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March 2018--Helonias

                                                                                                     

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Helonias

 

Chamaelirium luteurm

[kam-ay-LEER-ee-um LOO-tee-um]

 

Family: Liliaceae 

Names: false unicorn, false unicorn root, grub root, blazing star, fairywand, devil’s bit, colicroot, rattlesnake root, star root, starwort, unicorn root, drooping starwort, unicorn's-horn

Description: . This native plant is found in open woods from Massachusetts to Michigan and south to Florida and Arkansas. It is frequently confused with Aletris farinosa 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 Helonias. 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  to 2½  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

Cultivation: 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 autumn.

History: 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 Chamaelirium, derived from Greek words meaning “ground lily,” even though the genus is not low-growing and has no lilylike characteristics. The species name luteum, 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 cast.  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 different. 

Constituents : Saponins; the glycosides chamaelirin and helonin, basedon diosgenin. lonin, based on diosgenin, fatty acid.

Properties: Uterine tonic, diuretic, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue; emetic,  vermifuge.

Energetics: warm /bitter

Meridians/organs affected: kidney, spleen

Medicinal Uses: 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 albuminaria. Steroidal saponins are generally credited with providing false unicorn root’s activity.

 Decoction: 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.

COMBINATIONS:
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.

Postpartum Tonic: 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 water.  Take off the heat, add in 2-3 tablespoons of the leaves and flowers, and steep, covered, another 5-15 minutes.

Toxicity: 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 vomiting

References:
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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