Thursday, September 14, 2017

European Birthwort/ Hjertebladet Slangerod

Aristolochia clematitis

European Birthwort 1885/ wikipedia
The (European) birthwort, (DK: Hjertebladet Slangerod)  is a twining herbaceous plant in the Aristolochiae family, which is native to Europe. The leaves are heart-shaped and the (carrion smelling) pale yellow flowers are tubular in form. The plant seeks light by ascending the stems of surrounding plants. It is connected to light-open habitats with dry and warm soil which has a high contents of nutrients and calcium. In Denmark it is cultivated in gardens and parks and is sometimes seen growing wild, especially at kloster sites and castle ruins. Autumn colour yellow-brown.

European birthwort/wikipedia
The name Aristolochia comes from the Greek word aristos which means best and lochia which means birth. The plant was known in the classical antiquity to start births . The Danish name slangerod refers to its use against snake bites.

Folk Medicine 
Birthwort was used in a decoct which was drunk as a sweat- and diuretic means; a decoct was also drunk against against jaundice and leaves and roots for healing wounds. The plant contains a substance which activated the white blood cells.  The root was stuck in the abdomen to promote birth.

Because of similarity to slangeurt (Polygonum bistorta) and corydalis (lærkespore) it is in early literature difficult to identify the botanic species.

Kloster garden(/ photo: GB
Harpestræng ab. 1300:
The physicians often distinguished between the drugs Aristolochia longa (DK: lang hulurt) and Aristolochia rotunda ( DK: rund hulurt) and Aristolochia clematitis (European birthwort/hjertebladet slangerod.)
A. rotunda: to drink with wine after poisonous bite; it drives out the afterbirth; to drink with water for cough; crushed as a cover on gouts; mixed with honey as a wound healing cover; to drink for fever; used as a smoking against insanity.

Christiern Pedersen 1533:
crushed plant to drink with wine or beer for breast pain; vinegar decoct as a cover for stomach pain; crushed root with wine or beer against malaria , to drink with wine after snake bite.
Henrik Smid 1546:
cooked with myrrha and pepper in wine for drink to drive out the afterbirth and all filthiness; wine decoct cleans and heals all internal wounds and broken lungs, liver and uterus; fresh crushed root used as cover drives out thorns, arrows etc. from wounds and heals it. A. rotunda to drink with wine against the plague, drives out sweat and urine and counteracts jaundice; crushed seeds with a drink against diarrhea.  Barbers used the root to heal and dry all runny wounds.
Simon Paulli 1648:
root to make the flesh grow after abscesses; the root is good for itching and scabies; decoct of leaves and roots for bathing mange and wounds on hands and feet. Some say the leaves should be smoked under newborn babies if they looked fragile and sick.

The rootstock of Aristolochia longa and Aristolochia rotunda were written into the Pharmacopoeia in 1772. 

Livestock: the plant was also used in diseases of the livestock: cattle, horse, swine, sheep and poultry.

The plant was revered by ancient healing book- authors who recommended it against snake bites.  Having a root in the pocket as an amulet against toothache.

European Birthwort/ wikipedia
Poisonous Plant:
It was formerly used as a medicinal plant, though it is poisonous , and is now occasionally found established outside of its native range as a relic of cultivation. It is now thought to be the cause of thousands of kidney failures in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia where the plant is thought to be unintentionally consumed through contaminated flour. Urinary tract malignacies among those who have consumed the plant are also reported. The link between renal failure and aristolochid acid, which the plant contains, was discovered after a clinic for obesity in Belgium, some of the patients experienced kidney failure.

Because of its toxicity it must be warned to use the plant or parts of it as a natural medicine.

All parts of the plant are considered carcinogenic (kræftfremkaldende) and kidney damaging. 

Danske Klosterurter, Anemette Olesen, Aschehoug 2001. 
Brøndegaard, Dansk Etnobotanik, Folk og flora, bd. 3, 1978-80.

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