Synonyms: Canada Snakeroot. Indian Ginger. Coltsfoot.
Common Names: Canada wild ginger, Canadian snakeroot and Broad-leaved asarabaccais
Habitat: Asarum canadense is native to deciduous forest in eastern North America, from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to approximately the fall line in the southeastern United States.
An inconspicuous but fragrant little plant, not over 12 inches high, found growing in rich soil on roadsides and in woods. A stemless perennial, much resembling the European Asarum, but with larger leaves, provided with a short spine, leaves usually only two, kidney-shaped, borne on thin fine hairy stems, dark above and paler green under-surface, 4 to 8 inches broad, strongly veined. A solitary bell-shaped flower, dull brown or brownish purple, drooping between the two leaf stems, woolly, the inside darker than the outside and of a satiny texture, the fruit a leathery six-celled capsule. It has a yellowish creeping rootstock, slightly jointed, with thin rootlets from the joints. In commerce the rootstock is found in pieces 4 to 5 inches long, 1/8 inch thick, irregular quadrangular, brownish end wrinkled outside, whitish inside, showing a large centre pith hard and brittle, breaking with a short fracture. Odour fragrant, taste aromatic, spicy and slightly bitter–it is collected in the autumn…...CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Constituents: A volatile oil once largely used in perfumery, also resin, a bitter principle called asarin, mucilage, alkaloid, sugar and a substance like camphor.
The plant yields its properties to alcohol and to hot water.
The long rhizomes of A. canadense were used by Native Americans as a seasoning. It has similar aromatic properties to true ginger (Zingiber officinale), but should not be used as a substitute because it contains an unknown concentration of the carcinogen aristolochic acid and asarone. The distillate from the ground root is known as Canadian snakeroot oil. The odor and flavor are spicy. It has been used in many flavor preparations.
Native Americans used the plant as a medicinal herb to treat a number of ailments including dysentery, digestive problems, swollen breasts, coughs and colds, typhus, scarlet fever, nerves, sore throats, cramps, heaves, earaches, headaches, convulsions, asthma, tuberculosis, urinary disorders and venereal disease. In addition, they also used it as a stimulant, an appetite enhancer and a charm. It was also used as an admixture to strengthen other herbal preparations.
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