False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium lutem)

False Unicorn Root, also known as Helonias root or Devil’s Bit, is a perennial flowering plant in the Liliaceae family native to the Eastern United States typically in deciduous woodlands wet meadows. It’s single upright smooth stem grows from a small bulbous rhizome and bears a small spike-like raceme of numerous small bractless greenish-white flowers that typically grows about six inches in length. It’s dioecious, with the general plant population being typically male. Female plants tend to flower less frequently than the male counterparts and tend to be taller, growing up to three feet in height. Male plants tend to bear narrow two lobed flowers with stamens are longer than the petals and tapering filaments. Flowers of female plants tend to be linear with short stamens, triangular ovate ovaries and three capsuled oblong stigmas. False Unicorn Root prefers moist, well drained acidic soil with a high content of organic matter, and does specifically well in soils mixed with pine needles and peat moss. It prefers areas with partial shade to shade, and does well in areas shaded by tall hardwood trees. It can be grown easily by root division, or by seeds, which should be stratified prior to planting. This is a popular deer browse, so take care to protect it.

Medicinal Uses
False Unicorn Root is a uterine tonic, diuretic, anthelmintic, emetic, and emmenagogue. It’s an excellent tonic for strengthening the female reproductive system, and has shown to be equally as beneficial to men. It’s estrogenic biochemical constituents are specifically indicated for delayed menses, threatened miscarriage, and pain in the ovaries and general lower abdomen, but can be used to as an adaptogen to normalize the reproductive systems, aiding with infertility. It is also a good general tonic for urinary, liver, and kidney disease, and has been used to treat appetite loss, ovarian cysts, malabsorption, atony of the sexual organs, impotence, dyspepsia, and high protein levels in the urine. Externally it can be used to treat worms and parasites. It is considered a sweet, warming aphrodisiac.

Folk Uses
False Unicorn Root is often called ‘Helonias’ in medicinal and herbal literature. It was used by Native Americans, who introduced it to early American settlers, for the treatment of colic, stomach ailments, indigestion, the expulsion of worms, stimulation of appetite, and a variety of ailments associated with both male and female reproductive organs.

Dosage
A decoction of 1-2 teaspoons of the dried root per cup of water, simmered gently for 10-15 minutes, three times a day. For threatened miscarriage, it can be drunk heavily throughout the day. Large doses have been known to cause nausea and vomiting. In a tincture, 2-4 ml can be taken 3 times a day.

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False Unicorn Root in the forest

False Unicorn Root in the forest

Close up of the inflorescence spike.

Close up of the inflorescence spike.

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