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What Are the Medicinal Uses of Asarum?

Some early Americans claimed that witches used asarum for removing their warts.
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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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Asarum, or wild ginger, is used to treat a variety of medical needs. A low-growing woodland herb, asarum is a home herbal remedy used as a dieuretic, stimulant, and other functions. Wild ginger can also be used in culinary preparations.

Urinary stimulation is the primary use for asarum. Native American tribes have used the roots and stems in contraceptive formulas by boiling them into a liquid solution for consumption. Wild ginger is a good antiseptic, and can be used with a general first aid kit as such.

Deodorant can be made from the plant. The plant's roots and stems can be used as an herbicide. The dried root of the herb may also be burned and used as an insect repellent. Some early American witch hunters called the herb wartchase and claimed that witches used the remedy for removing their warts.

Some species of asarum also contain aristolochic acid. This toxic ingredient is used in rodent poisons. Because of its potential deadliness, many health professionals and organizations, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada, warn against consuming the plant.

Strong caution should be used when handling asarum. Touching the herb can cause skin irritation. The aristolochic acid within the plant's flowers can cause cancer, kidney failure, and cell mutations. A medical professional should be consulted prior to use.

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The plant is not a true member of the ginger family. It is named for its taste and scent, which is similar to that of ginger root. The herb can also be used as a spice, though its potency as a diuretic makes some chefs refrain from using it in cooking. Other names the plant may go by include Canada snakeroot and Indian ginger.

Creeping kidney-shaped leaves are a trademark of the herb. The deciduous plant also features small red-brown flowers. Only two leaves grow from the plant's tip annually. The plant is also known as the little jug, after its jug-shaped flowers. Its luxurious leaves are spread through underground rhizomes, or stems. Most asarum plants are evergreen, though some can lose their leaves in extremely cold conditions.

A member of the Aristolochiaceae family, wild ginger grows in northern temperate zones. Originating in Asia, asarum can be found in abundance in Japan, China, and Vietnam. It can also be found growing in Europe and North America. The plant prefers forest climates, and can grow in shady areas. Many gardeners use the slow-growing plant for ground cover.

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