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Common Names: Wild Sarsaparilla, False sarsaparilla, Shot bush, Small Spikenard, Wild Liquorice, and Rabbit Root
Habitat : Aralia nudicaulis is native to northern and eastern North America. It grows in the moist, shady, rocky woods
Aralia nudicaulis is an indigenous perennial flowering plant which reaches a height of 30–60 cm (12–24 in) with creeping underground stems.In the spring the underground stems produce compound leaves that are large and finely toothed. Tiny white flowers, typically in three, globe-shaped clusters 4–5 cm (1.6–2.0 in) wide, are produced on tall scapes that grow about the same height as the leaves. These bloom from May to July and develop into purple-black comestible berries. The leaves go dormant in summer before the fruits ripen. The berries taste a little spicy and sweet.
The slender man of the plant grows straight up from the ground and divides into a whorl of 3 stems which branch up and out, each forming 3 to 7 (most often 5) pinnately compound leaflets; leaflets ovate, acute, serrate, green. Technically, all the leaflets on one plant are considered to be one entire leaf, and the stems that connect the leaflets are called rachis; this arrangement is called doubly compound. In some cases some of the leaflets are further completely subdivided, forming a triply compound pattern.
It is found in shady rocky woods, very common in rich soil, rhizome horizontal, creeping several feet in length and more or less twisted; of a yellowish-brown colour externally and about 1/4 inch in diameter, has a fragrant odour and a warm, aromatic, sweetish taste.
Because it sometimes grows with groups of 3 leaflets, it can be mistaken for poison ivy; the way to tell the difference is that Wild Sarsaparilla lacks a woody base and has fine teeth along the edges of the leaves.
Prefers a good deep loam and a semi-shady position. Requires a sheltered position. Plants are hardier when grown in poorer soils. The young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun.
Seed – best sown as soon as ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed requires 3 – 5 months of cold stratification. Germination usually takes place within 1 – 4 months at 20°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse for at least their first winter. Once the plants are 25cm or more tall, they can be planted out into their permanent positions, late spring or early summer being the best time to do this. Root cuttings 8cm long, December in a cold frame. Store the roots upside down in sand and pot up in March/April. High percentage. Division of suckers in late winter. Very easy, the suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions if required.
The rootstock is used as a flavouring, it is a substitute for sarsaparilla and is also used for making ‘root beer’. It is also used as an emergency food (usually mixed with oil), having a sweet spicy taste and a pleasant aromatic smell. A nutritious food, it was used by the Indians during wars or when they were hunting since it is very sustaining.
Young shoots – cooked as a potherb. A refreshing herbal tea is made from the root. Pleasantly flavoured. The roots are boiled in water until the water is reddish-brown.
A jelly is made from the fruit. The fruit is also used to make wine. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter
Wild sarsaparilla is a sweet pungent tonic herb that acts as an alterative. It had a wide range of traditional uses amongst the North American Indians and was at one time widely used as a substitute for the tropical medicinal herb sarsaparilla.
The root is alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and stimulant. The herb encourages sweating, is stimulating and detoxifying and so is used internally in the treatment of pulmonary diseases, asthma, rheumatism, stomach aches etc. Externally it is used as a poultice in treating rheumatism, sores, burns, itchy skin, ulcers and skin problems such as eczema. The root is collected in late summer and the autumn and dried for later use. A drink made from the pulverised roots is used as a cough treatment. A poultice made from the roots and/or the fruit is applied to sores, burns, itchy skin, ulcers, swellings etc.
A homeopathic remedy made from the roots is important in the treatment of cystitis.
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.