Wild Ginger - Asarum caudatum



General Forming dense mats. [IFBC-E-flora]
Lifecycle Perennial herb.[IFBC-E-flora] Evergreen.[PFAF]
Flowers Solitary, bell-like with 3 flaring lobes, these long-pointed; corollas purplish-brown to greenish-yellow [Ecoherb Tilford][IFBC-E-flora], 2.5-8.0 cm long. [IFBC-E-flora] The flowers are hermaphrodite and are pollinated by flies.[PFAF] Reside at the tip end of the rhizomes.[WildPNW] "The toothlike appendage above the anther is shorter than the entire stamen."[PSW]
Fruits Fleshy capsules, seeds egg-like with fleshy appendages.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves Kidney-shaped, shiny, stalked, the blades 2.5-10 cm long, 5-15 cm wide; stalks and veins finely hairy. [IFBC-E-flora] dark green, broadly heart-shaped. [Ecoherb Tilford] 1 to several alternate broad clasping scale-like leaves.[HNW]
Stem Rooting freely. [IFBC-E-flora]
Root Extensive rhizomes [IFBC-E-flora] Brittle and horizontal.[WildPNW] "Rhizomes close to the surface of the soil, sometimes partly exposed."[PWOBC]
Properties The smell of ginger is quite pungent, particularly when the leaves are bruised. [Ecoherb Tilford] All Asarums emit this smell when touched or broken. [WildPNW]
Ecological Indicator A shade-tolerant, submontane to montane, Westem North American forb. Occurs on fresh and moist, nitrogen-rich soils. Occurrence increases with increasing continentality and decreases with increasing latitude and elevation. Sparse in coniferous forests, scattered in broad-leaved forests on water­receiving sites. Often associated with Athyrium filix-femina, Oplopanax horridus, and Rubus parviflorus. A nitrophytic species. [IPBC-E-flora]
Similar Species "Three very similar wild ginger species (Asarum canadense, Asarum acuminatum, and Asarum caudatum) grow from British Columbia to California." A. canadense is the eastern species.[EMP Wildman]
Habitat "Moist to mesic forests in the lowland and montane zones". [IFBC-E-flora] Deep shade in moist pine woods and redwood forests[60, 187]. Understory of conifer forests[270][PFAF]
Range Common in B.C. south of 55degrees N. Absent from Haida Gwaii and the adjacent coast [IFBC-E-flora] Western N. America - B.C. to California.[PFAF]
Status Native.[E-flora]


Asarum spp; "Volatile oil contains asarone, which can cause illness and tumor growth in rats in high concentrations." [CPPlantsMush]

Summary: There appears to be a lot more information on the related species, Asarum europaeum and Asarum canadense. In light of this, I will refer to these two species for supporting or refuting evidence. [Personal Note] A. canadense and A. caudatum are treated the same for medicinal use.[Tilger HMHE]


Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Internal Use

External Use


Preparation & Dosage:

"...though the wild ginger of North America, Asarum canadense, is not botanically related to ginger, it has been traditionally used in many of the same ways and possesses many of the same properties as ginger. It was even used traditionally in beers in North America by European settlers (in much the same manner as ginger was then used in Europe)..." [Buhner SHHB]



The following constituents & Effects have been identfied for A. canadensis;

"(whole plant) Essential oils including ucarvone, safrole, beta-pinene, asoryl-ketone, asariline, chalcone, flavonol glycoside, trans-aconitic acid, phenylpropane derivatives." [CRNAH]

"Asarone (2,4,5-trimethoxy-1-allyl phenyl) is an ether present in A( trans) and B( cis) forms, being found as the major component in plant rhizomes of some Acorun and Asarum species. Acorus gramineus (Araceae), which contains large amounts of B- asarone, has ethnopharmacological use in different symptoms most related to the central nervous system, such as learning and memory improvement, neuroprotection, sedation, and analgesia. Besides this, it is used for stomach disorder treatment, as an antibacterial agent, and for the extermination of insects (Park et al. 2011).
Few data are available on the cytotoxic activity of asarone forms in tumor cell lines, such as possible antitumor activity. In addition, there are reports showing that these phenylpropanoids can be considered mutagenic, genotoxic and, therefore, carcinogenic (Hasheminejad and Caldwell 1994; Kim et al. 1999)."[BEOC, Sousa]



"Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the summer[134]. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter[134]. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 - 4 or more weeks at 18oc[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Plants are slow to increase[200]. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly." [PFAF]

A. canadense;

Collecting Seeds: You may have to get down on hands and knees to collect the seeds; the capsules is well hidden, and chipmunks often get there first. Start checking about a month after the first flowers appear. Pluck off the capsules and tap out the seeds.
When to Plant: Wild ginger germinates best when sown immediately after collection, but it may be stratified in the refrigerator for late planting. Just don’t let the seeds dry out before planting them.
How to Plant: Use some humus-rich woods soil in your seed-starting mix, if possible.
Growing Conditions: Wild ginger appreciates fertile soil with plenty of humus, and a shaded location. In moist ground, it self-sows readily. [NSSH Bubel]


Habit: Rhizome shallowly horizontal or deeply +- vertical, plants spreading or clumped; roots gingery-aromatic. Leaf: from rhizome, generally evergreen; blade cordate to reniform. Inflorescence: flower terminal, at ground level. Flower: generally dark colored; sepals forming tube, persistent; stamens 12, free from style, tips generally appendaged. Fruit: fleshy capsule. Seed:''' with fleshy appendage, ant-dispersed.
Species In Genus: 90 species: northern temperate. Etymology: (Greek: derivation unknown) [Jepson]

Local Species;

"Although they do not list them, Fernald et al. (1958) note that other species may be used like A. canadense. Bown (1995) also listed a number of species that have been similarly used for seasoning and medicine. These and other data suggest that other species were substituted for A. canadense outside its range. For example, the Catawba are known to have used A. arifolia for heart problems (Speck 1932, Vogel 1970)" [Daniel F Austin]

ASARUM (Wild Ginger, Canada Snakeroot)
ROOT. Tincture [Fresh Root 1:2, Dry Root, 1:5, 60% alcohol] 20-50 drops in hot water. HERB. Standard Infusion or simple tea as needed. [Moore(1995)]

A. canadensis (Wild Ginger);

Food Use:

Other Use

Medicinal Use:

A. europaea

Asarum Sp.; The fresh leaves have been used as a poultice for wounds. Used as an antiseptic. The dried and pounded leaf was used as a snuff. [NAEth Moerman] "Native Americans used the root of some Asarum species as a contraceptive, and to promote menstruation." [Tozer UWP]

Asarone: "The effective dose and particular consequences of this drug vary broadly among individuals. Related to mescaline and the amphetamines, asarone comes from the roots of sweet flag (Acorus calamus) and the Asarum species. It can act as a stimulant, sedative and hallucinogen simultaneously. It should not be taken with any MAO inhibitors."[HTEncyRD]

Xixin (Asarum heterotropoides, sieboldii) (Manchurian Wild Ginger)


Page last modified on Thursday, January 10, 2019 6:31 AM