Houttuynia cordata
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Magnoliids
Order: Piperales
Family: Saururaceae
Genus: Houttuynia
H. cordata
Binomial name
Houttuynia cordata

Houttuynia cordata, also known as fish mint, fish leaf, rainbow plant, chameleon plant, heart leaf, fish wort, or Chinese lizard tail, is one of two species in the genus Houttuynia (the other being H. emeiensis). It is a flowering plant native to Southeast Asia.[1] It grows in moist, shady locations.[2] It was named after Martinus Houttuyn.


Houttuynia cordata is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow to 0.6–1 m (2 ft 0 in – 3 ft 3 in), spreading up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in).[2][1] 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+123+12 in) long and 3–8 cm (1–3 in) broad. Its flowers are greenish-yellow and borne on a terminal spike 2–3 cm (341+14 in) long with four to six large white basal bracts.[2][1] It normally blooms in the summer.

It is considered an invasive plant because of its ability to regrow rhizomes from any segment of its foliage.[3]


Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'

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.[2][1] It can become invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate as their roots run deep and actively spread. 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.[4]


Culinary use

Flowers picked for yakmomil-kkot-cha (flower tea) in sokuri

It is commonly grown as a leaf vegetable, and is used as a fresh herbal garnish.[2] The leaf has an unusual taste from its volatile oil decanoyl acetaldehyde, a taste that is often described as "fishy", earning it the nickname "fish mint".

In northeastern India, the leaves are commonly used in salads, salsas, or cooked with other vegetables, and as a garnish over side dishes. The tender roots can also be ground into chutneys along with dry meat or fish, chilies, and tamarind. It is taken raw as salad and cooked along with fish as fish curry. In Japan and Korea, the dried leaves may be used as a herbal tea. It is called dokudami-cha (どくだみ茶) in Japan and eoseongcho cha (어성초차) in Korea.

In Vietnamese cuisine, the plant is called diếp cá and is used with grilled meat and noodle salad dishes.[5] Fish mint may be used as a garnish with several Vietnamese dishes, such as gỏi cuốn, stir-fried beef with fish mint salad, and bánh xèo.[6]

Zhe'ergen is often served as a cold salad after being washed, chopped and tossed with sauces derived from vinegar, chilli, coriander and soy sauce.

Zhé'ěrgēn (Chinese: 折耳根, "broken ear-root") is the edible rhizome of Houttuynia cordata (yúxīngcǎo; 魚腥草; "fish-smelling grass") with a fresh, spicy, peppery flavour that is used in southwestern Chinese cuisine, i.e. that of Guizhou, Sichuan, Yunnan and western Guangxi. Typically the leaves are eaten in Sichuan and the root in Guizhou. Zhé'ěrgēn fried with larou (cured pork belly) is one of the staple dishes of Guizhou.

Notable uses include:

The leaves are also a little peppery and are frequently consumed in the region.

Traditional medicine

Houttuynia cordata was used in traditional Chinese medicine, including by Chinese scientists in an attempt to treat SARS[7] and various other disorders,[8] 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.[9]

Aroma profile

Chemical compounds that contribute to the aroma of H. cordata include β-myrcene[10][11] and 2-undecanone.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Houttuynia cordata, Thunb". KewScience, The Royal Horticultural Society, UK. 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Houttuynia cordata Thunb". Plants for a Future. 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Houttuynia cordata (Chameleon Plant, Rainbow Plant) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox". plants.ces.ncsu.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  4. ^ Global Invasive Species Database: Houttuynia cordata, accessed 2008-07-06
  5. ^ Vietnamese Herbs: Fish Mint, Accessed 9 October 2018.
  6. ^ NPR Inc.:Banh Xeo (Sizzling Crepes), Accessed 10 October 2018
  7. ^ 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. PMC 7126383. PMID 18479853.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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. S2CID 25810338.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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. doi:10.1093/jaoac/90.1.60. PMID 17373437.
  12. ^ 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.