Chapter 22. Snakeroot—Canada and Virginia.
Canada Snakeroot. Asarum canadense L.
OTHER COMMON NAMES—Asarum, wild ginger, Indian ginger, Vermont snakeroot, heart-snakeroot, southern snakeroot, black snakeroot, colt's-foot, snakeroot, black snakeweed, broadleaved asarabacca, false colt's-foot, cat's foot, colicroot.
HABITAT AND RANGE—This inconspicuous little plant frequents rich woods or rich soil along road sides from Canada south to North Carolina and Kansas.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—Canada snakeroot is a small, apparently stemless perennial, not more than 6 to 12 inches in height, and belongs to the birthwort family (Aristolochaceae). It usually has but two leaves which are borne on slender, finely hairy stems; they are kidney shaped or heart shaped, thin, dark green above and paler green on the lower surface, strongly veined, and from 4 to 7 inches broad.
The solitary bell-shaped flower is of an unassuming dull brown or brownish purple and this modest color, together with its position on the plant, renders it so inconspicuous as to escape the notice of the casual observer. It droops from a short, slender stalk produced between the two leaf stems and is almost hidden under the two leaves, growing so close to the ground that it is sometimes buried beneath old leaves, growing so close to the ground that it is sometimes buried beneath old leaves, and sometimes the soil must be removed before the flower can be seen. It is bell shaped, wooly, the inside darker in color than the outside and of a satiny texture. The fruit which follows is in the form of a leathery 6-celled capsule.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—Canada snakeroot has a creeping, yellowish rootstock, slightly jointed, with this root, lets produced from joints which occur about every half inch or so. In the drug trade the rootstock is usually found in. pieces a few inches in length and about one-eighth of an inch in diameter. These are four-angled, crooked, brownish and wrinkled on the outside, whitish inside and showing a large central pith, hard and brittle and breaking with a short fracture. The odor is fragrant and the taste spicy and aromatic, and has been said to be intermediate between ginger and serpentaria.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—The aromatic root of Canada snakeroot is collected in autumn and the price ranges from 10 to 15 cents a pound. It was reported as very scarce in the latter part of the summer of 1906. Canada Snakeroot, which was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1880, is used as an aromatic, diaphoretic and carminative.