False Unicorn

Chamaelirium lutetium

Also, Known As:

  • Blazing Star
  • Devil’s Bit
  • False Unicorn
  • Helonias Root

During the colonial period in North America, people used false unicorn, also known as Liatris (botanical name Chamaelirium lutetium) as a medicinal herb. However, its current use is strictly limited to being an ornamental plant. In fact, false unicorn is preferred by florists while arranging cut flowers for any customer owing to the exquisite lavender spikes of the plant’s fluffy flowers. Dissimilar to the majority of the different spike blooms, false unicorn flowers are an omission from the rule. The flowers of this herb develop at the apex of the spikes in a descending pattern. The flowering spikes of the false unicorn may be about two feet or even longer and have either purple or lavender hue.

The false unicorn is a perennially growing plant that is indigenous to the United States and is found growing in a diversity of environments, counting deciduous forest lands as well as meadows.

The basal rosette of false unicorn comprises of six leaves, each having a length of 8 cm to 15 cm. A solitary raceme inflorescence resembling a spike having a length of about 8 cm to 30 cm and about 1 cm to 1.5 cm across emerges from this basal rosette. Normally, the false unicorn plants are dioecious in nature having male-inclined gender proportions in a specified population. This is primarily owing to an elevated mortality rate of the female false unicorn plants, as well as the propensity of the female plants to produce blossoms less often. The female stalks of false unicorn have the propensity to be comparatively tall, growing up to an utmost height of about 1.2 meters. However, at the same time, they also have the propensity to produces flowers that are about ten times less compared to the original numbers.

False unicorn possesses immense therapeutic properties and is used to treat various health conditions. For instance, false unicorn is employed in treating sexually transmitted diseases (STD), particularly gonorrhea. To treat venereal diseases with a false unicorn, take a small portion of the herb’s root, clean it, slice it finely and boil the pieces in three cups (750 ml) of water for about 20 minutes. When the liquid has cooled down, filter it and use it in the form of a vaginal douche as well as a wash to eliminate infections.

All through the cold and flu seasons, it is very common to suffer from tender throats. However, at times, sore throats may deteriorate to such an extent that people suffering from the condition develop a foul smell in their breath. In order to get rid of this trouble, you simply need to gargle with an herbal tea prepared from the root of the false unicorn at intervals of one hour.

In effect, the root of the false unicorn herb is one more herb that people have taken over from the traditions of the natives of North America. It has been found that the root of false unicorn encloses hormone-like saponins that are partially attributed to the herb’s continued traditional use in the form of a tonic for the ovary and the uterus.

There was a time when false unicorn was specially employed to treat debility as well as extreme loosening up of the uterus, which can be distinguished by an exhausted feeling, a sensation of descending pressure in the pelvis that is frequently related to tetchiness and despair. In addition, herbalists have also employed false unicorn to promote fertility among women as well as cure impotency among men. In effect, this herb has an adaptogenic impact on the sex hormones. In other words, it denotes that false unicorn works to regularize as well as control the sex hormones, thereby, facilitating in easing several problems related to the reproductive system, menstrual anomalies as well as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that are associated with hormonal discrepancies or imbalances. The herb false unicorn also augments the responses pertaining to the ovary’s secretions and cyclical purposes. It has also been employed in treating infertility attributable to dysfunction in the follicular development within the ovary.

False unicorn is also known to be beneficial for the health of the liver and the digestive tract, as the bitter principle enclosed by false unicorn brings forth a stimulating impact on these two organs. This, in turn, improves one’s appetite and digestive power, while providing relief from queasiness as well as vomiting during pregnancy. The root of the false unicorn has also been employed therapeutically to put off threatened miscarriage and also to stop bleeding.

Plant Part Used:


Traditional Herbal Remedy Use:

False unicorn is basically a traditional herbal remedy for the indigenous people of North America. However, it is worth mentioning here that some misunderstanding exists regarding the use of false unicorn as some other herbs also have the same name or had names that are very alike. It is believed that this herb was primarily employed by the native tribes of North America in the form of an herbal remedy especially beneficial for women. Nevertheless, inhabitants of Arkansas also took therapeutic preparations from false unicorn to treat injuries as well as ulcers. The root of the false unicorn was listed in the United States National Formulary in the form of a tonic for the uterus as well as a diuretic between the period 1916 and 1947.

Over the years the therapeutic value of false unicorn seems to have changed somewhat and currently, herbalists in the West mainly consider this herb to be a vital herbal remedy for conditions related to the uterus as well as the ovaries. In addition, it appears that false unicorn also has a stabilizing or regulating impact on the reproductive system in women, as it promotes a normal menstrual cycle. False unicorn is administered to women enduring erratic menstrual periods or those who suffer from the absence of menstruation. This herb also stimulates the ovaries to discharge their hormones at the appropriate time every month. However, it may take a number of months from the time of using false unicorn to have noteworthy results on the menstruation cycle or normalizing the periods. False unicorn has a number of other therapeutic uses, for instance, this herb is also employed to treat infections of the uterus, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms as well as ovarian cysts. In addition, false unicorn is also used in the form of a stimulant for the digestive as well as genitourinary problems.

As discussed above, the herb false unicorn has been traditionally used by the native tribes of North America in the form of a remedy for health conditions mainly related to women. They considered false unicorn to be a herb especially beneficial for women. This herb possesses a number of therapeutic properties, including a uterine tonic, adaptogen, emetic, diuretic and vermifuge. In addition, false unicorn is also used in treating dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea and leucorrhoea as well as an assortment of conditions related to the reproductive system of both women and men. The root of a false unicorn, which is primarily used for therapeutic purposes, is extracted during autumn, dried up and stored for use when necessary later.

Growing False Unicorn:

False unicorn is a perennial herb that is indigenous to the United States and is found growing on its own in low, damp and adequately drained locales on the eastern side of the Mississippi River. Normally, this herb is collected from the wild and seldom cultivated. Nevertheless, the false unicorn can also be propagated from its seeds. The plants are in bloom during the beginning of the summer and their roots are unearthed during autumn.

False unicorn plants thrive best in damp, rich soils that are acidic and rich in humus content, especially a cool peaty earth. This plant species also has a preference for total sunlight but also grows well in partial shade. False unicorn plants are dioecious by nature (bearing flowers that of separate sexes) and if you require seeds of this herb, you need to grow the male and female plants of this species in close proximity.

Provided you are cultivating false unicorn, you need to sow the seeds immediately when they are mature. Ideally, the seeds should be sown superficially, just underneath the surface of a soil that is a mix of peat and sand in containers and placed in a cold frame. Ensure that the soil is always cool and damp. Normally, it takes anything between one and six months for the seeds to germinate when they are placed at a temperature of about 10ºC. When the seedlings have grown sufficiently large to be handled, you need to prick them out individually and plant them in separate containers. Continue growing the young plants in a nursery bed for a period of about one to two years and ensure you provide them with protection from the harsh winter. When the plants have grown sufficiently large, they may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors during spring.


Findings by herbalists in the West reveal that false unicorn is a useful herbal medicine for treating problems related to menstruation as well as the uterus. In effect, false unicorn roots enclose substances called steroidal saponins that are responsible for stimulating the uterus and this is an ample indication regarding the assertions of false unicorn facilitating the treatment of gynecological disorders to be adequately verified. Nevertheless, practically there has been no research in this regard thus far. It is worth mentioning here that the fact that while there has been plenty of a scientific research regarding the therapeutic uses of the herb ginseng (Chinese ginseng), which also encloses steroidal saponins, the false unicorn has virtually been neglected by herbalists and botanists and this is really surprising. This is possible because ginseng is effective in treating problems related to males while false unicorn is especially useful for women. Therefore, it needs to be emphasized that there is an urgent need for further research with a false unicorn.


  • Steroidal saponins (up to 9%)
  • Glycosides (chamaelirin, helonin)

Recommended Decoctions and Tinctures:

False unicorn is used therapeutically in the form of a decoction and tincture. The standard doses for these two are different.

Decoction: To prepare a decoction of the false unicorn root, add one to two teaspoonfuls of the dried root in one cup (250 ml) of water and boil it. Subsequently, simmer the liquid mildly for about another 10 to 15 minutes. For best results, take this decoction thrice every day. However, to avoid or treat threatened miscarriage, the decoction may be drunk in plenty.

Tincture: The standard dosage of the false unicorn tincture is taking it in measures of 2 ml to 4 ml thrice daily.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

People using preparations from false unicorn ought to be aware of the potential side effects of this herb and also take necessary precautions against them. It may be noted here that when taken in large measures, false unicorn is toxic for the cardiac system. When you take large measures of therapeutic preparations of the false unicorn, it may result in queasiness as well as vomiting. False unicorn is known to possess emmenagogue properties that stimulate menstrual flow and, thus, it is advisable that pregnant women should avoid using this herb.