Family Aristolochiaceae A L deJussieu 1789 nom conserv the Birthwort Family

Physical description: The family Aristolochiaceae consists of about 5 genera and 300 species of foetid climbers and herbs thought to have originated directly from the order Magnoliales from which is inherited the ability to produce toxic isoquinolines and their derivatives nitrophenanthrene alkaloids, and essential oils (Appendix I). Aristolochiaceae are usually bitter. The stems of woody species are articulate and show broad Menispermaceae-like medullary rays in cross-section. The leaves are simple, without stipules, often with oil-secreting cells, alternate, entire or lobed. Aristolochiaceae can be easily spotted in the field because of their flowers which are 3-lobed or pipe-shaped. The andrecium consists of 6 or more stamens in 1 or 2 whorls around the apex of the ovary or stylar column. The ovary is 4-6-celled and the style is columnar. The fruits are capsular or baccate.

Pharmaceutical interest: Classical examples of Aristolochiaceae are Aristolochia reticulata (serpentary, red river snakeroot, and Texan snakeroot) and Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginian snakeroot), both of which are used to treat dyspepsia, considering their bitterness. Other examples are Aristolochia clematis (birthwort) and Asarum europeaum which were used in European medicine. The dried rhizomes, roots and leaves of Asarum europeaum (asarabaca) are used to induce vomiting, relieve the bowels of costiveness, and assuage headache, and are listed in the Spanish Pharmacopoeia 1954.The sodium salt of aristolochic acid has been given peros to treat a number of inflammatory conditions, but it is nephrotoxic in humans and in animals, as well as carcinogenic in rodent. About 20 species of plants classified within the family Aristolochiaceae are used for medicinal purposes in the Asia-Pacific. These are often used to counteract snake-poisoning, promote urination and menses, assuage stomachaches and to treat dropsy and skin diseases. The therapeutic potential of most Aristolochiaceae is unknown but one might set the hypothesis that the rhizomes of Aristolochia species counteract snake-poison and inhibit inflammation on account of a probable inhibition of phospholipase A2 by isoquinoline alkaloids through a steroidal-like mechanism. Of interest are also the antimicrobial and cytotoxic potential of Aristolochiaceae alkaloids.

Continue reading here: Apama corymbosa Griff Willd

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