false unicorn, false unicorn root, grub root, blazing star,
fairywand, devil’s bit, colicroot, rattlesnake root, star
root, starwort, unicorn root, drooping starwort,
. This native plant is found in
open woods from
and south to
It is frequently confused with
L., not because it bears much resemblance to the latter but
probably on account of a similarity in some of the common
names by which they are sometimes designated. In the drug
trade it is perhaps best known as Helonias, but the use of
that name is likely to lead to confusion because the plant
has no relation to the genus
Chamaelirium is an erect, fleshy herb. The male and female
flowers are borne on separate plants. The male plants grow
to a height of 1½
feet, while the female
plant is sometimes 4 feet tall and is more leafy. The leaves
which are from 2 to 8 inches long, are spoon shaped, being
wider at the top than at the base. The white starry flowers
are produced from June to July. The flowers of the male
plant are borne on plumelike spikes from 3 to 9 inches long
and those of the female plant in erect spikes. The rootstock
is from one-half to 2 inches in length and usually curved
upward at one end in the form of a horn. The rootlets
penetrate to the center of the rootstock. This and its
disagreeable bitter taste distinguish it from Aletris root.
An herbaceous perennial
found in low moist ground east of the Mississipi and
flowering in May and June. Stem 1 to 3 feet high, simple,
smooth, angular; leaves alternate, spatulate below,
lanceolate above, radical leaves, 8 inches long, 1/2 inch
wide, narrow at base and formed into a whorl; flowers
numerous, small, greenish white, bractless, dioecious, in a
dense, terminal raceme, nodding like a plume, 6 inches long,
petals of such flowers narrow, stamens longer than the
petals, filaments tapering; anthers terminal, two lobed;
petals of female flowers linear; stamens short; ovary ovate,
triangular, furrowed; stigmas three-capsule, oblong,
three-furrowed, opening at summit; fruit many, compressed,
acute; rhizome bulbous, terminating abruptly, 1 inch long;
odor faint; taste bitter. Solvents: alcohol, water
Habitat is moist woods, meadows, thickets and bogs. It is
generally wildcrafted and is rarely cultivated.
It can be propagated from
seed that is sown in autumn.
Helonias flowers in early
summer and the underground parts are unearthed in the
The first specimen of helonias to
be collected and described for classification by botanists
happened t be a runt.
As a result of this
mistake, fairywand received the genus name
derived from Greek words meaning “ground lily,” even though
the genus is not low-growing and has no lilylike
characteristics. The species name
which means “yellow,” was also a botanical misnomer, because
the flowers are white—although the male plant does have
yellow stamens that give the male flower spike a creamy
It’s also frequently
referred to as devil’s-bit, a name that really belongs to a
European plant whose root was said to have been bitten off
by the Devil.
The plants are entirely
Saponins; the glycosides chamaelirin and helonin, basedon
on diosgenin, fatty acid.
Uterine tonic, diuretic, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory,
The medicinal use of false unicorn root is based in Native
American tradition, where it was recommended for many
women’s health conditions, including lack of menstruation,
painful menstruation, and other irregularities of
menstruation, as well as to prevent miscarriages. It was
also used as a remedy for morning sickness. This herb is one
of the best tonics and strengtheners of the reproductive
system that we have. Though primarily used for the female
system, it can be equally beneficial for men. It is known to
contain precursors of the estrogens. However, it acts in an
amphoteric way to normalize function. The body may use this
herb to balance and tone and thus it will aid in apparently
opposite situations. Where
ovarian pain occurs, False Unicorn Root may be safely used.
The indication for its use
is a dragging sensation in the extreme lower abdomen. It is
useful in impotence, as a tonic in genito-urinary weakness
or irritability, for liver and kidney diseases. Especially
good in diseases due to poor action of the liver and not to
weakness of the heart or circulation. It is a good remedy in
Steroidal saponins are generally credited with providing
false unicorn root’s activity.
put l-2 teaspoonfuls of the root in a cup of water, bring to
boiling and simmer gently for l0-l5 minutes. This should be
drunk three times a day. For threatened miscarriage it may
be drunk copiously. Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture
three times a day.
The dried root may be used at a dose of 1–2 grams three
times daily. It is almost always taken in combination with
other herbs supportive of the female reproductive organs,
particularly vitex. Fluid
extract, 5 to 30 drops. Helonin, 2 to 4 grains. Specific
helonias, 1 to 20 drops. Also combines well with Trillium.
Hormone Balancing Formula:
1 part blessed thistle leaves and flowers; 1 part dong quai
root; 2 parts false unicorn root; ½ part licorice root; 3
parts vitex berries. Take as tea or tincture. For most
effective results, take over many months, 2-3 times per day,
4-5 times a week.
Tincture: 15-30 drops each
time; tea: drink 2-3 cups per day.
To make tea, simmer the
roots, covered, for 20 minutes. Add in leaves and flowers
and steep, covered, for 10-20 minutes.
Take for several months
until you feel the balancing changes these herbs offer.
Cease taking if pregnant
or during menstrual flow.
1 part blessed thistle; 2 parts vitex berries; 1 part dong
quai root; 1 part St. Johns wort; 1 part sacred basil.
As a tincture, take 25-50
drops, 3-4 times a day for 2-4 weeks.
As a tea, simmer 3-6
tablespoons of the roots and berries, covered, in 1 quart of
Take off the heat, add in
2-3 tablespoons of the leaves and flowers, and steep,
covered, another 5-15 minutes.
No adverse effects have been reported with the use of false
unicorn. Its long history of use in pregnant women suggests
it may be safe for these individuals, but no studies have
confirmed this. Very large doses may cause nausea and
Magic and Medicine of Plants,
Reader’s Digest, 1986; ISBN: 0-89577-221-3
The Roots of Healing,
Deb Soule, Citadel Press, 1996; ISBN: 0-8065-1578-3
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