Herb: Western Sweet-Cicely

Latin name: Osmorhiza occidentalis

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Western Sweet-Cicely:

Western sweet-cicely was widely employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it particularly to treat digestive disorders and as an antiseptic wash for a range of problems. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. An infusion of the plant is used in the treatment of coughs and colds. The roots are antiseptic, carminative, febrifuge, oxytocic, pectoral and stomachic. An infusion has been used to induce labour in a pregnant woman and to treat fevers, indigestion, flatulence, stomach aches etc. An infusion of the roots has been applied externally as a treatment for swollen breasts, sores, sore eyes etc. A decoction of the root has been used as a wash on venereal sores and skin rashes. A poultice of the pulped roots has been used in the treatment of cuts, sores, swellings and bruises. The root has been applied to teeth to relive the pain of toothache. A hot decoction of the root has been used to kill head lice.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)


Habitat of the herb:

Shady or partly shady areas, often on slopes and in valleys.

Edible parts of Western Sweet-Cicely:

The root has a sweet liquorice or anise flavour and can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a flavouring for biscuits etc. The taste is probably too strong for the whole root to be used as a vegetable. The dried seeds are used as a flavouring. The unripe seed, when still fleshy, can be nibbled raw.

Other uses of the herb:

The roots have been used by women as a feminine deodorant. They have also been placed in the clothes cupboard to impart a nice smell to clothes and have been used to rinse babies nappies. A decoction of the root has been used as a dip to kill lice in chickens.

Propagation of Western Sweet-Cicely:

Seed - we have no information on this species but suggest sowing the seed in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe if this is possible, otherwise sow it in early spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Cultivation of the herb:

Shady or partly shady areas, often on slopes and in valleys.

Known hazards of Osmorhiza occidentalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.