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Unicorn Root

Unicorn Root

Botanical Description / Habitat

Aletris farinosa

Family

Liliaceae

(See also False Unicorn Root)

Common Names:

Ague grass
Ague root
Aloe root
Aloerot
Bettie grass
Black root
Blazing star root
Colic root
Crow corn
Devil's bit
Star root
Stargrass
Starwort

Habitat

Found at edges of swampy or wet, sandy woods in North America, especially along the seashore from Florida north.

Description

A low growing, perennial herb, with grassy leaves.

White, bell-shaped flowers bloom between May and August.

Root is black but becomes brown when dried.

Medicinal Parts

Dried rhizome. Bitter taste.

Historical Properties & Uses

Fresh root is cathartic, emetic and narcotic but these properties disappear after drying.

A bitter tonic used for colic, dyspepsia and flatulence.

Indians in the Carolinas used it as an anti-diarrheal tea.

In Appalachia it was used for ague (rheumatism).

The fabled "Lydia Pinkham's Remedy" contained unicorn root for female disorders. The plant does contain diosgenin but is not classified, officially, as estrogenic.

It has been included in laxatives.


Method of Action

A resin and saponin-like glycoside are the most likely source of its pharmacological activity.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

There are no known interactions.

There may be a potential estrogenic effect.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

No significant adverse events have been reported for dried herbal products.

Fresh root is reported to have narcotic properties in large doses while smaller doses can induce: colic, stupefaction and vertigo.

References:

Greive, M: A Modern Herbal. Penguin, 1984. (Originally published in 1931.)

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Oct, 1993.

Preparation & Administration

Dried powdered root5 - 10 grains.
Tincture5 - 15 drops.
Fluid extract1 drachm.


References

References:

Greive, M: A Modern Herbal. Penguin, 1984. (Originally published in 1931.)

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Oct, 1993.

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