Yu Xing Cao (Fish Mint or Houttuynia Cordata)

What Is Yu Xing Cao

Yu Xing Cao is commonly known as fish mint, fish wort, chameleon plant, or Houttuynia Cordata, which is a perennial herb belonging to the family Saururaceae. It is a relatively practical and common Chinese herbal medicine, which first appeared in <Mingyi Bie Lu> around 420-589 AD.

There are two species of this genus. The other one is Houttuynia emeiensis, which is distributed in Sichuan, China.

Houttuynia Cordata is hardy, afraid of strong light, and likes a warm and humid environment. It is native to Southeast Asia and is often used as a vegetable and condiment in India, Vietnam, and southwestern China. Its leaves can be made into tea in Japan and Korea.

Houttuynia Cordata

Houttuynia injection was recommended as an anti-SARS drug in 2003, but its injection was suspended by the China National Drug Administration in 2006 due to its side effects.

Every summer, people pick the above-ground part of Houttuynia Cordatas, wash them with water, remove their impurities, cut them into segments, use them directly, or dry them in the sun, and make them into Chinese herbal medicines.

Yu Xing Cao has a strong fishy smell. It contains decanoyl acetaldehyde, lauric aldehyde, methylnonylketone, quercetin, quercitrin, kaempferol, glucopyranoside, aristolactam, linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, octanoic acid, chlorogenic acid, aspartate, glutamine, serine, histidine, glycine, leucine, polysaccharides, and potassium chloride.

According to <Compendium of Materia Medica>, the medicinal nature of Yu Xing Cao is slightly cold, with a pungent taste. It has a certain therapeutic effect on the pathological changes of the lung meridian.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Yu Xing Cao is often used to clear heat and remove toxins, expel carbuncles and pus, eliminate phlegm and induce diuresis, treat upper respiratory tract infections, chronic bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, lobar pneumonia, lung abscess, pertussis, SARS, acute epidemic keratitis, acute suppurative orchitis, pelvic inflammation, anal papillitis, perianal abscess, herpes zoster, prostatitis, lupus erythematosus, and leptospirosis.

About 50 kinds of traditional Chinese medicine prescriptions contain it, such as Lianhua Qingwen capsule, Ji Zhi Tang Jiang, and Ke Chuan Shun Wan.


  • Anti-inflammation, anti-tumor, and anti-depression.
  • Anti-oxidation, scavenging hydroxyl radical and superoxide anion.
  • Inhibiting influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus type 3, and herpes simplex virus.
  • Enhancing the phagocytic ability of white blood cells and macrophages, improving immunity.
  • Dilating the renal artery and increasing renal artery flow.
  • Inhibiting platelet aggregation and preventing arteriosclerosis.
  • Improving insulin resistance, treating metabolic syndromes and type 2 diabetes.
  • Treating chest pain, expectoration of bloody pus, and lung abscess caused by the accumulation of phlegm-heat in the lung.
  • Clearing lung heat, eliminating yellow phlegm, and treating wheezing and cough caused by lung heat.
  • Removing heat toxins, expelling carbuncles, and skin ulcers caused by heat toxins.
  • Draining dampness and promoting urination, treating difficult and painful urination caused by damp-heat in the bladder.
  • Inhibiting Staphylococcus aureus, Dicoccus pneumoniae, Influenza bacilli, Streptococcus hemolyticus type B, Escherichia coli, Proteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus subtilis, Dysentery bacterium, and Leptospira.


Side Effects

  • Yu Xing Cao can be eaten directly, but it is not recommended for long-term consumption.
  • Long-term or overdose of it may cause nausea, vomiting, and damage to yang-qi, spleen, and stomach.
  • Houttuynia injection may cause bullous drug dermatitis, peripheral neuritis, systemic allergy, anaphylactic shock, chest tightness, palpitation, dyspnea, and other serious adverse reactions. It has been discontinued by the China National Drug Administration.

Precautions and Warnings

  • The dosage of Yu Xing Cao should be controlled at 15-25g.
  • When using fresh Yu Xing Cao, the dose should be doubled.
  • It can be made into decoctions, pills, eye drops, tea, or mashed for topical use.
  • It contains volatile oils, so it is recommended to decoct it for no more than 3 minutes.
  • People who are allergic to Yu Xing Cao should not take it.
  • Patients with deficient-cold shouldn’t take it.
  • Patients with deep abscesses should not take it.
  • Pregnant women should not take it.