Dokudami Plant Studies

 

Plant Study:
Dokudami Houttuynia cordata

Excerpts from studies by
Miho Kawakami
Chieko Kobayashi
Yuko Oda
Kumiko Tsuruta
Hiromi Yamamoto


Japanese name: Dokudami (a.k.a jyuuyaku)
Scientific name: Houttuynia cordata

A native of South Asia, Dokudami is found in Japan, China and Southeast Asia.

Its scientific name, Houttuynia, comes from the name of a Dutch doctor, and cordata means "heart-shaped" in Latin.

This flower has a particularly strong odor and many people find this flower unpleasant. Decanol acetaldehyde, one of the substances found in Dokudami and the cause of this odor, has been found to have antibacterial properties, and is effective as a preventative of skin afflictions and suppuration. Quercitrin and Isoquercitrin function to strengthen capillaries, forestall aging and purify blood.

In addition, this flower is rich in the minerals potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which are effective in controlling high blood pressure and diuresis.
(Kawakami)

Photo by Yuko Oda

Characteristics:

• The root stem is white and cylinder-shaped. It extends horizontally, and actively branches out and grows.

• The stem is dark purple in color and smooth. It extends straight up.

• The leaves grow alternately and are shaped like an egg or a heart. The root is reddish-dark green in color.

• The leaves are thick and substantial. They give out a strong odor when rubbed. This odor can be felt in places where Dokudami grows in clusters.

• In early summer, a small, pale yellow flower grows at the tip of the flower axis that extends from the stem top. The flowers cluster, like ears.

• The four corners of the white, petal-like calyxes (or leaves) open up flat to form a cross.

• Although the pale yellow portion is the flower, it looks more like a pistil.

• The overall height is between 20 and 50 cm.
Among dicotyledonous plants, Dokudami is one of the least evolved. It is a bare flower whose calyx and petals remain undifferentiated. Since the stamen is incomplete, it forms a fruit without insemination. Dokudami is therefore an interesting plant that is virginally generated. (Oda)

Medicinal Uses:

• Since long ago, Dokudami's crude drugs (or herbal medicines) have been popularly used for healing wounds. They are like superstars in the world of Chinese herbal medicine.

• Dokudami's crude drugs work well after being rubbed with salt, or being crushed and rubbed. When they are applied on insect bites and cuts as well as purulent portions, they work very effectively.

• This medicinal effect derives from aldehydes and ketones that are the source of its foul smell. Dokudami is proven to have antibacterial effects against Trichophyton, staphylococci, gonococci and tubercule bacilli. It is said to be more effective than sulfa drugs.

Drawing by Chieko Kobayashi

• The whole plant is dried and brewed, and used for treatments such as diuretics, antipyretics, pus removal, detoxication, swelling, hypertension, pulmonary tuberculosis, constipation, colds, and paranasal sinusitis.

Folk medicine:

• There are the so-called old wives' tales that had been passed on during the days when people had no special medical knowledge or information.

• People learned from experience, the effects and benefits of Dokudami, an item that was readily available.

• Simple treatment methods, such as rubbing fresh Dokudami leaves and filling them in the nose to improve nasal congestion, have been handed down in various parts of Japan.


• Since the old days, people often used Dokudami as folk medicine. The current name, meaning "accumulating poison" in Japanese, prevailed after the 17th or the 18th century.

 

Drawing by Chieko Kobayashi



Period of harvest:

In the height of summer, after the flowers fall, the plant is sheared from the root. It is then dried thoroughly under sunlight, and used. About 4 to 12 grams of Dokudami are brewed and used per dose.

Usage for physical health and beauty:

• Dokudami lotion: This is made by soaking dried Dokudami in shochu liquor for 10 days, then filtered through a gauze. Glycerin is added to it, then applied on the skin.

• Dokudami liquor: Place dried Dokudami in a bottle, and pour shochu (alcoholic content of about 25 to 30 proof) over it up to about 80% of the height of the bottle. Fill the remaining 20% with honey. Place double gauze on the top, cover lightly with a lid, and keep in the refrigerator. After three months, filter the contents through a gauze, transfer to another bottle, and store in the refrigerator.

Anecdotes:

• Dokudami is a type of emergency plant. The specific odor of the root, stem, and leaf evaporates when heated, and becomes odorless.

• Emergency food: Boil Dokudami and cook in soy sauce, or deep-fry fresh leaves, or chop the stem/leaf and cook with rice.


Overview of Dokudami:

• Fragrance: Very pungent and strong. It asserts itself and has a strong presence.

• Texture: The leaf is thick and solid. Although the white calyx is soft, it is always taut, projecting a clean, refreshing image. The flowers are securely attached to the flower axis and do not fall easily even when touched. They are resilient and flexible.

• Taste: Of course, I have never eaten Dokudami raw. However, I drink the dried, brewed version and Dokudami tea each year. Perhaps because it is said to be good for the health, it tastes a bit like medicine. But once you get used to the taste, you come to appreciate its unique, profound taste.

• Mood: The deep green color creates a calm, stable mood. Although simple in appearance, the plant gives the impression of power, resilience and endurance that can overcome all hardships. In contrast, the petals are delicate and cute; they blossom elegantly surrounded by the heavy leaves.
(Oda)

Impressions:

When we take a close look at the flowers, the bracts are spreading in a cross-shape, and they look as if they hold or wrap around the yellow-white flowers. A cross is said to express a world which is made by time-axis and space-axis intersected with each other, because the vertical axis symbolizes time-axis and the horizontal axis symbolizes space-axis. It also expresses the physical world represented by east, west, south, and north. The number of the bracts, 'four,' symbolizes the power of four elements; water, fire, earth and air. Among these, Dokudami governs two elements; one is water because Dokudami prefers moist soils and it has red-brown color like blood on leaves and stems. The other is fire because the figure of Dokudami is like a fire burning up to heaven.

Drawing by Hiromi Yamamoto

As for the chakras of the human body, the chakra which is related to water element is the second chakra. The second chakra controls womb, ovary, and sexual organs, which are the reproductive organs. When the second chakra is well balanced, it allows for detachment. On the other hand, when it lacks the balance, it causes over-attachments to people, events, etc. The nature of the water element is receptive, fluctuating, sensuous, changing, and purifying.

The chakra which is related to fire element, is the third charka. The third chakra controls stomach, liver, spleen, gall bladder and the nervous system. When the third chakra is well balanced, it gives us forgiveness and emotional relief. On the other hand, when it lacks the balance, it leads to anger, regret, and hatred. The natures of fire element are intelligence, vitality, insight, actions, and thoughts and guide us to the right direction.

It is necessary to balance these two chakras, because too much fire element will cause depletion of the water and too much water element will cause extinction of the fire. We can see some bipolar nature like these two elements in Dokudami. Smooth surfaces of the white bracts and softness of the yellow flowers like a tail of cat are in contrast to textured backside of the leaves and strong stems, which we cannot pick easily. There are male energy (explicit) and female energy (implicit) in the flowers, which make one living form.

What I see in Dokudami is a pair of explicit and implicit, which we also see in persons and all things. The more we learn our explicit side in ourselves and accept it as a part of us, the better implicit side we tend to have. It is the growth of our soul. We learn it again and again through our lives. We experience many kinds of yin and yang, such as one between mother and children, one among the members of a group, one in partnership. By the emotion we have when we go through the above cases, we become off-balance in mind, which brings us some disease. We have been using Dokudami since ancient times because we know that Dokudami fixes our insides governed by the third chakra, makes us relax, cleans the streams of blood governed by the second chakra, reproduces them, and leads our bodies, minds, and souls.

From the point of color analysis, the yellow color of the flowers expresses relationships and communication between others. The white color of the bracts expresses purification and service to human beings and natural world. The bracts, as if spreading to hold the flowers, seem to develop the concept of service, giving us the purification of our emotion, forgiveness, and healing during the growth of our mind.
(Kobayashi)

Artistic Expression:

Dokudami
by Kumiko Tsuruta
Japanese translation below

In the pale dark
I open my heart
Longing for the light of the Sun

However
In the light of the Sun
My heart would be scorched

Ah, this passion
Blazing in red

Oh, God
In my heart
Make a pure white cross flower
In bloom


Collage by Hiromi Yamamoto

About the students:

Miho Kawakami has her own therapy room and conducts healing sessions with flower essences and the Tarot. She does several things to spread information about flower essence therapy to a wide range of people, including publishing a magazine and teaching classes on flower essences.

Chieko Kobayashi is an Energy Chakra Therapist and Counselor who has her own therapy room, "Pur Coeur C Room," in Yamanashi-Prefecture, Japan.

Yuko Oda works as a sales person in a shop. She was seeking "joy for her soul" for a long time and then met flower essences. Now she feels life's truths and has increasingly deeper insights. She hopes her heart will continue to open much more to allow the growth of love within herself.

Hiromi Yamamoto works as a body therapist using essential oils, and is guided and helped by flower essences everyday. The use of Self Heal Creme has been her favorite since first beginning her practice.


 


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