Ginger, Wild

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Ginger, Wild

Botanical Name: Asarum canadense (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Aristolochiaceae

Synonyms: Canada Snakeroot. Indian Ginger. Coltsfoot.
Parts Used: Rhizome dried and roots.
Habitat: North America, North Carolina, Kansas.

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.

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 Action and Uses: Stimulant, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic. Used in chronic chest complaints, dropsy with albuminaria, painful spasms of bowels and stomach.

Dosage: 1/2 oz. of the powdered root in 1 pint of boiling water, taken hot, produces copious perspiration.

Dry powder, 20 to 30 grains.

As an adjuvant to tonic mixtures or infusions, 1/2 to 1 drachm.

Other Species:

Synonyms: Hazlewort, Wild Nard, very similar in properties to above).
Part Used: Root and leaves dried.

Description: A European plant growing in most hilly woods, flowering from May till August. The root smells like pepper, with a spicy taste and gives an ash-coloured powder. The leaves give a green powder and have the same properties as the root.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Emetic, cathartic and errhine, for which latter purpose it is principally used in affections of the brain, eyes, throat, toothache and paralysis of the mouth. In France drunkards use it as an emetic, and it promotes sneezing and is therefore helpful for colds in the head.

Dosage: Powder, 10 to 12 grains. As anemetic, 1/2 to 1 drachm.

A. ARIFOLIUM yields an oil with the odour of sassafras.