Asarabacca (Asarum europaeum)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Asarabacca
Asarum europaeum
Aristolochiaceae

A vibrant apple-green dye is obtained from plant[7, 244].

A useful ground cover for a shady position so long as it is not dry[197], spreading by its roots[208].

  • Medicinal Use

    Asarabacca 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[268].

    The root, leaves and stems are cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, errhine, sternutatory, stimulant and tonic[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 46, 240]. The plant has a strong peppery taste and smell[244]. It is used in the treatment of affections of the brain, eyes, throat and mouth[4, 19]. When taken as a snuff, it produces a copious flow of mucous[268]. The root is harvested in the spring and dried for later use[7]. Use with caution[21], see the notes above on toxicity.

    An essential oil in the root contains 50% asarone and is 65% more toxic than peppermint oil[240]. 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[240].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    The plant is poisonous in large doses[13, 19], the toxin is neutralized by drying[7].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the summer[134]. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter[134]. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 – 4 or more weeks at 18¡c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Plants are slow to increase[200]. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly.
Prefers a rich moist neutral to acid soil in woodland or a shady position in the rock garden[1, 200]. Other reports say that this plant prefers a calcareous soil[13, 19, 268]. Plants are hardy to at least -15¡c[200]. The flowers are malodorous and are pollinated by flies[200]. The root has a pungent, aromatic smell like mild pepper and ginger mixed, but more strongly aromatic. Plants often self-sow when growing in a suitable position[200]. This plant was at one time commonly cultivated as a medicinal herb[17].
Central and southern Europe, east to W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain[17].

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.