Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Common Names

-Wild Ginger

-Snake Root

-Canada Wild Ginger


Aristolochiaceae/ Birthwort Family

Parts Used




BOTANICAL description

Perennial plant with 2 leaves and a single flower at the tip of the rhizome. Leaves are basal on long stalks, heart shaped 8-12 cm wide, covered with soft velvety hairs. Flower is maroon in colour 2-4 cm long, tubular with 3 petal like sepals with pointed or spreading long tapered tips. Early spring flowering which are pollinated by flies. Fruit is a capsule. Roots- rhizome are round, fleshy branched, brittle, hairy stalks growing close to the surface.


Prefers moist soil in full or part shade in rich woodlands surrounding the Southeastern Great Lakes and Southwestern regions of Thunder Bay. Appearing close to the ground in Summer and tends to grow in large patches. Light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral, and basic (mildly alkaline) soils.

Edible Uses/Preparation

Roots and flowers can be used as a ginger alternative. Dried or fresh. While like Zingiber officinale (Chinese Ginger) in taste it exhibits a more floral earthy note and is not spicy. They are not related. Leaves can cause dermatitis (through handling) and are considered poisonous.

Medicinal Uses/Key Actions

Snake root was widely employed as a medicinal herb by several native North American tribes who used it to treat a wide range of ailments. The root is anthelmintic, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, irritant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. It is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. It is used in the treatment of chronic chest complaints, asthma, coughs, colds, dropsy, painful spasms of the bowels and stomach, scant or painful menstruation, infantile convulsions. The fresh leaves are applied as a poultice to wounds and inflammations, whilst a decoction or salve is applied to sores. The root contains antibiotic substances effective against broad-spectrum bacteria and fungi. It also contains aristolochic acid, which has antitumor activity. The root and rhizome were slowly boiled in a small quantity of water for a long time and the resulting liquid drunk as a contraceptive by the women of one N. American Indian tribe. The dried root has been used as a snuff for migraine relief. Large doses can cause nausea.

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