Asarum canadense

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Asarum canadense
Asarum canadense - Wild Ginger.jpg
Conservation status

Secure (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Piperales
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Asarum
Species: A. canadense
Binomial name
Asarum canadense

A. acuminatum
A. canadense var. acuminatum
A. canadense var. ambiguum
A. canadense var. reflexum
A. reflexum
A. rubrocinctum

Asarum canadense, commonly known as Canada wild ginger, Canadian snakeroot and broad-leaved asarabaccais, is a herbaceous perennial native to deciduous forest in eastern North America, from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to approximately the fall line in the southeastern United States.

Underground shoots are shallow-growing, fleshy rhizomes that branch to form a clump. Leaves are kidney-shaped and persistent.

Flowers are hairy and have three sepals, tan to purple on the outside and lighter inside, with tapered tips and bases fused into a cup.

The diploid chromosome number is 26.[2]

It is protected as a state threatened species in Maine.[3]


The long rhizomes of A. canadense were used by Native Americans as a seasoning.[2] It has similar aromatic properties to true ginger (Zingiber officinale), but should not be used as a substitute because it contains an unknown concentration of the carcinogen aristolochic acid and asarone.[4] The distillate from the ground root is known as Canadian snakeroot oil. The odor and flavor are spicy. It has been used in many flavor preparations.[5]

Native Americans used the plant as a medicinal herb to treat a number of ailments including dysentery, digestive problems, swollen breasts, coughs and colds, typhus, scarlet fever, nerves, sore throats, cramps, heaves, earaches, headaches, convulsions, asthma, tuberculosis, urinary disorders and venereal disease. In addition, they also used it as a stimulant, an appetite enhancer and a charm. It was also used as an admixture to strengthen other herbal preparations.[2]


  1. ^ "Asarum canadense". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  2. ^ a b c Whittemore, Alan T. ; Mesler, Michael R.; Lu, Karen L. (2006), "Asarum canadense", in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+, Flora of North America 3, New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  3. ^ "Asarum canadense", USDA PLANTS Database 
  4. ^ Duke, Jim, "Asarum canadense", Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases 
  5. ^ Michael G. Motto, Norman J. Secord (1985), "Composition of the essential oil from Asarum canadense", Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 31 (5): 789–791, doi:10.1021/jf00065a004. 

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