Houttuynia cordata

Houttuynia cordata
Scientific classification
Species: H. cordata
Binomial name
Houttuynia cordata

Houttuynia cordata, also known as fish mint, fish leaf, rainbow plant, chameleon plant, heart leaf, fish wort, Chinese lizard tail, 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.[1][2]


Houttuynia cordata is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow to 0.6–1 metre (2.0–3.3 ft), spreading up to 1 metre (3.3 ft).[1][2] 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.[1][2] 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.[1][2] 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

It is commonly grown as a leaf vegetable, and is used as a fresh herbal garnish.[1] 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, it is known as ja myrdoh, is used in salads or cooked with other vegetables, and as a garnish over ethnic side dishes. The tender roots can also be ground into chutneys along with dry fish, chilies, and tamarind. It is taken raw as salad and cooked along with fish as fish curry. In Japan and Korea, its dried leaves may be used as a tea.

Traditional medicine

Houttuynia cordata was used in traditional Chinese medicine, including by Chinese scientists in an attempt to treat SARS[4] and various other disorders,[5] although there is no high-quality clinical research to confirm such uses are safe or effective, as of 2018. When administered via injection, H. cordata can cause severe allergic reactions.[6]

Aroma profile

Chemical compounds that contribute to the aroma of H. cordata include β-myrcene[7][8] and 2-undecanone.[9]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Houttuynia cordata Thunb". Plants for a Future. 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Houttuynia cordata, 'Chameleon'". The Royal Horticultural Society, UK. 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  3. Global Invasive Species Database: Houttuynia cordata, accessed 2008-07-06
  4. Lau, K. M; Lee, K. M; Koon, C. M; Cheung, C. S; Lau, C. P; Ho, H. M; Lee, M. Y; Au, S. W; Cheng, C. H; Lau, C. B; Tsui, S. K; Wan, D. C; Waye, M. M; Wong, K. B; Wong, C. K; Lam, C. W; Leung, P. C; Fung, K. P (2008). "Immunomodulatory and anti-SARS activities of Houttuynia cordata". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 118 (1): 79–85. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.03.018. PMID 18479853.
  5. Kumar, M; Prasad, S. K; Hemalatha, S (2014). "A current update on the phytopharmacological aspects of Houttuynia cordata Thunb". Pharmacognosy Reviews. 8 (15): 22–35. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.125525. PMC 3931198. PMID 24600193.
  6. Wang, L; Cui, X; Cheng, L; Yuan, Q; Li, T; Li, Y; Deng, S; Shang, H; Bian, Z (2010). "Adverse events to Houttuynia injection: A systematic review". Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine. 3 (3): 168–76. doi:10.1111/j.1756-5391.2010.01091.x. PMID 21349062.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  • Data related to Houttuynia cordata at Wikispecies
  • Flora, The Gardener's Bible, ABC Publishing, Ultimo, NSW, Australia, 2006 ISBN 0-7333-1439-2

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