Acne, Anti-aging, Skin school, Skincare

Houttuynia Cordata skin benefits – Is Heartleaf Korea’s newest skincare darling?

Skin benefits of Houttuynia cordata aka Heartleaf
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Houttuynia cordata is a flowering plant with many common names, such as fish mint, fish leaf, fishwort, Heartleaf houttuynia, rainbow plant, chameleon plant, dokudami, or Chinese lizard tail. In skin care, it is also referred to as Heartleaf.

It is native to Southeast Asia, including Japan, China, and Vietnam, but it has also been naturalized in North America. It is mainly found in moist and shady locations and is known for its medicinal properties and distinctive aroma.

Recently, this ingredient has been growing in popularity in skincare. In this guide:

Korean beauty products are known for their unique ingredients, such as snail mucin, bamboo water, bee venom, and fermented plant extracts, and their focus on skin health and nourishment.
Additionally, Korean beauty trends are more experimental and innovative than other traditions. Enter Houttuynia cordata, K-beauty’s newest skincare darling.

Due to its numerous benefits for the skin, heartleaf has become a common ingredient in Asian beauty. Skincare brands are now using Heartleaf Houttuynia extract extensively, adding it to many skin care products, such as cleansers, toners, serums, essences, creams, sheet masks, and spot treatments. Jump to see the best products with heartleaf.

Houttuynia cordata’s uses

Health benefits

Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and anti-tumor effects, Houttuynia cordata is studied both in medicine and in traditional Asian medicines with promising benefits for constipation, hyperglycemia, pneumonia, antidote, inflammation, oral care, syphilis, abscess, paralysis, and gynecological diseases.


Additionally, Houttuynia cordata is edible. The plant is grown and harvested for daily vegetable consumption, particularly in North and Northeast Thailand. It is also used as a culinary herb in some Asian cuisines and is appreciated for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also called fishwort or fish leaf because it leaves a fishy aftertaste.


Houttuynia cordata has researched benefits for hair. It promotes hair growth.

Heartleaf skincare benefits

1. Potent antioxidant herb

Houttuynia cordata possesses a powerhouse of bio-actives and antioxidants. Research has shown it has a wide range of polyphenols, flavonoids, tannins, and vitamins which are known to be responsible for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. These antioxidants protect the skin against pollution, stress, and UV rays. 

2. Anti-inflammatory

The heartleaf plant extract has been used as a robust anti-inflammatory agent for treating atopic dermatitis and acne in traditional Korean herbal medicine.

3. Anti-aging

Houttuynia cordata extract also has anti-aging benefits by preventing the degradation of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in the skin. Interestingly, a new study shows an anti-aging effect by significantly increasing the skin’s telomerase activity (skin’s intrinsic aging mechanism).

4. Anti-acne

Heartleaf works to keep the skin healthy and helps treat acne in several researched ways:

It has antimicrobial properties that fight against acne-related pathogens, making it a desired ingredient in anti-acne skincare products.

Its anti-inflammatory effects are excellent in calming acne-prone skin.

Herbal extracts are efficient in treating mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Herbal extracts generally have fewer adverse effects and can be a good alternative for those who would rather skip drugs.

6. Sun damage protection

UVB exposure is a major external cause of skin damage, aging, inflammation, tanning, wrinkling, DNA damage, and skin cancers. One of the main strategies for preventing UVB-induced skin damage is reducing the oxidative stress of skin cells. Using its antioxidant super-power, Houttuynia cordata has been proven to protect and attenuate UVB damage.

Bare in mind that the Houttuynia cordata performance relies on whether the extract is derived from the roots or leaves and if has been purified by water or alcohol extraction.

The polyphenol-rich extracts of Heartleaf have been shown to protect cells against UVA damage and oxidative stress. They prevent photoaging and intrinsic aging through anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory functions.

7. Repairs the skin barrier

Additionally, Houttuynia cordata’s antioxidant properties work against atopic dermatitis by healing the damaged skin barrier.

8. Boosts Skin Hydration

On top of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Heartleaf contains polysaccharides, acting as an excellent humectant, attracting water and hydrating the skin. This makes it suitable for skincare products such as moisturizers and masks.

Who should use it?

Due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, Houttuynia cordata is an excellent addition to acne-prone skin. And because of its anti-aging benefits, the plant is helpful to everyone (duh).

Houttuynia cordata vs Centella Asiatica

Centella Asiatica is a medicinal herb used in Ayurvedic, African and Asian medicine. It is the bigger sister of Houttuynia cordata in Asian beauty.

Like Houttuynia cordata, Centella Asiatica contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities to fight stress and pollution.

Both have been proven to improve the skin barrier function and lock moisture in.

Centella Asiatica is widely known for its calming and soothing properties. Unlike Cica, I haven’t found studies proving that Houttuynia cordata is a soothing ingredient. Although cosmetic companies claim heartleaf is calming, I have failed to find research pointing to this claim.

They both are considered safe to use topically and do not have side effects.

Houttuynia cordata vs Mugwort

Mugwort is another relatively unknown plant in the U.S., but it has been used for centuries in Asia.

Like Centella Asiatica, Mugwort is soothing and is best suited for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin. As mentioned earlier, Houttuynia cordata is not well-documented for its soothing abilities. So if redness or overall sensitivity is your skin concern, you should better go with Mugwort or Cica.

As well as Houttuynia cordata, Mugwort has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that help treat acne.

Best products containing Houttuynia cordata


Abib Pore Cleansing Oil Heartleaf Oil Wash

Mary & May Houttuynia Cordata + Tea Tree Cleansing Foam

Beauty Of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser

(*affiliate links)


Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Moisture Toner

Anua Heartleaf 77% Soothing Toner

One Thing Houttuynia Cordata Extract Toner

Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Toner Pad

(*affiliate links)


Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Essence

All Natural Houttuynia Cordata Care Serum

Mary & May Houttuynia Cordata + Tea Tree Serum

One Thing Houttuynia Cordata Serum

Zymogen Houttuynia Cordata Ferment Serum

Anua Heartleaf 80% Soothing Ampoule

Mary & May Sensitive Soothing Gel Blemish Cream

(*affiliate links)


All Natural Mask Sheet Houttuynia Cordata

Abib Gummy Sheet Mask Heartleaf Sticker

Anua Heartleaf Mud Cream Mask

Ma:nyo Our Vegan Heartleaf Cica Mask

(*affiliate links)


Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Moisture Cream

Anua Heartleaf 70 Intense Calming Cream

Ma:nyo Factory Our Vegan Heartleaf Cica Cream

Skin&Lab Tricicabarrier Relief Cream

(*affiliate links)


Goodal Houttuynia Cordata Calming Sun Cream – read the detailed review

Abib Heartleaf Sun Essence Calming Drop – read the detailed review

All Natural Houttuynia Cordata Moisture Sun Cream

(*affiliate links)

Final words

Houttuynia cordata is a valuable herbal medicine with antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Studies show this promising plant-based ingredient is an excellent addition to your skincare regimen. Hence there have been more and more skincare products featuring heartleaf.

Scientific research on the effectiveness of Houttuynia cordata in skincare is still in its infancy, so it is best to consult a healthcare provider before using it for medicinal purposes.


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