Two thousand five hundred years ago, Hippocrates used the birchwort plant for difficult labor. Hence, its Greek etymology: aristos (excellent) and lokios (labor). At present, its internal use has decreased due to its irritant effects on the digestive system.
Birchwort Plant Scientific Plant
- Other names: Aristolochia root, upright birthwort.
- French: Aristoloche ciematite.
- Spanish: Aristoloquia.
- Environment: Frequent in calcareous soils and vineyards in central and southern Europe. It is occasionally found in some warm areas of America.
- Description: Vivacious plant of the Aristolochiaceae family, growing from 30 to 70 cm high. All of the plant has an unpleasant smell. It has pale yellow tube-shaped flowers.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The leaves and flowers, and the root when dry.
Healing Properties and Warning
The plant contains aristolochic acid and aristolochine, a toxic alkaloid similar to colchicine. Birchwort also contains essential oil, tannin, resin, and a bitter component. Internally applied, it has emmenagogue (stimulates menstruation) and oxytocic (stimulates uterine contractions during labor) properties. It also has been used for arthritis and rheumatism.
Currently, it is recommended to use it only in an external application because of its cicatrizant and vulnerary properties (it heals wounds and bruises). It is recommended for various ulcers, feet blisters, and ingrown toenails.
WARNING! Fresh root must not be used since it is very poisonous. This plant must not be used internally unless under strict medical supervision. When taken in high doses, it has abortifacient properties.
How to Use Birchwort
- Decoction with 30g of flowers and dry root (fresh root is very poisonous). The dose is one or two cups daily (see the box “warning”).
- Compresses: The same decoction used internally is applied on the affected area with cotton compresses.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 699. Print. [Birchwort plant]