Herb: Unicorn Root

Latin name: Aletris farinosa

Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Medicinal use of Unicorn Root:

The greatest value of unicorn root is its tonic influence on the female generative organs, proving to be of great use in treating cases of habitual miscarriages. It also promotes the appetite and is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, rheumatism and jaundice. The root is bitter, diuretic, narcotic and tonic. Only use the dried rootstock, in large doses the fresh root is somewhat narcotic, emetic and cathartic. A decoction of the root is a bitter tonic and has been used for expelling flatulence and for various uterine disorders. It is used in the treatment of colic, though small doses, especially of the fresh root, can cause hypogastric colic. The root is harvested in late summer after flowering and dried for later use. The root contains diosgenin, which has both anti-inflammatory and oestrogenic properties. A tea of the leaves has been used in the treatment of colic, stomach disorders, dysentery and bloody dysentery.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Grassy or sandy woodlands, in dry or moist peats, sands and gravels, especially on the seashore

Edible parts of Unicorn Root:

Bulb - cooked. Intensely bitter. A bitter-sweet soapy taste.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - we have no details for this species but suggest sowing the seed in a greenhouse in early spring. Sow the seed thinly to allow the seedlings to be grown on for their first year without potting them up, but give a liquid feed from time to time to ensure that they do not become nutrient deficient. Prick the young plants out into individual pots the following spring and grow them on in the greenhouse for the next winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Division in spring.

Cultivation of Unicorn Root:

Grassy or sandy woodlands, in dry or moist peats, sands and gravels, especially on the seashore

Known hazards of Aletris farinosa:

The fresh root is mildly poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.