What is Iris Foetidissima?

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  • Written By: Angela Williams Duea
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Iris foetidissima is an ornamental plant that grows naturally in shady areas of Western Europe and the United States, and is also cultivated in gardens. In Latin, the name means “stinking iris,” due to the strong meaty odor of the leaves; common names include Gladwin iris, stinking Gladwin, gladdon, or roast-beef plant. The plant produces thin-petaled lavender flowers in the spring and round orange seeds in the fall. Iris foetidissima has been used since ancient times as a home herbal remedy for constipation and headaches, and is also said to bring on menstruation.

A person suffering from constipation, intestinal discomfort, or who is retaining water can make a decoction of the root and leaves to use as a laxative and diuretic. Decoctions are made by boiling herbs until the water is reduced and the liquid is concentrated. One tablespoon (15 ml) of powdered root or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of chopped leaves and roots can be boiled with four cups (.95 liter) of water. The mixture should be boiled until only one cup of liquid remains, about 20-30 minutes, and then the herbs should be strained from the liquid. This decoction can be taken a teaspoon at a time, up to three times a day.


Iris foetidissima works as an anticonvulsant and pain reliever, and thus can be a good herbal remedy for migraines and tension headaches. A soothing tea can be made by chopping 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of leaves, then pouring 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the leaves. The mixture should steep for ten minutes before straining out the herbs. This tea can be taken three to four times a day. Migraine sufferers should be prepared for the purgative effects of the tea, as well as the pain-relieving effects.

As an herbal remedy, iris foetidissima is used less often in recent times because the herb can be powerful or toxic in large quantities. A strong decoction will contain large amounts of tannin and can irritate the skin or mouth. If planted in an ornamental garden, care should be taken to prevent children or pets from eating the leaves or roots. Just as with all herbal remedies, the smallest dose should be taken until the effects on the particular patient are gauged.


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