Goldthread

Health Benefits of Goldthread

Goldthread, also known as coptis or canker root, is a genus of perennial herbs that have been part of Asian and North American traditional medicine for hundreds of years. The roots of the plant look like a tangled mass of gold thread, hence its name. Herbal goldthread is actually the powdered rhizome, or underground stem, of the goldthread plant.

goldthread-roots-1Traditional Uses for Goldthread

Goldthread is an important herb in both Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine. Starting in the Tang dynasty, goldthread was used to make a medicine called Huang-Lian-Jie-Du Decoction (HLJDD), which is still used today. Herbalist relies on HLJDD to address a variety of ailments, including soothing irritation, promoting normal blood sugar, and supporting gastrointestinal health.

Native Americans used the herb as a digestive aid and to remedy infections and mouth sores. It’s from this that goldthread got the nickname “canker root.” The practical value of goldthread wasn’t limited to therapeutic applications; because of its bright gold color, Indigenous Americans also used goldthread to produce a yellow dye and to flavor beer.

Health Benefits of Goldthread

The healing properties of goldthread aren’t simply folkloric in nature. Modern medicine has started to examine the potential health benefits of this herb. Animal testing confirms that goldthread can soothe redness, swelling, and irritation. Studies have found that goldthread can promote normal blood sugar and even support brain health.

Goldthread owes its healing abilities to high concentrations of several potent alkaloid compounds. Of these, berberine is most commonly associated with goldthread’s benefits. Berberine has dozens of therapeutic applications. It can protect against some types of harmful organisms and soothe irritated tissue. It promotes normal lipid profiles and is even known to boost the immune system. Multiple studies suggest that berberine may be of benefit for those suffering from obesity. Berberine promotes heart health, bone and joint health, brain health, digestive health, liver health, and is beneficial for the respiratory system. Perhaps most intriguing of all, berberine has been evaluated for activity against cancer but further research is necessary to fully understand its potential or draw conclusions.

Berberine isn’t goldthread’s only beneficial compound, though. Other alkaloids present in goldthread include palmatine, epi berberine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and coptisine. Coptisine, in particular, has received attention from researchers recently. It’s currently being examined for its ability to promote brain health. Among its other positive attributes, coptisine may help a fever, relieve discomfort, support heart health, and it’s a strong antioxidant. Additionally, it encourages normal cellular respiration.

Where to Find Goldthread

Many varieties of goldthread are native to Asia and North America and some are actually critically endangered. There are two reasons for this—one is genetic and one is man-made. The genetic cause is a random mutation that results in low pollen and seed production in certain species of goldthread. This mutation affects up to 80% of Coptis teeta, a type of goldthread from the eastern Himalayas. The second cause is overexploitation by humans. Goldthread is a victim of its own success. It’s desirable properties as a therapeutic herb has led to widespread overharvesting.

Finding a substitute for goldthread may be tricky. Goldenseal is a herb that also contains berberine. But, like goldthread, goldenseal has been severely over-harvested. You can find goldenseal in most drug stores, but the quality is dubious. Oregon grape root may be a better alternative than goldenseal. Although it has a lower berberine concentration, Oregon grape root is more sustainable and readily available. In fact, the plant is so common that it’s often considered an invasive species outside its native habitat.

While several varieties of goldthread are endangered and in need of protection, other species remain plentiful. Populations of some formerly threatened species, like the North American coptis trifolia, are recovering. If you’re careful about your source, goldthread itself is still a good option. You can find goldthread in supplements, both by itself and blended with other herbs.

Elecampane

Inula helenium

Also, Known As

  • Elecampane
  • Horseheal
  • Scabwort

Elecampane (botanical name Inula helenium) is a tall, bristly perennial plant that is native to south-eastern Europe and western Asia. This herb, which bears yellow flowers resembling the daisy, has been naturalized in North America and is found growing in abundance in the moist meadows, fields and along the roads in the central and eastern regions of the United States and neighboring Canada. Elecampane belongs to the Asteraceae family and grows up to a height of four to six feet. The herb has a heavy branching stem that emerges from a basal rosette (a circular arrangement of leaves at the base) with leaves that are large, oval-shaped and pointed at the end. The herb bears vivid yellow flower heads during the period between the middle to the end of the summer. The flower heads of elecampane are generally four inches in diameter and appear like diminutive sunflowers. The root of this herb is large, weighty and elongated. While the exterior of the root is yellowish, the color changes to white inside. The roots of elecampane are medicinally useful and release an aroma akin to violets in blossom.

The elecampane herb is also commonly known as ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’ – both names derived from the plant’s original medical use. The herb was used to treat horses and, hence, the name ‘Horseheal’. In ancient time, veterinary practitioners used the herb to treat pulmonary ailments in horses. On the other hand, the plant’s usefulness in healing scabs on sheep gave it the name ‘Scabwort’. The Latin classical name for elecampane is Inula.

Elecampane is an attractive herb with leaves bearing a resemblance to those of the mullein herb, while the blooms appear as petite sunflowers. The herb grows naturally all over Europe and in the temperate climatic regions of Asia and can be found in an area extending in so far as north-western India and southern Siberia. In North America, the herb is found growing in the wild in a region extending from Nova Scotia to North Carolina and again towards the west to Missouri. This is one of the tall herbs that may grow up to a maximum height of six feet.

The stem of elecampane plant is heavy having deep grooves and it branches out at the top. The base of the herb is covered with a rosette of big, oval-shaped leaves that grow up to one to 1 ½ feet long and four inches in width. The leaves comprising the rosette at the base of the elecampane herb are soft and silky with jagged borders. On the other hand, the elecampane leaves that grow on the plant’s stem are comparatively shorter and wider and usually hold on to the stem. The plant bears vivid yellow flowers appearing on outsized terminal heads. The flowers have a diameter varying from three to four inches. The root of the herb resembles a rhizome. These tuber-like roots of elecampane are large, juicy and branch out. The roots release an aroma resembling violets in bloom (as mentioned before).

Propagating the herb from its offshoots and/ or root cuttings is the best way to grow elecampane. The root cuttings, which should be ideally two inches in length, are usually done from mature plants during autumn. The root cuttings need to be covered with somewhat damp, sandy soil and preserved in a room having a steady temperature around 50°F and 60°F during the winter months. By the time it is spring, the root cuttings will develop new shoots and they may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors once the threat of frosting is over. For ideal growth of the plants, the root cuttings with shoots need to be positioned in spaced out rows three feet from one another and there ought to be an approximate distance of 18 inches between two plants. Alternately, elecampane may also be propagated from its seeds without much trouble. Growing elecampane from its roots is best for indoors and in a cold frame during the early phase of spring. Even when the plants are grown from seeds indoors, they need to be transplanted outdoors once the risk of frosting is over. Generally, the elecampane herbs have a preference for a clay loam that is damp and also in damp soils with a good drainage system. The plants also have the aptitude to grow in partial shades.

elecampane-root

Of all the parts of the elecampane, its roots are used for treating various conditions. As mentioned earlier, the roots of the herb are collected during the second autumn of the plant’s existence – precisely after it has withered two frosting seasons. In fact, the roots of the herb are regarded to be effective for remedial purposes only in the second year of their growth. In primordial Rome, people used the medication prepared with elecampane roots to treat indigestion following a sumptuous meal in a banquet. The herb became a part of traditional medication when the people of ancient Rome and Greece used it as a remedy for cold, as they believed that it helped perspiration and also to be effective in drawing out phlegm. During the 19 the century, people boiled the elecampane roots in a sugar solution to prepare cough syrups and lozenges to cure asthma. Some people consumed these sugary roots simply as candy.

The roots of elecampane initially taste slightly sticky, but subsequently, it becomes aromatic after chewing them for some time. In addition, the roots are also somewhat bitter and overpowering and possess a pleasant scent something like the odor of camphoraceous orris.

People in earlier days also considered the elecampane roots to be beneficial for the stomach. In fact, the Romans used it regularly to overcome indigestion. Later on, elecampane became the principal herbal element in a digestive wine prepared during the medieval period known as potio Paulina or the ‘drink of Paul’. In fact, ‘drink of Paul’ referred to St. Paul’s instructions recorded in the Bible regarding the use of a small amount of wine for the health of the stomach – ‘use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake’.

Apart from the herb being beneficial for the stomach, the bright yellow blooms of the elecampane made it an attractive garden plant. However, the early European settlers in North America did not cultivate the plant for either of these virtues. On the contrary, they grew the plant for its remedial value in treating skin ailments, especially on horses and sheep. The roots of the herb were widely popular for treating pulmonary diseases in horses and scabs on sheep. Such veterinary use of the herb gave it its common names – ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’. In addition, the roots of elecampane were also used to treat humans, especially respiratory ailments. Interesting enough, this is one reason why the herb was once cataloged in the United States Pharmacopeia.

Plant Parts Used

Root, flowers.

Remedial Properties

Since time immemorial elecampane has been regarded as an effective remedy against respiratory disease and as a stimulating herb for the respiratory system. The herb has a warming impact on the lungs along with its aptitude to tenderly invigorate coughing up or drawing out phlegm (clearing the chest of mucus accumulation) rendered elecampane a harmless medication for the young as well as the old. The herb may be utilized for nearly all chest problems and is highly effective when the patient is weak or incapacitated.

The remedial properties of elecampane have resulted in its specific use for curing chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma. The herb is especially effective in these conditions since it not only relieves the linings of the bronchial tube but is also a useful expectorant. Besides these virtues, elecampane has a somewhat bitter flavor that facilitates recuperation by perking up the digestive system as well as in the absorption of ingested nourishments by the body.

For ages, people have been taking preparations made with elecampane roots to stimulate the digestive process. The herb promotes appetite and, at the same time alleviates dyspepsia (stomach upset). In addition, the herb is also effective to treat and flush out worms from the body.

Long back, practitioners of herbal medicine prescribed formulations prepared with the elecampane root to treat tuberculosis. Elecampane has the aptitude to blend suitably with further antiseptic herbs and, hence, it is still used to cure contagions like flu and tonsillitis. The herb has curative properties, while its tonic action harmonizes with elecampane’s capability to offset infections.

Habitat and Growing Elecampane

Elecampane is indigenous to Eurasia, especially south-eastern Europe, and western Asia, but now has been naturalized in various temperate climatic zones, which includes several regions of North America, particularly the United States. Apart from the naturally growing elecampane, the plant is also cultivated for its remedial properties. Elecampane may be propagated by root division or from its seeds during spring. This herb has a preference for damp and well-drained soil. The root of the herb, which actually possesses all the medicinal properties of the plant, is harvested in autumn, sliced into pieces and dehydrated at high temperatures. While the herb is no longer popular in England and largely not cultivated there, people in other countries of the continent, such as Germany, Holland, and Switzerland still continue to cultivate elecampane for its medicinal properties. In fact, the herb is still cultivated extensively close to the German township of Collada, which is near Leipzig.

The elecampane herb thrives well in locations that are damp and shady and also grows well in the common garden soil. However, the plant thrives best when the soil is rich and loamy with the ground being moist, but having a proper drainage system.

It takes little effort to grow the elecampane plants. If you are propagating the plant with its seeds, it is best to sow the mature seeds in cold frames or outdoors during the spring. Nevertheless, the best way to propagate elecampane is to use root cuttings from mature plants with an eye or bud. The root cuttings are normally done during autumn. Each root cutting should be approximately two inches in length and they need to be covered with somewhat moist sandy soils immediately after harvesting. During the winter months, the root cutting should be preserved in a room under a consistent temperature ranging between 50°F and 60°F. These roots grow roots quite easily and develop new shoots by the next spring. Once the frosting period is over, these root cuttings with new shoots may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors. The root cutting need to be planted in rows about three feet apart and the plants should have a distance of about 12 inches to 18 inches from one another. After placing the root cuttings in their permanent position, it is necessary to keep the ground free of weeds. The soil around the plantation should be dug up a little during the following summer with a view to augment the root growth. Usually, the roots are ready for use during the second autumn of their existence. It may be noted here that elecampane roots are medically viable only when they are two years old.

A good stock of elecampane plants may also be obtained by slicing the roots into small sections, each measuring two inches long, and covering them with luxuriant, light, sandy soil and preserving them in mild temperatures during the winter month. The elecampane plants cannot withstand frosting and, hence, care should be taken to protect them during this season. In fact, even after they are planted outdoors, they may require protection from frosts during the first year of their existence.

Research

Way back in 1804, scientists were able to segregate inulin from elecampane for the first time and the substance derived its name from the herb. Inulin has been found to possess the property of secreting mucous (mucilaginous) and this aspect of the substance facilitates in soothing the linings of the bronchial tubes.

Alantolactone: Alantolactone found in elecampane is believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, this element inhibits the secretion of mucous and invigorates the immune system.

In general, elecampane possesses a tonic, expectorant impact and stimulates drawing out a cough formed by the mucous secretions from the lungs. The tonic and expectorant properties of elecampane are attributed to the volatile oil enclosed by the herb as well as the antiseptic aspects of the herb.

In fact, in 1804, Valentine Rose of Berlin found that elecampane encloses plenty of the substance known as inulin. While Valentine names the substance Alantin derived from the plant’s German name Alantwurzel and French name Aunée, by and large, the name inulin proposed by botanist Thompson was accepted. The chemical composition of inulin is similar to that of starch, but to some degree, it is also opposite of starch. In effect, inulin replaces starch in the root system of Compositae (plants with heads made up of several florets). While the plant is living, inulin easily disbands in the diluted sap and when the plants are dead and dried, this substance accumulates in the cells as shapeless heaps that are inactive in polarized light. Although inulin and starch appear to be alike, the former differs from starch as it releases a yellow color, rather than blue, when it interacts with iodine. In addition, inulin also differs from starch in a number of ways – when it dissolves in boiling water, it does not form any paste, as in the case of starch, and it remains unchanged when it sediments after the water solution cools down. Moreover, unlike starch, inula does not produce any volatile compound when it interacts with nitric acid. However, when inula is heated for a long period or reacts with watered down acids, it first transforms into inulin and then to levulin eventually changing to levulose. Inula somewhat transforms into sugar when it is fermented.

In 1864, Julius von Sachs demonstrated that it is possible to hasten the extraction of inulin in the globular mass of needle-shaped crystalline form by submerging the elecampane roots either in alcohol or glycerine.

In fact, the quantity of inulin present in elecampane differs depending on the season but is found in maximum amount during autumn. Hence, the plant is harvested during autumn. In 1870, Hans Drangendorff made inulin a subject of a highly comprehensive dissertation. He, however, acquired the root of elecampane during October and hence, it had approximately 44 percent of the substance. In spring, the herb contains a mere 19 per cent of inulin as much of it is substituted by or transformed into levulin, mucilage, sugar and different glucosides. It has been found that inulin is extensively dispersed in the perennial roots of Compositae and is naturally present in Goodeniaceae, Campanulaceae, Stylidiaceae, and Lobeliaceae. In addition, the substance is also found occurring naturally in the root of the White Ipecacuanha, belonging to the class of Violaceae, mostly found in Brazil.

It has been found that inulin is intimately related to inulenin in elecampane. Inulin may be obtained in the form of microscopic needles that have an aptitude to dissolve in cold water and diluted alcohol, while pseudo-inulin that is found in the form of uneven grains and are highly soluble in hot water. Pseudo-inulin also dissolves in diluted and warm alcohol but does not dissolve in chilled alcohol.

In early 1660, Le Febre noticed when the elecampane roots are exposed to refinement using water, it formed a substance that could be turned into crystals at the top of the receiver and comparable crystals could be detected when thin segments of the herb’s roots are heated watchfully; Le Febre also observed that the crystals were formed like natural blooming on the exterior of the roots that have been left unattended for prolonged periods. The efflorescence formed on the outer side of the roots was believed to be a separate body called helenin or elecampane camphor. However, studies undertaken by Kallen in 1874 demonstrated that the efflorescence could be identified as two different substances that had the aptitude to form crystals. Kallen named these two different crystallizable substances as Helenin, a mass having no essence or hue, and Alantcamphor, which possessed a flavor and scent similar to peppermint. Further research on the subject, discovered that the crystalline substance formed by elecampane roots the following distillation with water in the ratio of 1:2 per cent and related with approximately 1 percent of the unstable oil enclosed by the herb, actually comprises alantolactone, iso-alantolactone as well as alantolic acid. All these substances are crystalline in form, having a near monochrome, but possess a slight scent and essence. The oily part of the distillate known as alantol is a dull fluid possessing a scent similar to peppermint.

Constituents

  • Inulin (up to 44%)
  • Volatile oil (up to 4%), containing alantol and sesquiterpene lactones (including alantolactone)
  • Triterpene saponins ( dammarane dienol)

Remedial Application

As discussed earlier, of all its parts, only the tuber roots and sometimes the petite yellow flowers of elecampane are used for remedial purposes. Several preparations made with the elecampane roots, such as tincture, decoction, syrup, and wash, are used to treat different conditions. On the other hand, the flowers of the herb are only used to prepare a decoction.

Root:
The root of elecampane possesses several medicinal properties, including diuretic, stimulant, diaphoretic (a medication that promotes sweating), expectorant (a medication that promotes discharge of phlegm), and antiseptic, acerbic and mild tonic. In ancient times, medications prepared with elecampane roots were used by herbalists to cure certain ailments in women, edema or excess fluid accumulation in the body tissues as well as skin infections.
DECOCTION – A decoction prepared with the roots of elecampane is used to treat conditions like asthma, bronchitis, problems of the upper respiratory system as well as relieve the symptoms of hay fever. The decoction should be consumed on a regular basis as a common stimulant or to cure venerable chronic respiratory problems. The decoction also serves as a digestive stimulant and refreshment for the liver.
TINCTURE – The tincture prepared with the roots of elecampane is taken to cure weakness as well as chronic respiratory problems.
WASH – The decoction prepared with elecampane roots or the watered down tincture made from the herb’s roots may be used as a wash to cure eczema (inflammation of the skin), rashes and also varicose ulcers.
SYRUP – Prepare elecampane syrup by boiling sliced roots of the herb in a sugar solution. Alternately, the syrup may also be prepared with elecampane decoction. Take the syrup at regular intervals to alleviate a cough.
Flowers:
In addition to the tuberous roots, the bright yellow flowers of elecampane enclose certain medicinal properties and, hence, they are used to prepare decoction along with other herbs and organic substances for treating a number of conditions. In addition, the flowers of the herb are also used to prepare the medicinal syrup.
DECOCTION – Decoction prepared with elecampane flowers may be taken to relieve queasiness, vomiting or coughs with profuse phlegm. On the other hand, prepare a formulation blending 10 g of elecampane flowers with 10 g freshly cut ginger root, 5 ml of licorice root and 10 ml of ban xi and take it on a regular basis to cure an overload of phlegm in the stomach accompanied with queasiness or nausea, flatulence, swollenness of the abdominal region and vomiting of mucus.
SYRUP – Syrup prepared by boiling the elecampane flower decoction with sugar may be taken in dosages of 10 ml to 20 ml for treating coughs.

Vermifuge wine

A wine prepared with elecampane roots and other ingredients, especially alcoholic beverages, is useful in expelling worms and other parasites from the intestines. The following ingredients are required to prepare this vermifuge wine:

  • Seven ounces (200 g) fresh or dried finely chopped elecampane root
  • One cup (250 ml) gin or vodka
  • One-fourth cup (75 g) sugar cane
  • Four cups (one liter) red wine

Soak the chopped elecampane root in alcohol for about a week in an amber-hued jar and store it in a dark place. After a week of maceration, add the red wine and sugar to the solution and leave the solution for about a month, shaking the jar at regular intervals. After a month has passed, filter the solution and store it in a clean glass jar. The herbal wine prepared is aromatic and possesses aperients (mildly laxative), digestive and stimulant properties. Take the wine in a dosage of one ounce (25 ml) in a liqueur glass prior to meals for three successive days. After taking the wine for three days, give a break for 10 days and continue taking it for another three consecutive days. Repeat this treatment thrice. Here is a word of caution – it is advisable not to drink this preparation if you have an ulcer, are suffering from diarrhea or are in the initial stage of pregnancy it may cause undesirable side effects.

Orris Root

Iris pallida

Also, Known As

  • Dalmatian Iris
  • Orris Root
  • Sweet Iris

The term orris root is used to denote the roots of a number of species, including Iris germanica, Iris pallida and Iris florentina. They have a very sweet fragrance, which is more distinct in some bearded irises compared to others. The aroma of the flowers of a particular species known as Iris pallida, is considered to be the best. In fact, it is difficult for one to miss the characteristic fragrance of this flower, which blooms during spring. Just take a sniff of the aroma and you will surely admit that its smell is akin to that of grape soda.

The flowers of Iris pallida measure about four inches in diameter and appear in the later part of spring. Every branched stem of this plant bears anything between two and six attractive pale bluish-purple blooms.

Native to Croatia, this plant is not only popular for the typical fragrance of its flowers. Gardeners look for this plant as well as grow it for its wonderful multi-colored foliage, which is equally attractive as its flowers. The plant normally grows up to a height of two feet and bears clusters of broad and stiff leaves. Clusters of these green and creamy yellow plants may be used to enhance the look of any woodland garden. A white-and-green variety of this plant is also available.

Like in the case of other iris species, there are numerous different ways in which you can use the Iris pallida plants in your garden. You can plant them with different bulbs with a view to create a vibrant, multicolored spring show. In fact, these plants accentuate the beauty of any perennial bed. The foliage alone of these plants is so attractive that it enhances the eminence of the plants in your garden. The plants grow up to a moderate height and this makes it possible to grow them in pots and place them in appropriate locations to attract attention as well as augment the beauty of the place.

As it is not difficult to grow Iris pallida, it is possible to plant this species anywhere you wish to and enjoy their beauty perpetually. You only need to provide these plants with some nourishment during the flowering season and shade during the midday to ensure that they readily multiply their clumps. Among all varieties of bearded irises, this species is considered to be the hardiest plant. In fact, when grown in places having mild climatic conditions, the foliage of the plant will remain almost throughout the year. However, deer do not browse on this species, even if they do, the plants have the aptitude to resist the invasion. The plants also provide us aromatic cut flowers making them one of the most favored bearded iris varieties.

This iris species is also called Dalmatian iris for the reason that it is indigenous to Croatia’s Dalmatia province, where it has been cultivated for several centuries. In fact, Iris pallida is a forerunner of the present-day bearded irises. Occasionally, people cultivate this species as an orris source, which is obtained from the plant’s rhizomes and used in the manufacture of perfumes and also breath fresheners.

Pallida is a Latin term that denotes pale, while the word Dalmatica implies ‘from Dalmatia’. Often, this species is also called “The Sweet Iris”. However, it is also referred to as Iris odoratissima and Iris glauca. This species is indigenous to Dalmatia, the European Alps and Crimea.

Many botanists are of the view that although people cultivated Iris pallida since much before 1600, the species was named officially only in 1789. This plant is a favourite of several gardeners owing to its endurance power and aroma. The plant has broad bluish-green foliage that resembles a sword. Although the firm spikes of the plant are poorly branched, each of them bears as many as eight lavender-blue aromatic blooms. It is easy to distinguish Iris pallida, as its flowers are papery and its large and colourful bracts (spathes) often cover the buds having yellowish beards. This species keeps growing in beautiful clumps, which do not divide for several months together.

The blooms of Iris pallida have more of lilac blue and are widely used by gardeners hybridizing plants for the vital underpinning of the present-day hybrid species known as the Tall Bearded Iris. Provided the plants of this species are grown in a well-drained soil and sunlit position, they grow vigorously and are very hardy. This iris variety is most widely used for producing orris root. The aromatic dehydrated rhizomes of these plants are used for making perfumes. Iris pallida is cultivated in large fields in the region around Florence and the magnificent blue carpet formed by their flowers during May every year will leave you awe-struck.

Plant Part Used:

Root.

Uses For Iris Pallida Roots:

Iris pallida root has numerous uses and supplies Orris powder, which has a high demand in perfumery industry. The dried up roots of the plant are pulverized to obtain Orris, whose aroma is akin to that of violets. In addition to being used in the form of a fixative in perfumes as well as potpourri, Orris root is also used in the manufacture of breath fresheners, toothpastes and similar products. It is also widely used in the form of a food essence.

It may take several years for Iris pallida roots to dry properly so as to develop the right fragrance. The flavour of the fresh root of this plant is acrid and it is almost fragrance-free. The fresh roots yield an essential oil and it can be used for the same purposes for which the dried roots are used. The root also yields a black dye, while the flowers yield a blue dye. Besides growing the plants for its attractive, aromatic flowers and its roots, you may also cultivate Iris pallida for ground cover. The roots of this plant are so densely matted that they do not allow any weed to grow.

Occasionally, the juice extracted from Iris pallid roots is employed in the form of a cosmetic and it also helps to get rid of freckles on the skin. The juice obtained from the fresh roots is a potent cleanser and can be used effectively for treating dropsy (a condition that was earlier known as edema).

The dried roots can be pounded into a powder and used to flavor foods. In fact, the fresh root is almost neutral and does not have any fragrance. It generally takes many years for the dried roots to develop their characteristic fragrance. The dried roots of Iris pallida yield an essential oil called the “Orris oil”, which is used to add essence to sweets, soft drinks, chewing gums and other food products.

Growing Iris Pallida:

Iris pallida needs a well-drained limey soil and sunlit position to achieve optimum growth. When grown in sunlit position, it is very easy to cultivate this plant in any common garden soil. Its preferred pH level ranges between 6.0 and 7.5. However, it can grow well in soils having a higher pH. Plants that have established themselves well possess the aptitude to tolerate drought conditions.

Iris pallida is mainly cultivated for the essential oil contained in its roots, particularly in Italy. The flowers of this plant have a sweet aroma that will possibly remind you of orange blossoms. Some people also compare the aroma of Iris pallida flowers to that of vanilla, grape or civet. This is a very vigorously growing species. The rhizome of this plant should be placed slightly above the level of the soil. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom, if ever, disturbed by rabbits or browsing deer.

Propagation: Iris pallida is mainly propagated by its seeds, which should be ideally sown in a cold frame immediately after they ripen. When the seedlings have grown large enough to be handled, you should prick them out individually and plant them in separate containers or pots and continue growing them in a cold frame or a greenhouse at least for the first year of their existence. The grown up young plants can be planted outdoors into their permanent positions either during the end of spring or the early part of summer.

It is also possible to cultivate Iris pallida by means of root division. Although it is best to undertake root division of this plant soon after its flowering season, you can also do it throughout the year. Growing this plant from its root divisions is very easy and you can directly plant the larger root clumps outdoors in their permanent position. However, if the clumps are small you should plant them in pots and continue growing them in a cold frame till they root properly. Ideally, you should plant them outdoors during the spring.

The soft young shoots may be victims of snail and slug invasions. In addition, bacterial infections may result in extensive discoloration (blighting) of the leaves. Other problems may include crown disintegration or decay.

Constituents:

Chemical analysis of orris root has revealed that it primarily contains the oil of orris in measures of anything between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. Oil of orris is a pale yellowish to yellow mass that encloses approximately 85 percent of neutral or fragrance-free myristic acid, which is apparently released from a type of fat found in the plant’s rhizome when it is processed or steam distilled. Commercially, the oil of orris is known as Orris butter.

In addition to the oil of orris, the plant also contains resin, fat, large amounts of starch, a bitter-tasting extract, mucilage and a glucoside called iridin. It is important that you don’t mistake iridin for the powdered extract called irisin or iridin. In fact, the extract iridin or irisin is made from the rhizome of another Iris species known as the Iris versicolor, which is basically an American plant.

Possible Side Effects and Precautions:

As several plants belonging to this genus are believed to be poisonous when taken orally, it is advised that you exercise caution while using these plants. In fact, the roots of these plants are more likely to be noxious. In some people, these plants may cause allergies and skin irritations.