Aristolochia clematitis L. - Aristolochiaceae - birthwort, Osterluzei, Pfeifenblume, Wolfskraut
Erect, pale green perennial herb, up to 1m tall, native to southern Europe, naturalized in Central Europe, eastern North America; leaves long-petioled, heart-shaped, alternate; flowers yellow, 2-8 axillar; fruit a globose to pear-shaped capsule.
The whoole plant or fresh or dried aerial parts of Aristolochia clematitis, collected from May to June, are known as birthwort (german Osterluzeikraut), Herba Aristolochiae, Aristolochiae (clematitis) herba. The drug is composed of the long petioled pale green leaves and some yellow flowers. Ancient Egypts used the plant for snakebites. In the middle ages the drug was applied to slow healing wounds and inflammations of the skin. Internally given as blood purifier, to treat cramps, for childbirth (hence the name birthworth) and gynaecological disorders. The plant contains aristolochic acids that have been shown to possess mutagenic and carcinogenic properties via DNA-adducts, resulting in tumors and kidney damage.
[BI-Lexikon Heilpflanzen und Drogen, Ennet D., Leipzig 1990, 240-241]
[Medicinal Plants of the World. Ben-Erik Van Wyk and Michael Wink, Pretoria 2004, 51]
„Balkan-endemic nephropathy [BEN] is characterized by chronic interstitial fibrosis with slow progression to end-stage renal disease and urothelial malignancy. It was first described about 50 years ago and affects residents of rural areas of Bulgaria, Bosnia, Croatia, Romania, and Serbia along the Danube river basin… The so-called 'AA hypothesis' in BEN was initially formulated by Ivic in 1970. He suggested a possible chronic dietary intoxication from bread made from wheat flour contaminated with seeds of Aristolochia clematitis. Aristolochia is, indeed, a common weed in wheat fields in endemic areas, and seeds are mixed with wheat grain during the annual harvest. This hypothesis seemed to be totally forgotten until the late 1990s.“
Metabolic activation and DNA adduct formation of aristolochic acids I (AAI; R=OCH3) and II (AAII; R=H).
[Aristolochic acid nephropathy: a worldwide problem., Debelle, F.D., Vanherweghem, J.L., Nortier, J.L., Kidney international, 74(2), 2008, 158-169] http://www.nature.com/ki/journal/v74/n2/full/ki2008129a.html
Dietrich,A.G., Flora regni borussici, vol.5 t.343 (1837)