Wild Sarsaparilla

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
Identification: A stemless perennial; a single leaf rises above the short flower stalk, both produced from a stout woody rhizome.
Leaves : A single, long-stalked, compound, basal leaf divided into 3 groups of 3-5
leaflets; leaflets elongated lance- to egg-shaped, finely toothed on the margins.
Flowers : There are often three distinct flower clusters on this plant. The clusters are 1″ – 2″ across and are covered with over 20 greenish white 5 petaled flowers. The flower reminds one of a spectacular fireworks display at the height of its glory. The flower stalk stands separate from the leaf stalks and will bear a blueish berry where once stood a flower late in the summer.
Fruit : Berries, nearly black when ripe, in a cluster; edible but not palatable; ripening mid-summer.
Root: Horizontal rhizome , creeping several feet in length and more or less twisted; of a yellowish-brown color externally and about 1/4 inch in diameter, has a fragrant odour and a warm, aromatic, sweet taste.
Other Names: Wild sarsaparilla, American sarsaparilla, American spikenard, false sarsaparilla, rabbit’s foot, sarsaparil, sarsaparilla, sarsaparilla root, shotbush, small spikenard, small spikeweed, spignet, spikenard, sweetroot, Virginian sarsaparilla, and wild licorice.
Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng family)
Flowers: May – July.
Habitat: Shady rocky woods, very common in rich soil. Indigenous to the United States.
Parts Used: Roots.
History: Some say the root of this plant was once a key ingredient in the brewing of “Root Beer”. Legend has it that a new drink was introduced to the logging camps of Northern Minnesota in the early 1900’s with the name of “Sarsaparilla” and was not well received. The entrepreneurs changed the name to “Root Beer”, and the loggers made a new connection with this drink and it became very popular overnight.
The Lake Superior Ojibway used the smashed roots to relieve skin sores. A freshly chewed root would be placed into the nostril to stop a nosebleed. It is also said that a decoction made from the root and taken internally would rejuvenate the human circulatory system.
The Ojibway also made an effective charm for luring in fish by rubbing a mixture of Wild Sarsaparilla root and Sweet Flag root on their nets.
Constituents: Contains 3.05 per cent of resin, 0.33 per cent of oil tannin, an acid albumen, mucilage and cellulose.
Medicinal Properties: Diuretic, diaphoretic, and cough remedy.
Uses: American Indians used the pleaseant-flavored root tea as a beverage, blood purifier, and tonic; used for lassitude, general dibility, stomachaches, fevers, and coughs. Root poultice used for wounds, ulcers, boils, carbuncles, swelling, ingection,and rheumatism.
Preparations and Dosages: ROOT. Cold Infusion 2 to 4 ounces. Tincture [1:5, 60% alc.] 15 to 30 drops, both up to 3 times a day.

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