Clematis vine, also known as Caulis Clematidis Armandii in Latin, is one of several different Chinese herbs that share the name Mu Tong. The other popular two are Guan Mu Tong (Caulis Aristolochiae manshuriensis) and Mu Tong (Akebia quinata). In clinical practice of Chinese medicine, they were usually considered the same thing as they are with the nearly identical healing properties. But things have forever changed since aristolochic acid, a compound known to cause cancers of the urinary tract and kidney damage, has been found in plants in the family Aristolochiaceae. For that reason, clematis is implicated although later it is proven innocent.
What is clematis vine?
There are a number of clematis vine varieties but medicinally it refers to the dried stems of Clematis armandii Franch. or Clematis montana Buch.-Ham. Both of them are the member of family Ranunculaceae. It is usually harvested during spring and autumn. In addition, it needs to remove the raw bark, dry in the sun, or slice the fresh vines before drying. By the way, clematis grows from seed or from cuttings.
Clematis montana is a perennial woody climbing plant, usually up to 8 meters in height. Stems are cylindrical and with longitudinal stripes; branchlets are pubescent and later become glabrescent when; the skin of old stems is peel off. Leaves are opposite or a few of them cluster with flower; petiole is 5 to 6cm; ternately compound leaf is ovate, broadly ovate or elliptic, 3-lobed, 2 to 7cm long, 1 to 5cm wide, and with acute or acuminate apex and serrated edge. Flowers are apetalous, bisexual, and 3 to 5cm in diameter and 1 to 6 of them cluster with leaves; sepals are 4, outstretched, oblong-obovate or obovate, 1.5 to 2.5cm long, 0.8 to 1.5cm wide; stamens are numerous, about 1cm long, and glabrous; carpel is many. Achene is flat, oval or oblong, 4 to 6mm long, glabrous, and with about 2.2cm feathery persistent style. Bloom time is from April to June and fruit time is from July to September.
Clematis armandii is a perennial woody vine, up to 6 meters. Stem is cylindrical and with longitudinal stripes. Carinal twigs are initially covered with short white pubescence and later grow out of it. Leaves are opposite; petiole is 5 to 7.5cm in length; ternately compound leaf is leathery, ovate or lanceolate, 4 to 16cm long, 2 to 8cm wide, and with acuminate apex, rounded or cordate base, and entire margin. Panicles are axillary and apical. Each section has a pair of small bracts. base is enclosed by rectangular scales; clematis vine flower is about 3cm in diameter; petal-like calyx is 4, white, rectangular or oblong-obovate, and with obtuse apex; petal is absent; stamens are many and about 5mm long; pistil is many and about 3mm long. Ovary and style are with upward hair. Achene is flat oval, 3mm long, with feathery hair and up-to-5cm persistent style.
Clematis vine leaves and stems of clematis montana contain clemontanoside A and B that is based on oleanoic-acid aglycon. In addition, it still contains friedelin, β-amyrin, β-sitosterol, β-sitosterol-β-D-glucoside, n-pentacosane, and n-octacosanol.
Clematis vine health benefits
Medicinally clematis and aristolochia manshuriensis are known for their excellent ability on inducing diuresis. That is the exact reason why the latter was heavily adulterated into some diet pills, which thus planted the seeds for the future tragedy. Now we already know that aristolochia plants contain a toxic ingredient called aristolochic acid, which causes human kidney damage or even death in long-term uses. Unlike aristolochia manshuriensis, clematis belongs to Ranunculaceae. That is to say, this herb has the same healing power but without the above-mentioned side effects. As a matter of fact, clematis and akebia quinata are taking over and becoming the substitute in all aristolochia manshuriensis based formulas for the treatment of a variety of diseases, such as edema, stranguria, amenorrhea, arthralgia, oral ulcers, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, excessive vaginal discharge, urinary tract infections, genital warts, etc.
Modern pharmacological actions of clematis
1. The result of animal experiment shows that it has a significant diuretic effect, which resembles to hydrochlorothiazide. And between them no significant difference is found;
2. The clematis, akebia trifoliata, and aristolochiae manshuriensis’ injections, extracted by water abstraction and alcohol precipitation, have a significant diuretic effect in rabbits through intravenous injection. No significant difference was found among the three herbs;
3. It increases the amount of urine while significantly increasing the output of potassium, sodium, and chloride;
4. After rats were given the ash of crude drug, the urine outputs in clematis and in the control group were similar, which could rule out the possibility that it is the electrolytes contained that cause the diuresis.
5. It has inhibition on a variety of pathogenic fungi;
6. It has excitatory effects on the uterus.
Sample clematis vines herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is tasteless or slightly bitter in flavor and cold in nature. It goes to meridians of heart, small intestine, and bladder. Main functions are reducing fever, increasing secretion of urine, restoring menstrual flow, and promoting lactation. Basic clematis vine uses and indications include damp-heat uroschesis, edema, stranguria, tongue and mouth sores due to flaring heart-fire, damp-heat arthralgia, joint stiffness, amenorrhea, and blocked ducts during breastfeeding. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 6 grams in decoction.
1. Dao Chi San from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to the Therapeutics of Children’s Diseases). It is used together with Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), and Zhu Ye (Folium Bambusae) to treat infantile heart heat, which is manifested as difficulty and pain in micturition, red face, mania, mouth sores, thirst, and so on.
2. Tong Cao Yin from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is designed with Sang Bai Pi (Mulberry Root Bark), Shi Wei (Pyrrosia Leaves), Chi Fu Ling (Sclerotium Poriae Cocos Rubrae), Fang Ji (Stephania Tetrandra), Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root), etc. to cure abdominal dropsy, and borborygmus and big belly.
3. Mu Tong San from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is formulated with Chi Fu Ling, Ling Yang Jiao (Antelope Horns), Sheng Ma (Black Cohosh Rhizome), Da Huang (rhubarb), Mang Xiao (Glauber’s Salt), etc. to heal pharyngitis, chess tightness, and throat impediment.
4. Mu Tong Tang from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is combined with Zhong Ru Shi (Stalactite, Calcite), Lou Lu (Radix Rhapontici/Echinopsis), Gua Lou Gen (Trichosanthes Root), and Gan Cao (Licorice Root) to treat blocked ducts during breastfeeding.
Clematis vine side effects and contraindications
Is clematis vine poisonous to dogs and humans? Compared to aristolochia manshuriensis, clematis is with less adverse reaction. The acute toxicity test showed that the LD50 value was 25.95 ± 2.89g/kg. Besides, the subacute toxicity test results showed that compared to the control group rat given clematis showed no significant changes on animal behavior, response to external stimuli, fur, feces and urine. Weight gained in both groups. And there were no obvious changes on WBC, platelet count, liver function, and kidney function. In addition, histopathologically no noticeable changes were found between the treated group and the control group. TCM wise, Si Chuan Zhong Yao Zhi (Chinese Medicinal Herbal in Sichuan) says that it shouldn’t be used during pregnancy and in cases of excessive urination, enuresis, night emission, and insufficiency of middle-warmer energy.