True unicorn root (Aletris farinosa L.) is a low-growing perennial herb native to eastern North America. Found in old growth forests, the true unicorn root plant is currently thought to be at risk due to destruction of its habitat. The rhizome, an underground stem, is commercially processed into dried pieces.
True unicorn root has been used in Native American traditional remedies for stomach aches, colic, dysentery, and menstrual disorders. Large doses of the fresh root may act as a narcotic and laxative and may induce vomiting. The dried root is also traditionally used to treat gas or hysteria, as a stomach toner, as a tonic for women, for body pain, and to prevent miscarriage; however, some advise against its use during the third trimester of pregnancy due to its uterine stimulation effects. Well-designed human studies are needed to determine if true unicorn root is safe and effective for treating any medical condition.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to true unicorn root (Aletris farinose), its constituents, or members of the Liliaceae family.
Side Effects and Warnings
Side effects are mainly gastrointestinal and include colic, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Other possible side effects are dullness of senses, loss of balance, stupor, and vertigo (dizziness).
Use cautiously in patients with hormone-sensitive cancers or conditions, as true unicorn root may affect hormonal activity.
Use cautiously in pregnant women, as true unicorn root may have estrogenic activity and may counteract the effects of the hormone oxytocin, especially in the third trimester.
Avoid in patients with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to true unicorn root, its constituents, or members of the Liliaceae family.
Avoid in patients with inflammatory or infectious gastrointestinal conditions, as unicorn root may irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
True unicorn root may have estrogenic activity and may counteract the actions of the hormone oxytocin, especially in the third trimester.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.