Colic Root

Aletris farinosa

Herbs gallery - Colic Root

Common names

  • Ague Grass
  • Ague Root
  • Aletris
  • Aloeroot
  • Colicroot
  • Crow Com
  • Star Grass
  • True Unicorn Root

The herb known commonly as the colic root is a perennial plant. This herb reaches a height of about one to three feet and bears a single stalk which lies axially in the center of a rosette of pale green leaves which resemble the leaves of a lily - each leaf of the herb is about two to seven inches in length.

In the months of May through August, the plant also bears a lot of tiny white urn-shaped flowers, each may be a quarter to half an inch in length, and this may together form a spike running side by side of the upper region of the bare stalk.

Many seeds are typically found in the fruits, borne inside leathery egg shaped capsules following the floral bloom. The colic root itself is actually derived from the rhizome or false root, which is the underground stem of the plant - this is the part of the herb which is used in herbal medication for the preparation of various remedies.

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Even today, the use of the colic root is still supported and this particular remedy has enjoyed a degree of medicinal support for a very long time - it was used traditionally in many cultures for the treatment of a variety of conditions affecting different patients.

During the 19th century, the colic root was officially listed as a distinct therapeutic herb in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, losing this status and medical support only in the National Formulary of 1947, when the medicinal standing of the herb began to be questioned due to the complete lack of conclusive scientific proof regarding its healing abilities - it is still used by many herbalist in the country.

Parts used

Rhizome, root, leaves.


A related remedy called the false unicorn root which is also used in herbal medicine must not be confused with the colic root. As a herbal remedy, problems such as a sluggish digestion can be effectively corrected using the colic root alone.

Such sluggishness in the digestive process typically leads to other disorders like dyspepsia, abdominal flatulence and debility in the individual; prompt treatment using the colic root will preclude all these disorders and enable the person to quickly regain digestive functions.

Problems such as anorexia - or long term appetite loss are often relived using the colic root as its bitter nature revives and increases the effectiveness of the digestive process in the affected individual. As a mark of its effectiveness and value in the treatment of digestive colic, the colic root is often known by another name, and called the true unicorn root.

The colic root is also sometimes called a nervine, due to the fact that most of the disorders which are treatable through it use have an underlying nervous system involvement.

As a treatment for nervous disorders such as anxiety, the value of the herb is not based on directly effecting nerve relaxation, but rather on easing the physical aspects of the condition - for this reason, its action as a nervine is disputed by some.

Though the false unicorn root is to be preferred in the treatment of a threatened miscarriage in women, there is some evidence that the colic root may also be of some value in this regard.

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The colic root plant is native to the eastern region of the United States and the Native Americans were first peoples to experiment with the colic root as an herbal remedy - they used it in a variety of traditional herbal remedies.

The native Americans used the colic root based remedies in the treatment of stomachaches, to treat digestive colic, in the treatment of dysentery, and to treat all kinds of menstrual disorders, the roots of the plant were also used in the preparation of a bitter tasting herbal tea - which was made from the roots or the leaves and drunk by patients.

As Europeans settled in the continent, colonist in the Appalachian region adopted some of these herbal uses of the colic root, in addition, they made a few of their own uses for the herb in homemade remedies.

To relieve aches in the back and for sore breast, these early colonist used to apply an herbal poultice made from the leaves of the colic root. The pain in the body was reduced in some cases by drinking a very potent drink made from the dried and powdered colic root along with whiskey or strong brandy.

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Habitat and cultivation

The colic root plant prefers swampy and wet areas for growth, the plant also grows well in sandy woodlands especially near the seashore - the plant originally grew only in the eastern regions of the North American continent.

At the present time, cultivation and harvesting of the colic root for commercial uses is carried out in the American states of Virginia, Tennessee, and in many areas of North Carolina - the plant has also spread as a weed to some other parts of the continent.


Colic root contains steroidal saponins based on diosgenin, as well as a bitter principle; volatile oil, and a resin.

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Usual dosage

This herb can be turned in a colic root decoction, which can be prepared by using a half to one tsp of the colic root in a cup of water, this water must then be boiled and allowed to simmer for about ten minutes - it can then be cooled, strained and drunk by the patient. Dosage of the herbal decoction can be one cup taken at least thrice every day during the treatment period.

The herbal infusion of the colic root can also be used as a remedy, prepare this by using about one to two tbsp of the dried herb and boil this in a cup of water. Let the water simmer and allow the herb to infuse into the water for ten to fifteen minutes after which it can be removed, strained and used as needed. Dosage of this herbal infusion can be one cup of the infusion taken at least thrice every day of the treatment period.

An herbal tincture can also be prepared from the colic root, and dosage can be one to two ml of tincture, taken thrice every day during the treatment period as well.

Collection and harvesting

August is the usual time when the underground stems of the colic root are dug out and harvested - this is immediately following the blooming of the plant. The collected rhizomes are carefully washed and then cut into smaller pieces; they are sorted and dried for storage - to be turned into different herbal products later.


From Mark - Mar-23-2015
I find that drinking a decoction prepared from the root boiled in water helps to increase my appetite. It should be drunk in lukewarm water, though.
From Jenn Dazey - Dec-02-2014
Don't forget that this herb is critically endangered in many states and extirpated in New Hampshire and Maine (gone). It is nearly impossible to cultivate or transplant, and much that you can buy online is illegally obtained. There are numerous sustainable alternatives (that don't give you diarrhea). Please consider using a different plant, even if it appears that your local area has an abundance.
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