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Houttuynia cordata Thunb

Houttuynia cordata (simplified Chinese: 鱼腥草; traditional Chinese: 魚腥草; pinyin: yúxīng cǎo; literally "fishy-smell herb"; Vietnamese: giấp cá; Korean: 약모밀; English lizard tail and chameleon plant; Japanese: 十薬 or どくだみ), one of two species in the genus Houttuynia, is a flowering plant native to Japan, Korea, southern China and Southeast Asia, where it grows in moist, shady places.

Scientific classification

Kingdom:         Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order:         Piperales
Family:         Saururaceae
Genus:         Houttuynia Thunb.
Species:         H. cordata
Binomial name: Houttuynia cordata Thunb.

Growth

Houttuynia cordata is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to between 20 and 80 cm. The proximal part of the stem is trailing and produces adventitious roots, while the distal part of the stem grows vertically. The leaves are alternate, broadly heart-shaped, 4–9 cm long and 3–8 cm broad. Flowers, growing usually in Summer, are greenish-yellow, borne on a terminal spike 2–3 cm long with 4-6 large white basal bracts.

Cultivation

The plant grows well in moist to wet soil and even slightly submerged in water in partial or full sun. Plants can become invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate. Propagation is via division.

In temperate gardens, it is usually in one of its cultivated forms, including: Chameleon (synonymous with H.c. 'Court Jester', H.c. 'Tricolour', H.c. 'Variegata') this variety is slightly less vigorous than the species and has leaves broadly edged in yellow and flecked with red; Flore Pleno has masses of white bracts and the vigour of the parent species.

Usage

Culinary use
Grown as a leaf vegetable, particularly in Vietnam, where it is called giấp cá or diếp cá and is used as a fresh herbal garnish. The leaf has an unusual taste that is often described as fishy (earning it the nickname "fish mint"), so it is not enjoyed as universally as basil, mint, or other more commonly used herbs.

In the southwestern Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan, roots are used as a root vegetable. English names include heartleaf, lizardtail, and fishwort.

Medicinal use
Houttuynia cordata is also used in used in folk medicine for diuresis and detoxification and herbal medicinefor its antiviral, antibacterial and antileukemic activities. Recently it has been suggested that it might have anti-obesity properties. Houttuynia cordata was used by Chinese scientists to tackle SARSas it is conventionally used to treat pneumonia.

Vap Ca is a very popular tonic herb in Japan and is used as a tonic tea, but also for chronic earache. The beverage dokudami cha (Japanese: ドクダミ茶; literally "Houttuynia cordata tea") is an infusion made from the leaves, Oolong tea leaves, and Job's Tears.
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