Houttuynia cordata, also known as fish mint, fish leaf, lizard tail, chameleon plant, heart leaf, Ja mardoh, fish wort, or bishop's weed, is one of two species in the genus Houttuynia (the other being H. emeiensis). It is a flowering plant native to Japan, Korea, southern China, and Southeast Asia. It grows in moist, shady locations.
It is called yúxīng cǎo (鱼腥草; 魚腥草, "fishy-smell herb") in Chinese, yakmomil (약모밀) in Korean, dokudami (蕺草, "poison blocking plant") in Japanese, giấp cá in Vietnamese, phak khāo thǭng (ຜັກຄາວທອງ) in Lao, and phak khao thong (ผักคาวทอง) in Thai. In Manipur it is known as toningkok, in Tangkhul as Ngayungna, in Hmar as Aithang, in Meghalaya as Jamyrdoh, in Chakma as Mosondori, in Mizo as Uithinthang, in thadou as Aithanglou, in Poula as Hrama, and in Rongmei as Gancmaluh.
Houttuynia cordata is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow to 20–80 cm (7.9–31.5 in). 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 (1.6–3.5 in) long and 3–8 cm (1.2–3.1 in) broad. Its flowers are greenish-yellow and borne on a terminal spike 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) long with four to six large white basal bracts. It normally blooms in the summer.
Houttuynia cordata grows in moist to wet soil or slightly submerged in water, as long as it is exposed partially or fully to the sun. It can become invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate. It propagates by division.
It is usually found in one of its cultivated forms in temperate gardens. The 'Chameleon' variety (synonymous with H.cordata 'Court Jester', 'Tricolour', and 'Variegata') is slightly less vigorous than the parent species, with stubbier leaves mottled in both yellow and red. Another common variety, 'Flore Pleno', has masses of white bracts and retains the vigor of the parent species.
Houttuynia cordata has been naturalized in North America and Australia.
It is commonly 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 northeastern India, particularly Meghalaya, it's locally known as ja myrdoh and is used in salads or cooked with other vegetables. In Manipur, it is known as toningkok and used as garnish over the ethnic side dishes, eromba and singju. In Garo, it is known as matcha duri, and the leaves are used raw as a salad leaf. The tender roots can also be ground into chutneys along with dry fish, chilies, and tamarind. In Assam (Assamese) it is called "Masunduri" and is popular mostly among the tribes. It is taken raw as salad and cooked along with fish as fish curry. In Mizo it is known as 'Uithinthang'. Among the Manipur Mizos, it is known as 'Aithanglo'. It is used as 'Chutney'.
In Japan, the beverage dokudami cha (Japanese: ドクダミ茶; literally "Houttuynia cordata tea") is made from its dried leaves.
In Korea, the leaves and flowers are made into tea, called yakmomil-cha (약모밀차) and yakmomil-kkot-cha (약모밀꽃차) respectively.
Houttuynia cordata is used in traditional Chinese medicine for pneumonia, and was used by some Chinese scientists in an attempt to treat SARS. When administered via injection, it can cause severe allergic reactions.
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