China Root (Smilax china)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
China Root
Smilax china

A yellow dye is made from the root and leaves when alum is used as a mordant[4, 178]. With iron sulphate, the colour is brown[4].

  • Medicinal Use

    The root is alterative, antiscrophulatic, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and tonic[1, 4, 11, 147, 174, 178, 218]. It is considered useful when taken internally in the treatment of old syphilitic cases and is also used for certain skin diseases, including psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, enteritis, urinary tract infections, skin ulcers etc[4, 238]. Large doses can cause nausea and vomiting, which is valuable in weakened and depraved conditions due to a poisoned state of the blood[4]. The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.

  • Edible Use

    Root – cooked[4, 105, 177]. Rich in starch[2], the large and fleshy roots can be dried and ground into a powder[11]. The root is harvested by severing larger roots near the crown and leaving the smaller roots to grow on[238].

    Young shoots and leaves – raw or cooked[105, 159, 177, 179]. Used as a potherb[183]. The leaves are said to contain rutin, but no details of quantity were given[218].

    Fruit – raw. Eaten to quench the thirst[105, 177, 183]. The fruit is about 9mm in diameter[200].

    A tea is made from the leaves[177, 179, 183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow March in a warm greenhouse[1]. This note probably refers to the tropical members of the genus, seeds of plants from cooler areas seem to require a period of cold stratification, some species taking 2 or more years to germinate[K]. We sow the seed of temperate species in a cold frame as soon as we receive it, and would sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if we could obtain it then[K]. When the seedlings eventually germinate, prick them out into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first year, though we normally grow them on in pots for 2 years. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in early spring as new growth begins[238]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Cuttings of half-ripe shoots, July in a frame[238].
Succeeds in most well-drained soils in sun or semi-shade[200]. Hardy to about -15¡c[200]. A climbing plant, supporting itself by means of tendrils and thorns as it scrambles through small trees and shrubs. A young plant is growing and thriving close to a west-facing wall at Kew Botanical gardens[K]. This species is not the true ‘China root’ of medicine, see the record for S. pseudo-china[178]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
E. Asia – China, Japan.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.