The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!


Scientific Names


  • Aristolochia clematitis L.
  • Aristolochiaceae
  • Birthwort family

Common Names

  • Aristolochia root
  • Ma-tou-ling
  • Upright birthwort

Back to Top

Parts Usually Used

Rootstock, flowers
Back to Top

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Birthwort is a perennial plant; the erect, yellow-green, somewhat sinuous stem grows 1-3 feet tall from a long, thin rootstock. The dark green leaves are kidney-shaped and short-petioled. The flowers occur in axillary clusters and feature a yellowish-green, curved, tubular calyx. Flowering time is May to June.

Other varieties: Virginia snakeroot (A. serpentaria), Dutchman’s-pipe (A. tomentosa).
Back to Top

Where Found

Found growing in fence rows, tickets, field edges, and vineyards.
Back to Top

Medicinal Properties

Diaphoretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, oxytocic, stimulant
Back to Top


The ancient Egyptians used birthwort for snakebite. Used for uterine contractions in childbirth, indigestion, dysmenorrhea, menstrual problems. The decoction used externally for wounds, sores, and leg ulcers.
Back to Top

Formulas or Dosages

Use the entire plant when it is in flower, otherwise use only the rootstock.

Decoction: use 2 tbsp. fresh plant or rootstock with 1 cup water. Boil for 10 minutes, then strain. Dosage as directed by a doctor.

Cold extract: Use 1 tsp. plant or rootstock with 1 cup cold water. Let stand for 6 to 8 hours. Dosage is directed by a doctor.
Back to Top


Birthwort contains a substance that acts similar to poisonous alkaloid colchicine. Use with care, preferably with medical supervision.
Do not take during pregnancy, only during labor at childbirth.
Use only under medical supervision.
Back to Top


Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

Back to Top