Botanical Name: Aletris Farinosa
Species: A. farinosa
Common Names : Blazing star, Star grass, Starwort, False unicorn root.
Other common names.—Star grass, Colic root, True Unicorn Root, Ague Root, blazing star, mealy starwort, starwort unicorn root, true unicorn root, unicornplant, unicorn’s-horn, colicroot, devil’s-bit, ague grass, ague root, aloeroot, crow corn, huskwort. Some of the common names are also used in connection with Helonias (Chamaelirium luteum (L.) A. Gray), which causes much confusion, although the two plants do not bear any close resemblance. It is best, therefore, to designate it as Aletris, under which name it is best known in the drug trade.
Part used.—The rootstock, which should be collected in autumn.
Habitat :Aletris occurs in dry, generally sandy soil, from Maine to Minnesota, Florida, and Tennessee. It grows wild in bottom land, moist soil; and full sun to part shade, such as the edge of wooded areas in Eastern United States.
Description::Aletris Farinosa is a slow growing perennial herb. Aletris first presents as a starburst of basal leaves, sending up spikes that boast small white flowers from April to July. This native herb is no longer common due to habitat destruction; and should not be harvested in the wild for medicinal use. Height: 1-3 feet, Flower size: 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, Flower color: white,Flowering time: May to August.
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Aletris is a small herb. The leaves are all radical and grass-like, from 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide, and from 2 to 4 inches long. They are smooth, entire, acute, and of a firm texture, and have from 6 to 10 parallel and quite prominent veins. The flowering stem is erect, from 2 to 3 feet high, and arises from the center of the cluster of root leaves. It has no stem leaves, but at intervals of about 2 inches, there are very small, linear scales, which may readily escape detection without a close examination. The stems are round and striate near the base, but angular above. The flowers are perfect, and in slender, terminal, simple racemes. They are on short pedicles, with small bracts at the base. The perianth is cylindrical, urn-shaped, white, with a yellowish tinge at the apex; wrinkled, rough and mealy outside, and 6-cleft at the summit. The stamens are 6, small and included. The ovary is ovate, and tapers to a slender style, which is trifid at the apex. The fruit is a dry, many-seeded, acute pod, opening by 3 valves.
How to Grow Aletris Farinosa
Aletris can be grown from root divisions and in my opinion is a good candidate for “plant rescues”. Serious attempts at cultivation are needed if this plant is to be sustainable for medicinal use. It is slow growing and little cultivation information is available.
It is reported to take two years in a greenhouse from seed, one grower said it died as soon as he transplanted it to the outdoors. Frankly that is the only person I found who reported anything about growing this plant. That does not mean it cannot be propagated.
Chemical Constituents: – Alkaloids, Diosgenin, Saponin
Antiinflammatory; Bitter; Diuretic; Narcotic; Tonic.
The greatest value of unicorn root is its tonic influence on the female generative organs, proving to be of great use in treating cases of habitual miscarriages. It also promotes the appetite and is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, rheumatism and jaundice.
The root is bitter, diuretic, narcotic and tonic. Only use the dried rootstock, in large doses the fresh root is somewhat narcotic, emetic and cathartic. A decoction of the root is a bitter tonic and has been used for expelling flatulence and for various uterine disorders. It is used in the treatment of colic, though small doses, especially of the fresh root, can cause hypogastric colic. The root is harvested in late summer after flowering and dried for later use.
The root contains diosgenin, which has both anti-inflammatory and oestrogenic properties.
A tea of the leaves has been used in the treatment of colic, stomach disorders, dysentery and bloody dysentery
Aletris is used for “Female Complaints”, tones the uterus, anodyne, calms stomach, may have narcotic properties. Avoid use in pregnancy and when breastfeeding. No known interactions or contraindications, but may have estrogenic properties and should be avoided when estrogen is contra-indicated.
Action, Medical Uses and Dosage.—Owing to the confusion which formerly resulted from the substitution of the root of aletris for helonias, erroneous statements have been made regarding the status of the drug in female complaints. The drug must be restudied to determine its true place in therapy. Enough is known, however, to place it among the simple bitter tonics and stomachics, and as such it is employed to promote the appetite and aid digestion, and in flatulence, colic, borborygmi, etc. This root and its preparations are almost entirely employed in dyspeptic conditions; while, in the abnormal conditions of the female reproductive organs, the chamaelirium is used. The dose of specific aletris is from 5 to 20 drops.
Other species.—Three other species of Aletris, namely, Aletris aurea Walt., A. lutea Small. and A. obovata Nash, bear much resemblance to A. farinosa and are for this reason no doubt frequently collected with the latter.
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History and Folklore
Keeps evil at bay when sprinkled around home or worn as sachet.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.