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Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata)

Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb Houttuynia cordata 01

What is Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata)?

Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (yu xin cao, 鱼腥草), also known as Houttuynia Cordata or Fish Mint, is a perennial plant native to East Asia that has spread all over the world as an invasive series. Considered a weed by some, Houttuynia Cordata is actually an essential component of many herbal remedies. The herb’s essential oil content has a strong fish-like aroma, which also makes it useful as a flavouring in various dishes.

Houttuynia Cordata can reach a height of more than three feet, and it has small, white flowers with wide leaves. Its stems are climbing tender vines, and the plant is mostly found in corners and wetlands of the garden area. Houttuynia Cordata is harvested between Summer and Autumn, then cleansed and dried under the Sun.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Houttuynia Cordata falls under the category of ‘Herbs that clear Heat and relieve toxicity’. Such herbs can clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as ‘Internal Heat’ in TCM. Cool in nature, Houttuynia Cordata helps people who have too much ‘Heat’ in their body, such as those experiencing a yang excess or a yin deficiency, to restore a healthy yin-yang balance.

Pungent in taste, Houttuynia Cordata tends to promote the circulations of qi and body fluids. In particular, the herb targets the Lungs.

Functions and Benefits of Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shows that Houttuynia Cordata has the following health benefits. 

Houttuynia Cordata can clear Heat and remove toxicity. For example, the herb can help to clear Lung Heat, dispel phlegm, relieve Lung abscess, infections, cough with thick yellowish-green sputum, bronchitis, swollen tongue and pneumonia. Also, Houttuynia Cordata can detoxify and expel pus to tackle sores and abscess.

Houttuynia Cordata can also drain Damp-Heat to induce diuresis and relieve Stranguria. Other syndromes of Damp-Heat that this herb can address include Leucorrhoea disease, diarrhoea, dysentery, colitis, urinary tract infection (UTI), bad breath and jaundice.

Other than the above Houttuynia Cordata benefits, modern studies suggested that Houttuynia Cordata may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the guts and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria to improve the immune system. The herb also contains a huge amount of powerful antioxidants to counter the aging process, promote healthy skin and heal acne.

Studies have also shown that Houttuynia Cordata can treat herpes, pneumonia and SARS lung infections due to its antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is also used for asthma, bronchitis, other lung conditions and potentially cancer. Houttuynia Cordata contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties too, which helps to relieve joint pain, swelling, redness and general pain.

As the herb is low in calories and high in fiber, Houttuynia Cordata helps to promote good metabolism and digestion, which helps to reduce obesity. Furthermore, the herb can release nitrous oxide, dilate blood vessels, lower blood sugar levels and thus help to enhance physical performance and address diabetes. In addition, this herb also enhances cardiovascular functions.

A great detoxing agent, Houttuynia Cordata can also promote higher energy levels and increase stamina.

Heartleaf Houttuynia (Houttuynia Cordata) plant
In TCM, the Heartleaf Houttuynia (Houttuynia Cordata) is great at easing coughs and wound inflammations.

How to Use Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata)

The usual dose of Houttuynia Cordata ranges between 15 – 30g. This herb can be decocted for drinking, and it can also be applied externally to the skin. As Houttuynia Cordata contains a volatile oil, it cannot be decocted for long periods of time. 

Whole, dried Houttuynia Cordata can be found at many herbal shops and specialty stores. Chopped and powdered Houttuynia Cordata may also be available in these stores. Other forms of Houttuynia Cordata that you may find include capsules and tinctures.

Houttuynia Cordata has a lot of culinary uses. For example, its leaves can be used in salads. Also, Houttuynia Cordata roots can be cooked with dried fish, used in soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries, curry dishes and many other dishes.

Dried Houttuynia Cordata leaves can also be made into tea. A simple recipe to prepare tea with this herb is:

  • Add half a tablespoon of dry, chopped fish mint leaves to a cup of hot water,
  • Let the tea steep for at least 3 minutes. For medicinal benefits, steep longer,
  • Strain and serve with honey and/or lemon.

Some also use Houttuynia Cordata Extract for skin to improve their complexion.

Close up shot of Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia cordata)
Brew a cup of tea with the Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia cordata) to reap its health benefits.

Cautions and Side Effects of Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata)

Houttuynia Cordata should not be used by individuals who are pregnant, breastfeeding or experiencing Cold symptoms.

Also, this herb has been reported to cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

Hence, we strongly encourage you to consult your healthcare provider before adding Houttuynia Cordata to your diet.


Here is a summary for Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb (Houttuynia Cordata):

  • Herb name (Chinese): 鱼腥草
  • Herb name (Pin Yin): yú xīng cǎo
  • Herb name (English): Heartleaf Houttuynia Herb
  • Herb name (Botanical): Herba Houttuyniae
  • Origin of species: Houttuynia cordata Thunb.
  • Part(s) of herb used: Plant parts above ground
  • Geo-specific habitat(s): Southern part of China, along the flow of Yangtze River
  • Taste(s) & Properties: Pungent; Slightly cold; Administrates the Lung Meridian
  • Actions: Eases coughs with yellow oral discharge or lung abscesses; Eases wound inflammations (external use); Relieves painful urination

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Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.