True Unicorn Root

Native to eastern N America and E Asia, this genus consists of ten species of rhizomatous, fibrous-rooted perennial. Aletris farinosa is seldom seen in cultvation. Its uses passed to settlers from native N American tribes, notably the Catawba, who made it into a tea to treat dysentary. It was listed as a tonic in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia (1831-1926).

Many Native American tribes considered aletris to be a sacred female herb. The root was used to stimulate menstruation, strengthen the womb, and as an infusion for "female troubles". Today it is known that aletris contains diosgenin, a plant steroid with anti-inflammatory and estrogenic properties that is the basis of many pharmaceutical hormonal preparations.

Common Name:
True Unicorn Root
Other Names:
Ague Root, Aloe Root, Blazing Star, Colic Root, Star Grass, Starwort, Unicorn Root
Botanical Name:
Aletris farinosa
Native Location:
SE USA to Mexico
Well-drained peaty or sandy soil in sun.
By seed sown in spring
Rhizomes are lifted in late summer after flowering and dried for use in elixirs, liquid extracts and powders.
30-90cm (1-3ft)
15cm (6in)
Parts Used:
Rhizomes, Root, Leaves
Chemical Constituents:
  • Diosgenin
  • Resin
  • Saponins
  • Volatile Oils
  • Properties:
    A bittersweet, soapy-tasting, tonic herb that relieves spasms, especially in the digestive and female pelvic organs.
    Known Effects:
    Reduces smooth-muscle spasms

    Miscellaneous Information:
    Serves as a base substance to produce synthetic progesterone (a female hormone).
    Possible Additional Effects:
  • May treat painful menstruation
  • May decrease chances of miscarriage
  • May soothe sore breasts
  • May relieve flatulence
  • May relieve arthritis
  • Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for flatulent colic, nervous dyspepsia, anorexia, womb prolapse, and menstrual problems. Rhizomes are always used dried; if fresh they can cause diarrhea, colic, and dizziness.
    To treat rheumatism, relieve menstrual complaints, and treat infertility.
    Typical Dose:
    A typical dose of aletris may range from 0.3 to 0.6gm of powdered root taken three times daily.
    Possible Side Effects:
    Aletris's side effects include colic and vertigo.
    Warnings and Precautions:
    Don't take if you:
  • Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant or plan pregnancy in the near future
  • Have any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, reflux esophagitis, ulcerative colitis, spastic colitis, diverticulosis, diverticulitis

  • Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herbs for any medical problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments.)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs

  • Pregnancy:
    Don't use unless prescribed by your doctor
    Don't use unless prescribed by your doctor
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous.
    None are expected if you are beyond childhood, under 45, not pregnant, basically healthy, take it only for a short time and do not exceed manufacturer's recommended dose.
  • Store in cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    Drug Interactions:
    Taking aletris with these drugs may interfere with the action of the drug.
    Aluminum Hydroxide, (AlternaGel, Alu-Cap)
    Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Carbonate, (Gaviscon Extra Strength, Gaviscon Liquid)
    Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Maalox, Rulox)
    Aluminum Hydroxide, Magnesium Hydroxide, and Simethicone, (Maalox, Mylanta Liquid)
    Aluminum Hydroxide and Magnesium Trisilicate, (Gaviscon Tablet)
    Calcium Carbonate, (Rolaids Extra Strength, Tums)
    Calcium Carbonate and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Mylanta Gelcaps, Rolaids Extra Strength)
    Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
    Esomeprazole, (Nexium)
    Famotidine, (Apo-Famotidine, Pepcid)
    Famotidine, Calcium Carbonate, and Magnesium Hydroxide, (Pepsid Complete)
    Lansoprazole, (Prevacid)
    Magaldrate and Simethicone, (Riopan Plus, Riopan Plus Double Strength)
    Magnesium Hydroxide, (Dulcolax Milk of Magnesia, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia)
    Magnesium Oxide, (Mag-Ox 400, Uro-mag)
    Magnesium Sulfate, (Epsom Salts)
    Nizatidine, (Axid, PMS-Nizatidine)
    Omeprazale, (Losec, Prilosec)
    Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
    Rabeprazole, (Aciphex, Pariet)
    Ranitidine, (Alti-Ranitidine, Zantac)
    Sodium Bicarbonate, (Brioschi, Neut)
    Sucralfate, (Carafate, Sulcrate)
    Disease Interactions:
    • May worsen inflammatory or infectious gastrointestinal ailments by irritating the gastrointestinal tract.
    • This herb may have estrogen-like effects and should not be used by women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
    Rated slightly dangerous particularly in children, persons over 55 and those who take larger than appropriate quantities for extended periods of time.
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects, or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms What to Do

    Diarrhea Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Lethargy Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient.
    Vomiting Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 110
    The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 by Barry Fox,PhD pp 29-30
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements The Complete Guide by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©1998 Fisher Books pp. 455-456