Colic Root Identification: This native perennial is an erect, slender herb, 1-1/2 to 3 feet tall, with basal leaves only. These leaves are grasslike, from 2 to 6 inches long, and have a yellowish green or willow-green color. They Colic Root Flowers
surround the base of the stem in the form of a star. Instead of stem leaves, there are very small, leaflike bracts placed at some distance apart on the stem. The erect flowering spike, from 4 to 12 inches long bears white, urn-shaped flowers, sometimes tinged with yellow at the apex, and having a rough, wrinkled and mealy appearance. The seed capsule is ovoid, opening by three halves, and containing many seeds.
Roots: Aletris has a horizontal rootstock from one-half to 11/2 inches in length, rough and scaly, and almost completely hidden by the fibrous roots and remains of the basal leaves. Upon close examination the scars of former leaf stems may be seen along the upper surface. The rootlets are from 2 to 10 inches in length, those of recent growth whitish and covered with several layers of epidermis which gradually peel off, and the older rootlets of the rootstock showing this epidermis already scaled off, leaving only the hard, brown, woody center.
Other Names: Colic Root, Star Grass, True Unicorn Root, Blazing Star.
Family: Liliaceae (Lily family)
Flowers: May – August.
Habitat: Dry or moist peat, sand. Southeastern Maine to Florida; west to Texas; north to Wisconsin and Michigan.
Parts Used: Roots.
History: In the 19th century, Colic Root was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia as a therapeutic herb, and was listed in the National Formulary until 1947. After 1947, it lost medicinal significance as no scientific studies had been performed as to its usefulness. Early North American Indians made a tea out of the root for use in treating stomachaches, colic, dysentery, and menstrual disorders. Early settlers adopted Colic Root for the same medicinal purposes, but also used the leaves externally for relieving the pain of sore backs and breasts.
Constituents: Diosgenin (which has anti-inflammatory and estrogen properties), resin, saponin, and volatile oils.
Medicinal Properties: Fresh Colic Root has digestive, stimulant, nervine , narcotic, emetic, and cathartic properties.
Uses: It is of greatest value in the treatment of female problems, including habitual miscarriages, troubles arising from menopause, and various uterine disorders. A decoction of the dried root is a bitter tonic and has been used for expelling flatulence and in the treatment of diarrhea, rheumatism and jaundice. Used as a female tonic it is excellent for loss of virility and for debility. Also an extremely effective stomachic it promotes the appetite, an infusion of the leaves has been used in the treatment of colic, stomach disorders, and bloody dysentery.