Herb: False Spikenard


Latin name: Smilacena racemosa


Synonyms: Convallaria racemosa, Maianthemum racemosum, Vagnera racemosa


Family: Convallariaceae



Medicinal use of False Spikenard:

False spikenard was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The plant is contraceptive and haemostatic. A decoction is used in the treatment of coughs and the spitting up of blood. Half a cup of leaf tea drunk daily for a week by a woman is said to prevent conception. a poultice of the crushed fresh leaves is applied to bleeding cuts. A tea made from the roots is drunk to regulate menstrual disorders. The root is analgesic, antirheumatic, appetizer, blood purifier, cathartic and tonic. A decoction is said to be a very strong medicine, it is used for treating rheumatism and kidney problems and, when taken several times a day it has been used successfully in treating cancer and heart complaints. The fumes from a burning root have been inhaled to treat headaches and general body pain. The fumes have also been used to restore an unconscious patient and to bring an insane person back to normal. The dried powdered root has been used in treating wounds. A poultice of the root has been applied to the severed umbilical cord of a child in order to speed the healing process and is also used to treat cuts, swellings etc. A cold infusion of the root is used as a wash for sore eyes.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
May to
June


Scent:
Scented
Perennial

Habitat of the herb:

Moist coniferous and deciduous woods, clearings and bluffs, preferring shaded streamsides.

Edible parts of False Spikenard:

Fruit - raw, cooked or made into jellies and molasses. The fruit is smaller than a pea but is produced in quite large terminal clusters on the plant and so is easy to harvest. It has a delicious bitter-sweet flavour, suggesting bitter molasses. The fruit is said to store well, it certainly hangs well on the plants and we have picked very delicious fruits in late October. Rich in vitamins, the fruit has been used to prevent scurvy. Some caution is advised since the raw fruit is said to be laxative in large quantities, though this is only if you are not used to eating this fruit. Thorough cooking removes much of this laxative element. Young leaves - raw or cooked. The young shoots, as they emerge in spring, can be cooked and used as an asparagus substitute. Root - cooked. It should be soaked in alkaline water first to get rid of a disagreeable taste. It can be eaten like potatoes or pickled.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 45cm apart each way.

Propagation of False Spikenard:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking 18 months. Stored seed should be sown in a cold frame as soon as possible, it may take 2 years or longer to germinate. Grow the seedlings on in a shady part of a greenhouse for their first year without pricking them out, giving them liquid or foliar feeds as required to ensure that they do not become nutrient deficient. Divide the young plants up into individual pots in the autumn when they are dormant, and grow them on for at least another year in a shady part of the greenhouse. When the plants have reached a sufficient size, plant them out in the autumn whilst they are dormant. Division in spring or early autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist coniferous and deciduous woods, clearings and bluffs, preferring shaded streamsides.

Known hazards of Smilacena racemosa:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.