Houttuynia cordata, also known as fish mint, fish leaf, lizard tail, chameleon plant, heart leaf, Ja mardoh, fish wort, or bishop's weed,[1] is one of two species in the genus Houttuynia (the other being H. emeiensis[2]). 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 'Chameleon'

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.[3]


Culinary use

Flowers picked for yakmomil-kkot-cha (flower tea) in sokuri

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 the southwestern Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan the roots are used as a root vegetable and are known as Zhe'ergen (折耳根). The leaves are also consumed.

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.

Traditional use

Houttuynia cordata is used in traditional Chinese medicine for pneumonia, and was used by some Chinese scientists in an attempt to treat SARS.[4] When administered via injection, it can cause severe allergic reactions.[5]

Aroma profile

Chemical compounds that contribute to the aroma of H. cordata include β-myrcene[6][7] and 2-undecanone.[8]

Compendial status

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Wei W., Z. Youliang, C. Li, W. Yuming, Y. Zehong, and Y. Ruiwu. 2005. PCR-RFLP analysis of cpDNA and mtDNA in the genus Houttuynia in some areas of China. Hereditas 142: 24-32.
  3. ^ Global Invasive Species Database: Houttuynia cordata, accessed 2008-07-06
  4. ^ Immunomodulatory and anti-SARS activities of Houttuynia cordata. Lau KM. Lee KM. Koon CM. Cheung CS. Lau CP. Ho HM. Lee MY. Au SW. Cheng CH. Lau CB. Tsui SK. Wan DC. Waye MM. Wong KB. Wong CK. Lam CW. Leung PC. Fung KP. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 118(1):79-85, 2008
  5. ^ Ji, K.-M.; Li, M.; Chen, J.-J.; Zhan, Z.-K.; Liu, Z.-G. "Anaphylactic shock and lethal anaphylaxis caused byHouttuynia Cordatainjection, a herbal treatment in China". Allergy. 64 (5): 816–817. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.01942.x. 
  6. ^ Lu, Hongmei; Wu, Xianjin; Liang, Yizeng; Zhang, Jian; et al. (2006). "Variation in Chemical Composition and Antibacterial Activities of Essential Oils from Two Species of Houttuynia Thunb". Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 54 (7): 936–940. doi:10.1248/cpb.54.936. PMID 16819207. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Ch, Muhammad Ishtiaq; Wen, YF; Cheng, Y; et al. (2007). "Gas Chromatographic/Mass Spectrometric Analysis of the Essential Oil of Houttuynia cordata Thunb by Using On-Column Methylation with Tetramethylammonium Acetate". Journal of AOAC International. 90 (1): 60–67. PMID 17373437. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Liang, Minmin; Qi, M; Zhang, C; Zhou, S; Fu, R; Huang, J; et al. (2005). "Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry analysis of volatile compounds from Houttuynia cordata Thunb after extraction by solid-phase microextraction, flash evaporation and steam distillation". Analytica Chimica Acta. 531 (1): 97–104. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2004.09.082. 
  9. ^ "JP 15" (PDF). 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2010. 

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