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Supplements

false unicorn root

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Forms

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects

Cautions

References

Evidence Based Rating Scale
 

What Is It?

Over the centuries, countless women have turned to a member of the lily family known as false unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum) to remedy menstrual and uterine problems. False unicorn root is a tall perennial native to eastern North America: it should not be confused with Aletris farinosa, another member of the lily family, commonly referred to as "true" unicorn root. Other common names for false unicorn root include fairywand, starwort, helonias, blazing star, and devil's bit.  The bioactivity of false unicorn root has long been attributed to therapeutic compounds called steroidal saponins, but it is unclear whether they actually exert any hormonal activity in women that would affect the menstrual cycle. (1)

Health Benefits

False unicorn root was once used by Native American women who chewed the root to prevent miscarriage. It was also used to treat abdominal pain, menstrual cramping, and symptoms of early pregnancy. However, because of its presumed hormonal activity and poorly understood action on the uterus, it now seems best to avoid false unicorn root during pregnancy. (1)

Traditionally, false unicorn root has also been used to expel worms from the intestinal tract; as a Diuretic to promote urination; and to treat ulcers and venereal disease. (1)

Tea and tincture blends that purport to support normal uterine tone and function often include false unicorn root with other so-called "female" herbs, e.g. wild yam and chasteberry. Some herbalists recommend the root for menopausal symptoms and to treat ovarian cysts. (2) It has even been used for normalizing Hormone levels following oral contraceptive use. The potential hormone-regulating properties of false unicorn root may play a role in the treatment of acne vulgaris, the most common form of acne. However, studies are needed to evaluate its efficacy. (3)

Forms

  • capsule
  • extract
  • powder
  • tea prepared from a decoction (Add 2 teaspons of powdered root to 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes)
  • tincture

Dosage Information

Orally, 1-2 grams dried root or 1 cup of tea three times a day has been used. For liquid extracts (1:1 in 45% alcohol) 1-2 ml three times a day has been used. For tinctures (1:5 in 45% alcohol) 2-5 ml three times a day has been used.

Guidelines for Use

False unicorn root is threatened in the wild and should only be obtained from cultivated or sustainably harvested sources.

General Interaction

When used with lithium, the potential diuretic properties of false unicorn root may reduce excretion and increase lithium levels in the blood.

Possible Side Effects  

In large doses, false unicorn root can induce nausea and vomiting and may act as a cardiac toxin. Be careful not to exceed recommended dosages. 

Cautions  

It remains to be determined whether false unicorn root is safe to take during pregnancy and while breast-feeding. Because of this lack of safety data, it's probably wise for women in these situations to avoid taking false unicorn root. 

References 

1. The Herbal Dispatch-Herbs for Women's Health: False Unicorn.  Available at http://www.mountainstate.edu/usda/newsletters/PDF/04-2008.pdf. Accessed July 5, 2011.
2. Yarnell E; Abascal K. Multiphasic herbal prescribing for menstruating women. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 2009 Jun; 15 (3): 126-34.
3. Yarnell E; Abascal K. Herbal medicine for acne vulgaris. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 2006 Dec; 12 (6): 303-9.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

Acne

   

Potential hormone-regulating properties may play a role in treating acne; studies are warranted. (3)

Menopause  
Traditional use and recommendation by some herbalists to support uterine tone and function; studies are needed to determine efficacy. (2)


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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