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Some important uses of Asarum europaeum (Asarabacca)

Image of Asarum europaeum

Asarum europaeum, commonly known as Asarabacca, European Wild Ginger, Haselwort, and Wild Spikenard. It is a species of wild ginger with single axillary dull purple flowers, lying on the ground. It is widespread across Europe, ranging from southern Finland and northern Russia south to southern France, Italy and the Republic of Macedonia. It is also grown extensively outside of its range as an ornamental. It  has a long history of herbal use dating back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks, though it is little used in modern herbalism. The root, leaves and stems contain cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, errhine, sternutatory, stimulant and tonic properties.

The plant has a strong peppery taste and smell. It is used in the treatment of affections of the brain, eyes, throat and mouth. When taken as a snuff, it produces a copious flow of mucous. The root is harvested in the spring and dried for later use. An essential oil in the root contains 50% asarone and is 65% more toxic than peppermint oil. This essential oil is the emetic and expectorant principle of the plant and is of value in the treatment of digestive tract lesions, silicosis, dry pharyngeal and laryngeal catarrh etc.