Aralia nudicaulis: A Wild Sarsaparilla with Medicinal Uses
Aralia nudicaulis is a perennial plant that belongs to the family Araliaceae, the same family as ginseng and ivy. It is native to northern and eastern North America, where it grows in moist forests and woodlands. It has a distinctive appearance, with a single stem that bears a large compound leaf and three spherical clusters of tiny white flowers. The flowers are followed by blue-black berries that are edible but not very tasty. The plant has a long, creeping rhizome that can form colonies.
Aralia nudicaulis is also known as wild sarsaparilla, false sarsaparilla, shot bush, small spikenard, wild liquorice, and rabbit root. The common name sarsaparilla comes from the Spanish word zarzaparrilla, which means “bramble vine”. However, Aralia nudicaulis is not related to the true sarsaparilla (Smilax spp.), which is a tropical vine used to make a soft drink. Aralia nudicaulis has been used as a substitute for sarsaparilla in herbal medicine and root beer making.
Medicinal Uses of Aralia nudicaulis
Aralia nudicaulis has a long history of use by Native Americans and European settlers for various ailments. The rhizome is the main part used medicinally, although the leaves and berries can also be used. The rhizome has a sweet, aromatic taste and a spicy smell. It contains saponins, tannins, resin, essential oil, and other compounds that have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, tonic, alterative, and blood-purifying properties.
Some of the traditional uses of Aralia nudicaulis include:
- Treating skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, boils, and wounds.
- Relieving respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, and tuberculosis.
- Stimulating appetite and digestion.
- Improving kidney and urinary tract function.
- Reducing rheumatic pain and swelling.
- Enhancing sexual performance and fertility.
- Boosting immunity and energy levels.
Aralia nudicaulis can be prepared as a tea, decoction, tincture, syrup, or poultice. It can also be chewed raw or dried for its pleasant flavor. However, it should be used with caution and moderation, as excessive doses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and allergic reactions. It should also be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with high blood pressure or heart problems, and people who are allergic to plants in the Araliaceae family.
How to Grow Aralia nudicaulis
Aralia nudicaulis is a hardy plant that can tolerate cold temperatures and shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. It can be propagated by seeds or rhizome cuttings. Seeds should be sown in the fall or stratified for two months before sowing in the spring. Rhizome cuttings should be taken in the spring or fall and planted horizontally about 5 cm deep. The plant can be harvested after three years of growth.
Aralia nudicaulis is an attractive plant that can be grown as an ornamental or a medicinal herb. It can be planted in woodland gardens, rock gardens, or containers. It can also be used as a ground cover or an edging plant. It attracts bees, butterflies, and birds with its flowers and fruits. It is also deer-resistant and drought-tolerant.