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Botanical Name: Asarum europaeum
Common Plant Family: Birthwort
Common Name: European Wild Ginger, Asarabacca, Hazelwort, and Wild spikenard
Hasbitat:Asarum europaeum has a wide distribution in Europe. It ranges from southern Finland and northern Russia south to southern France, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia. It is absent from the British Isles and Scandinavia with the exception of southern Finland, and also from northwestern Germany and the Netherlands. Within Europe, the plant is grown outside of its range in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.The plant grows in open woodland and waterside thickets, especially in beech woodlands.
.Asarum europaeum (European Ginger)is not a flashy plant, but it always holds its own in the garden.The plant is an evergreen perennial one and has prostrate stems that each bear 2 reniform (i.e. kidney-shaped) leaves with long petioles. The upper surface of the leaves is shiny and they have a pepper-like taste and smell. There are also 2 to 3 stipules present that occur in two rows opposite each other on the stem. the flowers are solitary, terminal and nodding. The flower tube is composed of fused tepals that ends with 3 petal-like projections that are brownish towards their ends and dark purple toward the centre. There are 12 stamens present. The flowers emerge in the late winter and spring.. Unlike American wild ginger, European ginger has glossy, shiny(heart shaped) leaves.Leaves are thick and extra glossy. It grows as a low, slow creeping ground cover that sweeps around other plants, catches the light and reflects it up. The leaves are so shiny, everyone wants to reach down and touch it.
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The stems are 10-15 cm long. The leaves are petiolate and reniform and about 10 cm wide. It occurs mostly in deciduous woodland or coniferous forests, especially in calcareous soils. There are two recognised subspecies other than the type, including A. europaeum ssp. caucasicum, which is confined to the southwestern Alps, and A. europaeum ssp. italicum, which is found in central and northern Italy as well as in the Crna Gora mountains in former Jugoslavia. In former days, it was used in snuff and also medicinally as an emetic and cathartic. It is quite shade-tolerant and is often employed as a ground cover in gardens where little else will grow.
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The newly emerging perennial leaves are folded tightly in half and are a fresh green colour. The large, flat leaf in front is from last year. About half of the leaves remain on the plant from last season, some in good shape, and some not.
The purplish brown flowers are usually hidden by the leaves and so are not considered to be ornamental. Provide a moist soil with a pH in the 5.5 to 6.5 range.
Plant Height: 4-8 inches,
Environment: prefers full shade to partial shade or partial sun; soil should be moist
Bloom Colors: Purple
A handsome groundcover for shaded areas. Prefers rich organic soil that is slightly acidic.
Propagation: Propagation is by division in the spring.
Asarabacca has a long history of herbal use dating back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks, though it is little used in modern herbalism. The root, leaves and stems are cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, errhine, sternutatory, stimulant and tonic. The plant has a strong peppery taste and smell. It is used in the treatment of affections of the brain, eyes, throat and mouth. When taken as a snuff, it produces a copious flow of mucous. The root is harvested in the spring and dried for later use. It is to be used with caution considering it’s toxicity. An essential oil in the root contains 50% asarone and is 65% more toxic than peppermint oil. This essential oil is the emetic and expectorant principle of the plant and is of value in the treatment of digestive tract lesions, silicosis, dry pharyngeal and laryngeal catarrh etc.
It has been substituted for Ipecac to produce vomiting. The French use it for this purpose after drinking too much wine. A little sniffed up the nostrils induces violent sneezing and a heavy flow of mucus. This has caused it to be used to remedy headache, drowsiness, giddiness, catarrhs, and other conditions caused by congestion. Asarabacca has been a component in many popular commercial medicinal snuffs.
Asarabacca has been extensively investigated, both chemically and pharmacologically. It is rich in flavonoids. The leaves contain a highly aromatic essential oil that contains constituents that verify the value of extracts as an errhine (for promotion of nasal secretion). Based on human experiments, the expectorant properties of both the roots and the leaves are quite good. In Rumania, human experiments where infusions of asarabacca were administered to people suffering pulmonary insufficiency, the preparations were said to have a beneficial effect on the heart condition, including a diuretic effect. From the types of irritant chemical compound known to be present in this plant, one would expect that catharsis would result from ingestion of extracts prepared from asarabacca. However, it is violent in its action.
Other Uses:....Dye.… A vibrant apple-green dye is obtained from plant. A useful ground cover for a shady position so long as it is not dry, spreading by its roots
Known Hazards: The plant is poisonous in large doses, the toxin is neutralized by drying.
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.