Houttuynia cordata is a creepy parennial from south east Asia where it is popular vegetable, spice and medicine. Its variegated form called Chameleon Plant is popular in many regions of the world. And while many people from west, complain about how invasive this beautifull ground cover is in their gardens. People from Asia are enjoing its taste and health benefits just like those of its green-leaved sister. It is important herb in many tradicional medicine systems which is well indicated in its Japanese name Dokudami, that meanes ,,poison blocking plant''. Other names of this plant, like Fish Mint or Yu Xing Cao (''fish-smell-herb'' in Chinese) refer to its unique smell that may differ significantly according to conditions of growth and its ancestry. You may find descriptions of its aroma as fishy, orangy, lemony or cilantro like, and some people name it unpleasant. My advice is to try it yourself, and even if you won't like the taste remember about its vast health benefits.
CULTIVATION AND HARVESTING
Houttuynia cordata is parennial ground covering plant, spreading rapidly by its ground laying stems and rhizomes. It likes wet soil and grow well even partialy immersed in shalow waters. But unlike many water lowing plants it grow well on sandy ground and cope well with droughts. So if Your plant looks dead dry, just water it and wait untill it will grow back from its rhizomes. Also if You are growing it in cold climate don't worry if aboveground part of the plant looks dead after winter, rhizomes are hardy to aprox. -25'C. This herb adapt well to different conditions and can grow even in very poor soils and with different light volume. But variegated form looks pale (green) in strong shade, it is getting more vivid when exposed to stronger sunlight. With good conditions Houttuynia can be invasive, spreading strongly and threating to small plants, but it ussually not growing higher than 30cm. All parts of this plant are edible and can be harvested all year round (in cold winters you can gather only rhizomes). My advice is to pick it fresh straight before use, becouse especially leaves and stems are loseing its freshness quickly. But it can also be dried and storaged, for this purpose it should be harvested in summer while flowering. You can also grow this herb in pots indoors and have its fresh leaves all year round.
Leaves, stems and rhizomes of Houttuynia cordata are widely used in many tradicional cousines of south-east Asia, both fresh and cooked. It is used as an aromatic vegetable/spice and is added to salads, soups, stews, fish meals, curry dishes and stir-fries. Leaves can be fried in batter as a kind of Pakora. Herbal tea can be made from both dried and fresh Dokudami parts.
All parts of Houttuynia cordata plant are important herb known in many Asian tradicional medicine systems. It is detoxifing, antiviral (even against HIV), antibacterial, antifungal, antitussive, mildly laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-alergic herb. It contain myrcene, limonen, alpha-pinene, camphene, sterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, querticin and anti-cancer alkaloids, many uniqe highly antiseptic chemical structures like 3-keto-dodecanol, methyl-nonyl-ketone and 2-nonyl-5-decanoyl-pyridine. It is also rich in potassium, magnesium and sodium.
Houttuynia decrease histamine release and is effective herb to use for alergies and asthma, it also stimulate immune system by stimulating production of lymphocyts. It is used to treat laryngitis, sinusitis and chronic ear infections, lyme dysease and bartonella, fevers, hangovers, indigestion, dysentery, stomach cramps, constipation, stomach ulcers, measles and dysuria. Poultice from fresh herb and infusions to wash, are effective with herpes, hemorrhoids, boils, gout, rheumatism, insect bites, snakebites, inflammations and infectious skin diseases, also applied on site of a fracture to help bone development.
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Inner Tradictions/BEAR & Co 1992
''Chinese Materia Medica : Combinations and Aplications'' - Xu Li, Elsevier Health Sciences 2002
''Chromatografic Fingerprint Analysis of Herbal Medicines'' - Springer Verlag/Wien 2011