Trillium erectum

Herbs gallery - Trillium

Common names

  • American Ground Lily
  • Bethroot
  • Birthroot
  • Coughroot
  • Ground Lily
  • Indian Balm
  • Indian Shamrock
  • Jew's-harp Plant
  • Milk Ipecac
  • Nodding Wakerobin
  • Pariswort
  • Red Trillium
  • Snakebite
  • Stinking Benjamin
  • Three-leaved Nightshade
  • Trillium
  • Wake Robin

Trillium (botanical name Trillium erectum) is a perennial herb that usually grows up to a height of 16 inches and bears three wide leaves and a single flower, whose color may vary - white, yellow or red. The rhizome of trillium is about the length of a thumb and its color varies from yellowish to reddish brown.

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During the early phase of spring, while nature lovers walking in the woods are likely to be lured to collect the attractive, low-growing trillium. It is true that the appeal of trillium is reverberated in one more of its names, for instance, wake-robin, a cue that this plant is one of the early offerings of the spring.

Nevertheless, people who collect flowers ought to be cautioned that this is a rare plant and also endangered in a number of states. In fact, there is one more reason why the flowers of trillium ought to be left alone - they are visible quite easily owing to their moniker 'Stinking Benjamin'.

A number of herbal experts have discovered that the smell of the plant has a very close resemblance to the disgusting odour of decomposing flesh that they prepare a lotion using the roots and rhizomes of trillium to treat gangrene founded on the formerly-regarded principles of signatures, consistent with the characteristics of a plant are indicates its consequent usefulness for the human body.

The plant's name birthroot explains the primary therapeutic use of trillium and that is to stop bleeding or haemorrhages. Especially, an herbal tea prepared from the roots and rhizome of trillium was given to new mothers to stop haemorrhages following child birth.

For the same attributes of the plant, the tea was also recommended for curing uterine problems. The Native Indians in the America applied the herb in the form of lotions and poultices prepared from the crushed leaves to cure skin irritations as well as insect bites.

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Parts used

Rhizome, root, leaf, flower.


Trillium is known by many different names. The source of a number of names, such as 'wake robin' and bethroot', is not very familiar. The term 'trillium' is associated with the word 'three' in Greek, Latin as well as other languages, in line with the three leaves borne by the plant.

Most possibly, the name 'wake robin' is derived from the red color of some species of trillium, or maybe owing to the fact that the plant blooms during the spring - a time of the year when robins flourish or found in plenty.

Similarly, it is thought that the plant's nickname 'Stinking Benjamin' has its origin in the fact that the flower of this plant has a very pronounced and disagreeable smell, which is akin to the smell of decomposed meat or flesh.

No matter what the plant's name is, the Native American people from all over the continent prepare an herbal tea with trillium or boil the green parts of the plant for consumption.

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In addition, in earlier times, trillium was also used in the form of a talisman to predict love, to safeguard the teeth, to identify witchcraft as well as to work for common good luck.

Trillium's name 'birthroot' denotes the most popular use of this herb. The indigenous tribes of the America as well as the early European settlers in North America employed trillium to facilitate the labor of child birth.

Trillium was also used to cure other problems related to gynecology, including tender nipples, menstrual disorders as well as the uneasiness caused by menopause.

Even to this day, trillium continues to be used for easing several of the symptoms mentioned above, in addition to hemorrhages related to uterine fibroids.

In addition, the Native Americans also used trillium internally to cure bowel disorders and applied it topically to ease headaches and to treat sunburns, boils and acne. Chemical analysis of trillium has revealed that this herb encloses tannin, saponin trillin as well as some amount of essential oil.

It may be noted that trillium is a very useful medication for treating profuse menstrual discharge or inter-menstrual hemorrhages, as it is effective in lessening the flow of blood from the body.

As mentioned earlier, this herb is also employed to cure bleeding related to uterine fibroids. Trillium may be used internally to treat bleeding inside the urinary tubules and sometimes for treating coughing up of blood.

As far as facilitating child birth is concerned, trillium continues to be a valuable herbal medication. In addition, a douche of trillium is effective in treating profuse vaginal discharge as well as infections caused by yeasts.

Traditionally, trillium has been used by the indigenous people of North America in the form of a herb that is beneficial for women, especially in facilitating labor during child birth as well as stopping bleeding after child birth.

In addition, it is also effective for treating erratic menstrual periods, pains during menstruation cycles as well as profuse vaginal discharge. Contemporary research has demonstrated that the root of trillium encloses steroidal saponins that have hormonal actions on the body.

Today, these saponins are being employed while manufacturing medicines for gynecological and obstetric medicine. However, here is a word of caution. Pregnant women should never use this herb, barring under the direct supervision of professional and competent medical practitioners.

Chemical analysis of the trillium root has revealed that it possesses aphrodisiac, astringent, antiseptic, expectorant properties and it is a tonic for the uterus.

Trillium is also employed internally for treating an assortment of medical problems related to women, counting bleedings from the urinary tract, uterus and lungs. It is also effective in controlling profuse menstrual flow.

Trillium has also proved to be very useful in stopping hemorrhages following child birth (parturition). Trillium is used externally to cure too much vaginal discharge, skin disorders, ulcers (particularly varicose), insect bites and stings and gangrene. An herbal tea prepared from the roots and rhizome of trillium is also effective in treating tender nipples.

The root of trillium is unearthed during the later phase of summer when the herb has shed all its leaves. The rhizome and root of this plant are dried up for use when necessary. The entire herb is employed in the form of a poultice for treating ulcers, tumours as well as inflammations.

Habitat and cultivation

Trillium is indigenous to North America and is found growing in shady locations in forested lands. The rhizome of this herb is generally dug out following the plant shedding its leaves during autumn.

Trillium plants have a preference for forest land soils that have a proper drainage or any soil having rich humus content in a rather shady location, which is mostly damp during the summer.

In addition, this plant has a preference for soils whose pH varies from neutral to somewhat acidic. Trillium thrives well in open deciduous forest lands and also grows successfully in any sunlit location provided the soil is moist all the times.

It also succeeds in locations where there is complete shade. In fact, trillium is an extremely enduring species that is able to tolerate temperatures as low as -35°C. Being a perennial plant, trillium has a long life.

In case you need to transplant trillium it is advisable that you do it while the plants are in full bloom. Trillium is actually an inconsistent species and is, more often than not, caused to undergo mutation.

Members belonging to this genus are seldom, if ever, disturbed by leafing through deer or rabbits. However, the leaves of trillium are a favourite of slugs. Trillium plants bear flowers that have a very unpleasant smell something akin to decomposed flesh.

However, blandum, the variety of trillium which bears white flowers, almost does not have any smell whatsoever. Generally, the plants take two years from sowing the seed to blossom.

Trillium is primarily propagated by its seeds, which should be ideally sown in a cold frame that is shaded immediately when they are mature. If you are using stored seeds, they should be sown during the later part of winter or early phase of spring.

Generally, trillium seeds take one to three months' time to germinate provided the temperature is about 15°C. According to a different account, trillium seeds generally produce roots following the first cold stratification.

However, they do not produce any shoot till their second winter of existence. Yet another report says that it may take as long as three years for the trillium seeds to germinate.

Trillium seedlings are susceptible to deteriorate owing to lack of moisture and, hence, it is important to water them carefully and provide them with enough fresh air.

The young trillium plants need to be put in a cold frame during the winter months of their first year of existence and can be subsequently planted outdoors during the later part of spring. However, if you are cultivating trillium, you ought to be cautious that the pots do not become either extremely dry or over wet.

Trillium may also be propagated by means of division and this should be undertaken with additional care when the plants wither after flowering. The comparatively large divisions may be planted directly outdoors into their permanent positions.

Meanwhile, it may be noted that it is ideal to plant the smaller divisions in pots and grow them in partial shade either in a cold frame or in a greenhouse till they are developing excellently. The plants may be planted outdoors in their permanent positions during the subsequent spring.


Usual dosage

Therapeutically, trillium is taken in the form of a decoction or tincture.

Decoction: To prepare a decoction with trillium, add a cup (250 ml) of water to one or two teaspoonfuls of the dehydrated herb (roots/ rhizome) and boil it for about 10 minutes. For best results, this decoction ought to be drunk thrice every day.

Tincture: The normal dosage of trillium tincture is taking 1 ml to 4 ml of it thrice every day.

Side effects and cautions

People who are using trillium therapeutically or intend to use it ought to be aware of the side effects caused by this herb. When trillium is taken in high doses it can stimulate menstruation or labor, or it may cause nausea or queasiness.

Applying this herb externally may also result in irritation. It is advisable that pregnant women should keep away from using trillium.

Collection and harvesting

It is best to harvest or dig up the root plus the rhizome of trillium during the later part of summer or in the early phase of autumn.


To cure extreme or profuse menstruation, trillium may be given in conjugation with other herbs, such as the American cranesbill or periwinkle.


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