Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense, commonly known as Canada wild ginger, Canadian snakeroot and broad-leaved asarabaccais, is a perennial herb native to rich, moist forests of eastern North America. It is found from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to approximately the fall line in the southeastern United States. In early spring it develops distinct, hairy, cup-shaped, tan or purple flowers which terminate in three long spike-like sepals. The long rhizomes give rise to persistent kidney-shaped leaves. They often form colonies or clusters as the rhizome spreads. The diploid chromosome number is 26. The plant protected as a state threatened species in Maine.


The long rhizomes of A. canadense were used by Native Americans as a seasoning. It has similar aromatic properties to true ginger (Zingiber officinale). It is considered to be approximately 1/3 as strongly flavored as Z. officinale, but it is not related to true ginger and should not be used as a substitute because it contains an unknown concentration of the carcinogen aristolochic acid. These plants can be easily grown in woodland or shade gardens. Native Americans used the plant as a medicinal herb to treat a number of ailments including dysentery, digestive problems, swollen breasts, coughs and colds, typhus, scarlet fever, nerves, sore throats, cramps, heaves, earaches, headaches, convulsions, asthma, tuberculosis, urinary disorders and venereal disease. In addition, they also used it as a stimulant, an appetite enhancer and a charm. It was also used as an admixture to strengthen other herbal preparations.


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