Aletris farinosa-True Unicorn Root
Other names: Unicorn Root ,Colic Root, Aletris alba Michx, Aletris lucida Raf, Colicweed, Crow corn, Blazing Star, Mealy Starwort, Starwort Unicorn Root, Unicorn plant, Unicorn’s-Horn, Devil’s-Bit, Ague Grass, Ague Root, Aloe root, Huskwort
Habitat: South-eastern N. America – Southern Maine to Florida, west to Texas and Wisconsin. Grassy or sandy woodlands, in dry or moist peats, sands and gravels, especially on the seashore.
This medicinal herb should not be confused with False Unicorn Root(Chamaelirium luteum); True Unicorn Root is an excellent remedy for sluggish digestion, which may give raise to dyspepsia, flatulence and debility. Its bitter nature will stimulate the digestive process and so it often finds a place in treating anorexia nervosa. Another name for this herb is colic root which shows it’s value as a remedy for digestive colic. As all these conditions can often have a nervous involvement this herb is called a nervine. However, its benefit in anxiety is based on an easing of the physical aspects rather than a direct action on the nerves. It is reported to be of use in threatened miscarriage. It was one of the key compounds in Lydia Pinkham’s vegetable compound which was immortalized in the song Lily the Pink, which lauded it’s virtues as a woman’s tonic.
Description of True Unicorn Root:
Aletris farinosa; True Unicorn Root, is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in).
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from May to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil.
Cultivation of True Unicorn Root:
Prefers a damp sunny position in peat, leaf mold and sand. Requires a sunny position. Plants are hardy to between -10 and -15°c.
Propagation of True Unicorn Root:
Seed – sow the seed in a greenhouse in early spring. Sow the seed thinly to allow the seedlings to be grown on for their first year without potting them up, but give a liquid feed from time to time to ensure that they do not become nutrient deficient. Prick the young plants out into individual pots the following spring and grow them on in the greenhouse for the next winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in spring.
Collection of True Unicorn Root:
The underground parts are unearthed at the end of flowering in late summer washed cut into pieces and dried. Please note that it is important not to use this herbs root fresh as it may have narcotic effects which disappear when dried.
Culinary uses of True Unicorn Root:
Edible Parts: Root.
Bulb – cooked. Intensely bitter. A bitter-sweet soapy taste
Antiflatulent, Anti-inflammatory, Appetite Stimulants, Appetizer, Bitter, Diuretic, Narcotic, Tonic.
Part used: Rhizome and Root
The greatest value of true unicorn root is its tonic influence on the female generative organs, proving to be of great use in treating cases of habitual miscarriages. Used for gynaecological disorders or ‘female complaints’ in the US including dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea and prolapsed vagina complaints . 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. .A tea of the leaves has been used in the treatment of colic, stomach disorders, dysentery and bloody dysentery.
The original formula for Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was:
- Unicorn root (Aletris farinosa L.) 8 oz.
- Life root (Senecio aureus L.) 6 oz.
- Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.) 6 oz.
- Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa L.) 6 oz.
- Fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) 12 oz.
- Alcohol (18%) to make 100 U.S. pints
Other uses of True Unicorn Root:
Hex-breaking, uncrossing, and protection against evil & malevolent magick. True Unicorn Root is an herb of protection, and a visionary herb. (The fresh root of True Unicorn in large doses is somewhat narcotic, but when dried, these properties are lost) It can be added to a charm bag to dispel evil. Within the Wiccan tradition of Lothlorien they work with astral unicorns. True Unicorn Root is used by those who wish to work with Unicorns as spiritual entities, and it is the patron herb of The Rowan Tree Church. Some use True Unicorn Root in baby blessings and protective Magickal work for infants. It can be used in the home to keep evil out. Use True Unicorn Root as an incense in hex breaking and uncrossing rituals.
The root contains diosgenin, which has both anti-inflammatory and oestrogenic properties.