Asarum canadense

Asarum canadense

Synonyms

No documentation

Vernacular Name

Wild Ginger, Asaraba, Asabaraca, Azarum, Coltsfoot, False Coltsfoot, Fole’s foot, Hazelwort, Public House Plant, Snakeroot, Canadian Wild Ginger, Wild Nard.

Description

Often referred to as “Wild Ginger”, Asarum canadense has a round,  heavily-branched, creeping rhizome whose taste and odor is similar to that of Zingiber officinale, but with significantly different chemical constituents. The short stem culminates in a terminal, slightly hanging flower which blooms between April and June and is brown on the exterior and a deep purple on the inside. The flower has three to four lobes with two sets of six stamens inside. The leaves on the stem usually come in pairs and are typically broad, cordate and cup-shaped. This plant is considered ‘threatened’ in some parts of the United States.(1)

Origin / Habitat

A. canadense is a slowly-growing perennial herb native to moist, rich soils of North America, ranging from Quebec to Manitoba; from Oklahoma and Louisiana to Georgia and South Carolina. Though the small herb grows only an average of 10-20cm in height, A. canadense often densely covers the forest floor on which is grows.

Chemical Constituents

Alpha-terpineol, aristolochic acid, chalcone glycosides, aristolone, beta-sitosterol, bornyl-acetate, elemicin, geraniol, limonene, linalol, linaltl-acetate, methly-eugenol. (3),(4),(5),(6)

Plant Part Used

Roots, leaves. (7) (8)

Traditional Use

A. canadense has been used by several Native American tribes for a variety of conditions including gastrointestinal complaints, colds and fevers or dermatological ailments. Tribes such as the Iroquois, Chippewa and Cherokee each used either a decoction, infusion or the raw root of A. canadense to treat digestive discomfort.(7) In cases of gas and flatulence, Native American medical practitioners have used the herb, typically the rhizome, as a carminative.(8) In addition to treating various kinds of digestive disorders, the rhizome has been used to both season and improve the edibility of meats and fish.(9)

In cases of inflamed bowels, kidneys, liver, and spleen, A. canadense was used as a diaphoretic, which was thought to bring relief from the symptoms of these ailments.(10) For treatment of colds, flues and fevers, Native American tribes believed that A. canadense made a particularly effective febrifuge.(8) The Iroquois, for example, had several different applications and uses of the plant for treating upper respiratory infections.(7) In colds, it was believed that A. canadense was not only useful as a diaphoretic, but also as a stimulant to the immune system.(11)

A. canadense has also been used by some Native American tribes to treat gynecological disorders.  Typically infusions of the seed or rhizome were used to ease menstrual discomfort, or to initiate menstruation in women with irregular periods.(7)

Dosage

Traditional dosages would vary by tribe, indication, preparation and application.

Dry extract – 10-15mg, 2-3 times daily for adults and children 13 or over.(2)

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

The majority of studies on Asarum are on species that are native to Asia, not North America. However, it has been determined that most species of Asarum contain aristolochic acid which at high enough doses can be toxic. Presently in North America, the FDA has banned the sale of products containing aristolochic acid. In Asia, Asarum species continue to be studied for evidentiary support of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine.(4)

Clinical

No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

Oral use of this herb is not recommended unless under the supervision of a trained professional.

Interaction with Drugs

Not to be used by individuals with kidney or liver disease.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used in combination with any prescription medication.

Pregnancy

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

References

  1. USDA Plants Database. Available from: http://www.plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=ASCA [Accessed on Aug 3, 2009].
  2. Thomson Healthcare. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare; 2007.
  3. Duke JA. Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1992.
  4. Zhao ZZ, Liang ZT, Jiang ZH, Leung KS, Chan CL, Chan HY, Sin J, Man TO, Law KW. Comparative study on the aristolochic acid I content of Herba Asari for safe use. Phytomedicine. Sep. 2008;15(9):741-748.
  5. Xue Y, Tong XH, Wang F, Zhao WG. Analysis of aristolochic acid A from the aerial and underground parts of Asarum by UPLC-UV. Yao Xue Xue Bao. Feb. 2008;43(2):221-223.
  6. Iwashina T, Kitajima J. Chalcone and flavonol glycosides from Asarum canadense (Aristolochiaceae). Phytochemistry. Dec. 2000;55(8):971-974.
  7. Moerman D. Native American Ethnobotany, Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2000.
  8. Hutchens A. Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston, MA: Shambala Press; 1991.
  9. Summer J. American Household Botany. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2004.
  10. Dawson A. Herbs: Partners in Life. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2000.
  11. Austin D. Florida Ethnobotany. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2004.