Star Grass

Scientific Name: Aletris Farinosa

Family: Liliaceae

Other names: Colic-Root, Bitter Grass, True Unicorn Root

Cautions: Estrogenic, not to be used during pregnancy

Herbarium Image: Coming Soon

Description

Stargrass is native to the eastern United States. It is a low growing (3ft) perennial plant with lanceolate leaves typically found in swampy wetlands and wet, sandy woodlands. The plant produces a flowering steam with white bell-shaped flowers. The leaves are lanceolate.

Traditional Medicinal Use

The Waccamaw Siouan used star grass to treat athletes foot. Local community members recall digging up the roots and rhizomes and selling them to pharmaceutical companies for use in other preparations as well. It was also planted to keep fleas away and as such was stuffed in mattresses and pillows. This plant is referred to as “cane medicine” by the Lumbee and the whole plant is used to treat diarrhea. The roots were used to treat cramps, colic, gas, rheumatism, and jaundice, as well as to strengthen the womb. The plant was made into a poultice and applied to relieve sore breasts (1). The Catawba made a cold-water infusion of the plant for colic and stomach disorders (2). The Cherokee used as cough medicine, gynecological aid, as well as for liver and lung conditions (3). Roots and rhizomes collected in the fall and preserved.

Health

Stargrass is reported to have estrogenic activity. A. farinosa contains diosgenin, a known phytosteriod and precursor for progesterone. Diosgenin is a common natural alternative to estrogen therapy and used to treat various women’s health conditions. 

Citations

1. Boughman, A. L. a. O., L.O. (2003). Herbal Remedies of the Lumbee Indians. Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland and Company, Inc.

2. Taylor, Linda Averill, 1940, Plants Used As Curatives by Certain Southeastern Tribes, Cambridge, MA. Botanical Museum of Harvard University, page 7

3. Hamel, Paul B. and Mary U. Chiltoskey, 1975, Cherokee Plants and Their Uses -- A 400 Year History, Sylva, N.C. Herald Publishing Co.

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