The asarum plant has been used since the time of the Roman empire. Pliny the Elder mentioned this plant in his writings due to its emetic properties. However, it has lost some popularity lately since it has been replaced by ipecac, an American plant with strong emetic properties.
The whole plant has an aroma that resembles turpentine and has a spicy, nauseating flavor. Its French name is cabaret because it was used to provoke vomiting in drunk people so that they could continue drinking.
Asarum Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Wild nard, asarabacca, European snakeroot, hazelwort, public house plant.
- French: Asaret.
- Spanish: Asaro.
- Environment: This plant usually grows in shady European forests.
- Description: Creeping plant of the Aristolochiaceae family, growing from 10 to 15 cm high, which forms large colonies in the forest. It has large, kidney-shaped leaves, dark green in color, and solitary, purple, or greenish flowers.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The leaves and the root.
Healing Properties and Warning
- Emetic: It can be used to induce vomiting in the case of ingested poisoning. It renders good results in ethyl alcohol intoxication (drunkenness).
- Purgative with cathartic effects. It was used to produce violent diarrhea (purges) in ancient times, which were supposed to heal people. At present, it is still used for the same purpose, however only for cattle.
- Sneezer: Asarum is used for nasal congestion to eliminate mucus and alleviate the migraines that usually accompany rhinitis.
- It also has expectorant, diuretic, and abortifacient properties, but the plant is seldom used because of its toxicity.
WARNING! In high doses, it provokes acute gastroenteritis, with a risk of gastric or intestinal bleeding. The digestive irritant properties of this plant are more powerful when fresh than when dry or in the form of powder.
How to use Asarum
- Infusion with fresh leaves or root, in a proportion of 5-10g per cup. Do not drink more than two cups daily.
- Dry leaves or root powder. A pinch is enough.
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense L.) is an Asarum species that grows in North America. Its appearance and properties are similar to those of the asarum, though its irritant effects are less intense. It is also used as sudorific and carminative to eliminate intestinal flatulence.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 432. Print. [asarum plant]