Constituents: volatile oil, tannins, and diterpene acids
How to Use:
Plants in the Aralia family are commonly known as wild or false sarsaparilla, but have a closer relationship to ginseng. Spikenard is antiseptic, depurative, diaphoretic, which makes it useful in a wide range of conditions including gout, rheumatism, coughs and lung complaints. Spikenard root tea is a traditional American folk medicine treatment and a purifying spring tonic. It is also considered healing to the skin.1
Flowers:Greenish white, small, 5-parted, mostly imperfect, in a drooping compound raceme of rounded clusters.
Stem: 3 to 6 ft. high, branches spreading..
Roots: Large, thick, fragrant.
Leaves: Compounded of heart-shaped, sharply tapering, saw-edged leaflets from 2 to 5 in. long, often downy underneath. Lower leaves often enormous.
Fruit: Dark reddish-brown berries.
Preferred Habitat:Rich open woods, wayside thickets, light soil.
Flowering Season: July - August
Distribution:New Brunswick to Georgia, west to the Mississippi.
How certain of the winter birds gormandize on the resinous, spicy little berries! A flock of juncos will strip the fruit from every spikenard in the neighborhood the first day it arrives from the North.
It should be understood that the Wild Spikenard, or False Solomon's Seal, has not the remotest connection with this tribe of plants.
The Wild or False Sarsaparilla (A. nudicaulis), so common in woods, hillsides, and thickets, shelters its three spreading umbels of greenish-white flowers in May and June beneath a canopy formed by a large, solitary, compound leaf. The aromatic roots, which run horizontally sometimes three feet or more through the soil, send up a very short, smooth proper stem which lifts a tall leafstalk and a shorter, naked flower-stalk. The single large leaf, of exquisite bronzy tints when young, is compounded of from three to five oval, toothed leaflets on each of its three divisions.
While the true sarsaparilla of medicine should come from a quite different herb that flourishes in Mexico and South America, this one furnishes a commercial substitute enormously used as a blood purifier and cooling summer drink. Burrowing rabbits delight to nibble the long, slender, fragrant roots
The Wild or False Sarsaparilla (A. nudicaulis)
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History and Traditions & Folklore
Spikenard is a native plant of the Eastern United States. The root has a long tradition of being used medicinally by Native American tribes. In the Appalachian mountains, spikenard root tea is a traditional treatment for backache.
Mountain Rose Herbs (2008-07-15)
It is an herb of Venus. Galen saith, The roots of Spignel are available to provoke urine, and women's courses; but if too much thereof be taken, it causes head-ache. The roots boiled in wine or water, and drank, helps the stranguary and stoppings of the urine, the wind, swellings and pains in the stomach, pains of the mother, and all joint-aches. If the powder of the root be mixed with honey, and the same taken as a licking medicine, it breaks tough phlegm, and dries up the rheum that falls on the lungs. The roots are accounted very effectual against the stinging or biting of any venomous creature. Nicholas Culpeper, 1653
** Information on the traditional uses and properties of herbs are provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. Every attempt has been made for accuracy, but none is guaranteed. Many traditional uses and properties of herbs have not been validated by the FDA. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering herbs. **