The medicinal power of pipe flower

Pipe flower originally grows in the Mediterranean region, but nowadays we also see it in the Netherlands, especially in the dunes. It blooms with yellow flowers in May and June and grows between 60 and 90 centimeters high. It is a ground-covering perennial plant with a slightly fruity scent. The flower of pipe flower is a kind of insect trap. Insects cannot get out until the flower is pollinated. The flower contains hairs that stop insects, but when the flower is pollinated, the hairs relax so that the insect can leave the flower again. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing pipe flower / Source: Chrizz, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Traditional use pipe flower
  • Naming pipe flower
  • Balkan kidney disease
  • Use in homeopathy
  • Side effects of pipe flower

Traditional use pipe flower

According to Furlenmeier, the leaves of the pipe flower are a better remedy for wound treatments than arnica, better known as arnica, and calendula, or marigold. The herb was also used to induce an abortion, during labor, for menopausal complaints and as a remedy for rheumatic diseases. Dioscorides, pioneer of medicine and herbal science, wrote in the first century that pipe flower works very well to facilitate and hasten the birth of a child. The root of pipe flower has long been used as a medicine to purify the blood. Charlemagne decreed in the Middle Ages, the 8th century, that every monastery garden had to have this plant. Some writers believe that pipe flower was not introduced into Europe until 300 years later, during the Crusades undertaken from the 11th century onwards. The plant was also used to renounce the devil. In our modern language, ‘to renounce the devil’ means ‘to prevent disease’. Pipeflower root is a natural remedy for snakebites in the Mediterranean, but other varieties of pipeflower may be used for this purpose. The ancient Romans already used it for snake bites. The same thing already happened in ancient Greece. The North American Indians have also used varieties of pipe flower for snake bites. Another application is stunning fish; In the past, fish were stunned to make them easier to catch.

The pipe-like flowers from which the pipe flower gets its name / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Pipe flower occurs in the Netherlands and Belgium but is rare. It prefers warm areas such as mountain flanks that face south. You also see it in European deciduous forests and hedges.

Naming pipe flower

All plants have a scientific Latin name. Why do we use Latin in science? Because then we will not have any misunderstandings about which plant it concerns. The Latin name we use in science for this medicinal plant is Aristolochia clematis . The first part consists of the words ‘aristos’ which is Greek for ‘the best’ and the second part comes from the word lockeius which means ‘belongs to childbirth’. In Dutch we also say Saraceenskruid, Saracijnskruid, Bakkruid, Hollowroot, Kraut Pipe, Bearroot and German Pipe. Saracens is the old name that Europeans gave to Arabs. Rembert Dodoerns, the pioneering herbal scientist, proclaims in his Cruyde book that the seeds of pipe flower are very similar to the seeds of the Saracens. In England, this plant is called European birthwort because the root eases the contractions of women, allowing the child to be born without major problems. Another English name is birth root. In Dutch, baarroot is the translation of the English word. It is said that Paracelsus gave the name bar root to pipe flower. In German the plant is called Gew√∂hnliche Osterluzei, but it also has various nicknames that focus on its medicinal use.

Balkan kidney disease

Pipe flour contains aristolochic acids. The roots contain 10 times as much acid as the leaves. Scientific tests have shown that these acids could cause cancer. In any case, it is bad for the kidneys. Therefore, the use of the root has been abolished. In Germany, the supply of a medicine containing pipe flower has been prohibited since 1982. In the Balkans it has been seen since the 1950s and the 21st century that relatively many people suffer from reduced kidney function and cancer in the urinary tract. There is a good chance that the cause of this is the fact that grain fields intended for bread supply are filled with pipe flour that is unintentionally harvested, as an early 21st century study from the United States shows. Because aristolochic acids accumulate in the kidneys, a condition called endemic nephropathy can develop. Endemic means ‘indigenous’ and nephropathy is a medical word for ‘kidney damage’. The disease is also called Balkan kidney disease or Balkan nephropathy. This disease actually only occurs in certain regions of Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.

Use in homeopathy

The leaves of the pipe flower are used in phytotherapy as a natural remedy for eczema. The plant is most commonly used in homeopathy. Due to the dilutions used in homeopathy, this healing method has no side effects.

Side effects of pipe flower

Astrolochic acids, which are found in pipe flower, among other things, do have serious side effects, these are a number of them:

Pipe flower as a ground cover / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Palpitations, nausea, dizziness and convulsions
  • Marked vasodilation
  • Fatty liver disease
  • internal major bleeding and capillary bleeding (bleeding of the capillaries)
  • Menorrhagia or too much menstrual blood loss
  • Hemorrhagic nephritis
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Decrease in lymphocytes
  • Death from respiratory arrest

Nowadays, only the leaves of this herbaceous plant are used. Pipe flour contains essential oils, aristolochic acids, bitter substances and tannins or tannins.

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