Herbs & Plants

Akebia quinata

Botanical Name : Akebia quinata
Family: Lardizabalaceae
Genus: Akebia
Species: A. quinata
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms : Rajania quinata.

Common Names :Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia

Habitat : Akebia quinata is native to E. Asia – China, Japan, Korea. It grows in woods, hedges and thickets in mountainous areas. Forest margins along streams, scrub on mountain slopes at elevations of 300 – 1500 metres in China.

Akebia quinata is a deciduous Climber growing to 12 m (39ft 4in) at a fast rate.It has compound leaves with five leaflets. The inflorescences are clustered in racemes and are chocolate-scented, with three or four sepals. The fruits are sausage-shaped pods which contain edible pulp..


It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant)The plant is not self-fertile.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation :    
Requires a well-drained moisture retentive soil. Prefers a good loamy soil. Succeeds in acid or alkaline soils. Prefers partial shade but succeeds in full sun. Succeeds on north facing walls. Plants are fast growing and can be invasive. Dormant plants are hardy to about -20°c but they can be somewhat tender when young. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. This species grows very well in S.W. England. Plants are evergreen in mild winters. Resentful of root disturbance, either grow the plants in containers prior to planting them out or plant them out whilst very young. Plants are not normally pruned, if they are growing too large they can be cut back by trimming them with shears in early spring. The flowers have a spicy fragrance, reminiscent of vanilla. Plants are shy to fruit, they possibly require some protection in the flowering season, hand pollination is advisable. Plants are probably self-sterile, if possible at least 2 plants should be grown, each from a different source. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Propagation : 
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Surface sow in a light position. The seed usually germinates in 1 – 3 months at 15°c. Stored seed should be given 1 month cold stratification and can be very difficult to germinate. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. The cuttings can be slow to root. Cuttings can also be taken of soft wood in spring. Root cuttings, December in a warm greenhouse. Layering in early spring. Very easy, the plants usually self-layer and so all you need to do is dig up the new plants and plant them out directly into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses :
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Leaves.
Edible Uses: Tea.
Fruit – raw. Sweet but insipid. The fruit has a delicate flavour and a soft, juicy texture. Lemon juice is sometimes added to the fruit to enhance the flavour. The bitter skin of the fruit is fried and eaten. The fruit is 5 – 10cm long and up to 4m wide. Soft young shoots are used in salads or pickled. The leaves are used as a tea substitute.

Medicinal Uses:
Anodyne;  Antiphlogistic;  Bitter;  Cancer;  Contraceptive;  Depurative;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  FebrifugeGalactogogue;
Laxative;  Resolvent;  Stimulant;  Stomachic;  Vulnerary.

The stems are anodyne, antifungal, antiphlogistic, bitter, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, laxative, galactogogue, resolvent, stimulant, stomachic and vulnerary. Taken internally, it controls bacterial and fungal infections and is used in the treatment of urinary tract infections, lack of menstruation, to improve lactation etc. The stems are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The fruit is antirheumatic, depurative, diuretic, febrifuge, stomachic and tonic. It is a popular remedy for cancer. The root is febrifuge. The plant was ranked 13th in a survey of 250 potential antifertility plants in China.

In the Chinese pharmacopoeia it is believed to be therapeutic as a diuretic, antiphlogistic, galactagogue and analgesic. The principal use of the herb in China is as a traditional remedy for insufficient lactation in nursing mothers. The medicinal part of the plant is the woody stem which is sliced in transverse sections and prepared as a decoction. The stem contains approximately 30% potassium salts thus giving the diuretic action.

A popular traditional remedy for insufficient lactation in nursing mothers is to simmer 10-15 grams of this herb together with pork knuckles for 3 hours, adding water as needed, then drinking the herbal broth throughout the day.

Other Uses:
The gelatinous placentation are littered with seeds but have a sweet flavor, so they used to be enjoyed by children playing out in the countryside in the olden days in Japan. The rind, with a slight bitter taste, is used as vegetable, e.g., stuffed with ground meat and deep-fried. The vines are traditionally used for basket-weaving .

In China A. quinata is referred to as (“mù tung” (Pinyin) or “mu tung” (Wade-Giles)) meaning “perforated wood”. It is also occasionally known as (“tong cao” (Pinyin) or “tung tsao” (Wade-Giles)) meaning “perforated grass”.

A. quinata is listed in the National Pest Plant Accord list which identifies pest plants that are prohibited from sale, commercial propagation and distribution across New Zealand.

The peeled stems are very pliable and can be used in basket making. Plants have sometimes been used as a ground cover, but their method of growth does not really lend themselves to this use.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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