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Herbs & Botanicals

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Houttuynia (yu xing cao)

What is houttuynia? What is it used for?

Houttuynia is a perennial plant native to east Asia. Considered a weed by some, it is nevertheless an essential component of many herbal remedies. The plant can reach a height of more than three feet, with small, white flowers. The entire plant is harvested between summer and autumn. After gathering, it is cleaned and dried in the sun, then used raw.

In traditional Chinese medicine, houttuynia has pungent and slightly cold properties, and is associated with the Lung meridian. Its main functions are to clear heat and release toxins. It is used to treat lung abscesses and heat in the lungs, which usually manifest as a cough, with thick sputum. Houttuynia also treats boils on the skin and swelling caused by toxic heat, and snake bites. Houttunyia is often used in conjunction with other herbs, such as dandelion, forsythia and coix seed.

How much houttuynia should I take?

The typical dose of houttuynia ranges between 15 and 30 grams. It is usually decocted for drinking, but can also be applied externally to the skin. Because houttuynia contains a volatile oil, it cannot be decocted for long periods of time.

What forms of houttuynia are available?

Whole, dried houttuynia can be found at many herbal shops and specialty stores. Chopped and powdered houttuynia is also available at some locations.

What can happen if I take too much houttuynia? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

As of this writing, there are no known side-effects associated with houttuynia, nor are there no any known drug interactions. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking houttuynia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Borthakur M, Singh RS, et al. In vitro regeneration of houttuynia cordata: A medicinal herb. Planta Medica Oct 1999;65(7):677.
  • Hao XY, Li L, et al. Analysis of essential oil from houttuynia cordata in Guizhou. Acta Botanica Yunnanica 1995;17(3):350-352.
  • Hayashi K, Kamiya M, et al. Virucidal effects of the steam distillate from houttuynia cordata and its components on HSV-1, influenza virus, and HIV. Planta Medica 1995;61(3):237-241.
  • Kanai H. Distribution of popular plants in Chubu district, central Japan. Journal of Japanese Botany 1996;71(6):338-354.
  • Tsui WY, Brown GD. Chemical study of the aerial parts of houttuynia cordata. Fitoterapia 1996;67(5):479.

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