted for oral use or ground for mixing with water; alternatively, fresh Houttuynia cordata can be washed and stir-fried for consumption, or use 50 grams of Houttuynia cordata, 12 grams of Platycodon grandiflorum, and 6 grams of licorice, decocted in water for oral use.
  • Acute Hepatitis with Jaundice: 180 grams of fresh Houttuynia cordata and 30 grams of sugar, decocted in water, taken once daily, for 5-10 consecutive days.
  • Habitual Constipation: 5-10 grams of Houttuynia cordata, soaked in boiled water for 10-12 minutes and consumed as a tea. Suspend other medications during treatment, with a 10-day course of therapy.
  • Urinary Tract Infections, Frequent and Painful Urination: Take 50 grams of fresh herb or 30 grams of the dried product, decocted for oral use.
  • Acute Bronchitis, Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Cough with Blood in Sputum: Use 30 grams of Houttuynia cordata, 6 grams of licorice, and 30 grams of Plantago asiatica, decocted in water for oral use.
  • Skin Diseases: Apply the fresh juice topically, or take the decoction orally, both methods have the effect of clearing heat, reducing swelling, and relieving prickly heat and itching. Use a decoction of the whole plant for washing externally to treat pemphigus and athlete’s foot.
  • Furuncles, Carbuncles, and Swellings (whether ruptured or not): Wrap fresh Houttuynia cordata in damp paper, heat in ash until soft, mash, and apply to the affected area.
  • Endometritis, Cervicitis, Adnexitis, Vaginal Discharge, and Lower Abdominal Pain: 30-60 grams of Houttuynia cordata, with 30 grams each of dandelion and Lonicera japonica, decocted in water for oral use.
  • Snakebite: Take 62.5 grams of Houttuynia cordata, 31.25 grams of Dictamnus dasycarpus root, 15.6 grams of young leaf root, and 31.5 grams of Herba Pteridis aquilini, decocted in water for external washing of snake bites.
  • Treatment of Hemorrhoids: Clean Houttuynia cordata (amount varies with the size of the pot, more is better), boil in water, then pour the water and Houttuynia cordata into a spittoon and sit over it to steam. When the water is nearly cool, wash the affected area with it. This method is highly effective, and with long-term use, recurrence is unlikely.

III. Chemical Composition

The aerial parts contain volatile oils and antibacterial components such as decanoyl acetaldehyde, lauric aldehyde, α-pinene, and linalool, with the first two imparting a distinctive odor.

Other components include methyl nonyl ketone, camphene, myrcene, limonene, bornyl acetate, and caryophyllene. The compound typically referred to as “fish mint factor” is the addition product of decanoic ethanal with bisulfite.

Additionally, there are compounds like afzelin, hyperin, rutin, chlorogenic acid, β-sitosterol, stearic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid present. The leaves contain quercitrin, while the flowers and fruit spikes contain isoquercitrin.

IV. Pharmacodynamics and Properties

Immune Enhancement

Fish mint enhances the phagocytic ability of white blood cells (WBC) and increases serum opsonin levels.

In the treatment of chronic bronchitis, a synthetic fish mint compound significantly improves the patients’ WBC phagocytosis of Staphylococcus aureus and raises serum opsonin levels.

Rabbits injected intramuscularly with fish mint essence at 8mg per day show a marked increase in serum opsonins after three consecutive days of treatment.

Fish mint’s ability to boost the body’s immune system has significant implications for the treatment of infectious diseases.

Antibacterial Activity

A yellow, oily substance extracted from fish mint has an inhibitory effect on a variety of microorganisms, particularly yeast and mold.

It significantly inhibits hemolytic streptococci, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and pneumococcus. It is also effective against Escherichia coli, Shigella, and Salmonella typhi.

The sodium bisulfite adduct of synthetically produced decanoyl acetaldehyde is known as synthetic fish mint essence.

The sodium bisulfite adduct of synthetic dodecanoyl acetaldehyde is called new fish mint essence, which has shown significant inhibitory effects on various bacteria in both in vivo and in vitro experiments: MIC for penicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is between 62.5 to 80mcg/ml, and for Haemophilus influenzae, it is 1.25mg/ml.

On Lowenstein-Jensen medium, the MIC for Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv is 16mcg/ml, and on a modified Sauton’s semi-solid medium, it is 25mcg/ml, while its potassium salt has an MIC of 12.5mcg/ml.

Synthetic fish mint essence isoniazid has a strong effect on TB bacteria, with an MIC of 0.78 to 3.1mcg/ml, and can significantly prolong the life of mice infected with TB.

Intraperitoneal injection of 1mg per mouse extends survival by 62 days, and oral administration has even better therapeutic effects.

Antiviral Effect

Fish mint decoction (1:10) inhibits the Influenza A/Jingke 68-1 strain on primary human embryonic kidney epithelial cell monolayers and can delay the growth of the orphan virus ECHO11.

Zhu Yutong reports that several non-volatile oil fractions obtained through ethanol extraction, including fish mint essence III, provide preventive protection against influenza virus infections in mice, though their effects on EMC and HSV II are not significant.

Synthetic derivatives of fish mint essence also exhibit strong antiviral activity. Fish mint extract (4g crude drug/ml) has a significant prophylactic protective effect on mice infected with parainfluenza virus.

However, it does not offer significant protection against encephalomyocarditis virus and herpes simplex virus type II infections. It has been demonstrated that the anti-influenza virus components of fish mint are not found in the volatile oil fraction but in the non-volatile substances.

In vitro experiments have confirmed that fish mint aqueous extract can inhibit herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 infections, the specific mechanism being the inhibition of transcription factor activity necessary for viral replication.

Diuretic Effect

The perfusion of toad kidneys or frog webbing with Houttuynia cordata extract causes capillary dilation, increased blood flow, and urine secretion, resulting in a diuretic effect.

This effect may be due to organic compounds, with potassium playing a supportive role in increasing diuresis.

Direct application can reduce the activity of the spirochete Leptospira until death and dissolution, and it can also delay the onset of illness in guinea pigs artificially infected with Leptospira.

Effects on the Immune System

In vitro, Houttuynia cordata decoction significantly enhances the phagocytic ability of human peripheral blood leukocytes against Staphylococcus aureus.

Synthetic Houttuynia cordata element increases the phagocytic function of leukocytes in patients with chronic bronchitis and raises the level of opsonins in the serum of rabbits and patients.

Antitumor Effects

Houttuynia cordata extract has been shown to inhibit Ehrlich’s ascites carcinoma, potentially through the elevation of cAMP levels in cancer cells.

Studies indicate that intraperitoneal injections of the extract in mice at various dosages and intervals significantly reduced the total number of cancer cells, the cell division index, and the volume of ascitic fluid, while the levels of cAMP within the cancer cells increased.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Houttuynia cordata decoction significantly reduces inflammation in rats with formaldehyde-induced paw swelling and also inhibits the thermal denaturation of human γ-globulin in the presence of Cu++.

Houttuynia components significantly suppress ear swelling in mice caused by croton oil and xylene, as well as the increase in skin capillary permeability. They also markedly inhibit the leakage of dye from peritoneal capillaries induced by HCA.

Flavonoid compounds in Houttuynia, such as quercetin, quercitrin, and isoquercitrin, also exhibit significant anti-inflammatory effects, notably inhibiting early-stage capillary hyperpermeability during inflammation.

Other Effects

Houttuynia oil effectively antagonizes the action of slow-reacting substance A (SRS-A) on isolated guinea pig ileum and markedly inhibits the allergic contraction of the ileum in sensitized guinea pigs.

It counters the contractile effects of histamine and acetylcholine on guinea pig ileum and offers significant protection against allergic asthma in guinea pigs.

Subcutaneous injection of Houttuynia aqueous solution has mild sedative and anticonvulsant effects, suppressing spontaneous movement in mice, prolonging sleep induced by hexobarbital sodium, and countering convulsions caused by strychnine.

Intravenous doses of 20-40mg/kg in dogs can reduce blood pressure by 40-50mmHg (5.32-6.65kPa), and inhibit the heart of an isolated toad. Houttuynia decoction can suppress serous secretion, promote tissue regeneration, and has analgesic and hemostatic properties.

Intraperitoneal injection alleviates cough induced by ammonia spray in mice but does not provide expectorant or asthma relief.

Furthermore, Houttuynia possesses analgesic and cough-suppressing qualities, stops bleeding, inhibits serous secretion, fosters tissue regeneration, and enhances the healing of wounds.

It aids in improving conditions like erythema and psoriasis. Dekanin in Houttuynia can cause skin blistering.

Subcutaneous injection of a Houttuynia aqueous solution also has mild sedative and anticonvulsant effects, can suppress spontaneous activity in mice, extend sleep time induced by hexobarbital sodium, and counteract convulsions caused by strychnine.

Intravenous doses of 20-40mg/kg in dogs can lead to a 40-50mmHg drop in blood pressure.

V. Herbal Identification

Physical Characteristics

The stem is flattened and circular, wrinkled and curved, measuring 20 to 30 cm in length; the surface is yellow-brown with longitudinal ridges, and the nodes are distinct with vestigial fibrous roots remaining at the lower nodes.

The texture is brittle and it breaks easily. Leaves are arranged alternately, often wrinkled, and heart-shaped when flattened, measuring 3 to 5 cm in length and 3 to 4.5 cm in width; the upper surface is dark green or yellow-green, while the underside is green-brown or gray-brown.

The petiole is slender, with the base and stipule forming a sheath. Spicate inflorescences grow at the top. When crushed, the plant emits a fishy smell and has a slightly astringent taste.

The best quality is indicated by an abundance of leaves, a green color, the presence of a flower spike, and a strong fishy odor.

Microscopic Identification

Observing the leaf surface, both the upper and lower epidermal cells are polygonal with dense wavy textures. The stomata are anomocytic with 4 to 5 subsidiary cells.

Oil cells are scattered, nearly circular, with 7 to 8 epidermal cells arranged radially around them. Glandular trichomes are sessile, with a head composed of 3 to 4 cells containing light brown matter, often with the top cell shriveled or devoid of secretions.

Non-glandular trichomes (on the veins) consist of 2 to 4 (up to 10) cells, measuring 180 to 200 μm in length with a base diameter of about 40 μm and striated surfaces.

The lower epidermis has more stomata and non-glandular trichomes. The leaf mesophyll contains small druse crystals measuring 6 to 10 μm in diameter.

Physicochemical Identification

  • Take an appropriate amount of the powdered herb and place it into a small test tube, pressing it down with a glass rod. Add a few drops of paeonol-sulfurous acid reagent until the top layer of the powder is moistened. After a moment, observe from the side of the tube; the moist powder appears pink or purplish-red.
  • Take 1g of the powdered herb, add 10ml of ethanol, and reflux for 10 minutes, then filter. To 2ml of the filtrate, add a small amount of magnesium powder and 3 drops of hydrochloric acid, then heat in a water bath until a red color appears.
  • Thin-layer Chromatography (TLC): ①Take 1g of the powdered herb, add 10ml of methanol, soak overnight, and filter. Concentrate the filtrate to 1ml for use as the test solution. Take a small quantity of hyperoside, dissolve in methanol as a control solution. Apply appropriate amounts of the test and control solutions on the same silica gel G plate, develop with ether-methanol-water (4.5:1:1.5) as the mobile phase, and visualize with 1% aluminum chloride ethanol solution. The test sample reveals light yellow spots at corresponding positions to the control on the chromatogram, appearing as dark brown spots under ultraviolet light.②Take 2g of the powdered herb, add 10ml of water and 8 drops of 8% sodium hydroxide, soak for 2 hours with continuous stirring, and filter. Place the filtrate in a separatory funnel, add 10ml of ethyl acetate, 6 drops of 7% hydrochloric acid, and shake for 5 minutes. After allowing the mixture to settle, take the ethyl acetate extract as the test solution. Take decanoic aldehyde as a control substance, dissolve in ethyl acetate to make a solution containing 2mg per 1ml as the control solution. Apply 10μl of each test and control solution on the same silica gel G plate, develop with benzene-anhydrous ethanol (7:2) as the mobile phase, and spray with 5% ferric chloride solution to visualize. The test sample shows spots of the same color at the corresponding positions to the control on the chromatogram.

VI. Nutritional Content of Foods

Food Name: Houttuynia cordata
Reference Content: Per approximately 100 grams of the food
Insoluble Dietary Fiber: 0.3 g

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