A.Vogel plant encyclopaedia

Aristolochia clematitis L.

Common Birthwort


Aristolochia clematitis L. - Common Birthwort

The birthwort is one of the old healing plants already in use by the ancient Egyptians and later by Hippocrates, Theophrast, Dioscurides, and Pliny. It was an ingredient in theriac, which was used as a panacea against ulcers, fevers, and snake bites. The ancient Egyptian name for the plant translates as «anti-snake». The Latin name aristolochia is compounded from áristos and lóchos - «the best» and «birth» respectively, or «the best for birth» together. It refers to the use of the plant in aiding childbirth. Hildegard von Bingen taught that Aristolochia opens the closed female inner organs and dissolves hardened menstrual blood. Lonicerus wrote in his 1564 herb book: «Birthwort powdered and mixed with so much myrrh and used with warm wine purifies the uterus and drives the dead birth. Every woman in childbed should drink this herb and root.» It was also used against chronic ulcers and suppurations. Paracelsus prescribed it against cancer, apparently treating like with like, since in 1981 the phytotherapeutic use of birthwort or aristolochic acid was forbidden in many countries due to possible carcinogenic effects. The species name clematitis derives from the Greek «klema» for   tendril, the growth form of this species of aristolochia. The English name «birthwort» likewise refers to the plant’s use as an aid to birth.

Botanical characteristics

30 to 70 cm high stalks grow from a creeping rhizome and bear pale yellow-green, long-stalked, cordate leaves. Two to eight long, yellow flowers sprout from the leaf axils. The perianthium is bellied at the base, then tubelike and covered with hairs arranged like a lobster trap, widening to a tongue at the end. Flies that crawl into the flower tubes are held by the tongue long enough to ensure that they carry out fertilization. The green, pear-shaped fruit is the size of a nut and opens up in six flaps containing flat, triangular seeds.

The birthwort flowers from May to June.


The birthwort is native to the Mediterranean region, the Caucasus, and Asia Minor. North of the Alps, it probably went wild from cloister gardens, but seldom forms fruit. It prefers sunny sites in vineyards, beside hedges, cultivated fields, and bushes.


A.Vogel/Bioforce uses the homeopathic dilution in accordance with current HAB. We use the aboveground portions of the plant harvested when it flowers.

Official designation







Aristolochia sarracenia DOD.


Common names

Pipevine, pelican flower