Asarum canadense

Botanical Name: : Asarum canadense
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Asarum
Species: A. canadense
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales

Synonyms: Canada Snakeroot. Indian Ginger. Coltsfoot.

Common Names: Canada wild ginger, 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. It grows on  moist rich soils in woodlands, usually on calcareous soils.  Understorey of deciduous (rarely coniferous) forests from sea level to 1300 metres.

Description:
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
Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Ground cover, Massing, Rock garden, Woodland garden. Prefers a rich moist neutral to acid soil in woodland or a shady position in the rock garden. Plants are found on alkaline soils in the wild. Plants are hardy to at least -25°c. The flowers are malodorous and are pollinated by flies. Plants often self-sow when growing in a suitable position. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

Propagation:
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the summer. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 – 4 or more weeks at 18°c. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Plants are slow to increase. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly.

Edible Uses: Condiment.
The underground stem and the flowers are used as a ginger substitute. The root, especially when quite dry, has a pungent, aromatic smell like mild pepper and ginger mixed, but more strongly aromatic. The root is best harvested in autumn but is available all year round. It can be dried for later use.

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.

Medicinal Uses:

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.

Known Hazards: The leaves are poisonous. Handling the leaves is said to cause dermatitis in some people.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asarum_canadense
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/ginwil14.html

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Asarum+canadense

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