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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Araruta, Bermuda Arrowroot, East or West Indian Arrowroot, Indian arrowroot, Maranta Starch
(Maranta arundinacea syn Maranta Indica, Maranta ramosissima)
Also: M. allouya and M. nobilis (W. Indies species), M. dichotoma, M. Malaccensis

Indigenous to the West Indies and possibly Central America. It grows in Bengal, Java, Phillippines, Mauritius, Natal and West Africa. May be grown indoors as an ornamental.
It is an herbacious perennial with a creeping rhizome and a flowering stem which can reach a height of 6 feet before blooming creamy colored flowers. It was named by Plumier in honor of Bartommeo Maranto (d. 1559, Naples), a physician of Venosa in Basilicata. It's popular name is probably a corruption of Aru-root of the Aruac Indians of South America or else derived from the fact that the plant is said to be an antidote for arrow poison. At one time Bermuda arrowroot was considered to be the finest, but the name is applied to any others of high quality.
The stems of M. dichotoma are split and used for shade mats in India
The poisonous roots of M. Malaccensis are used in Borneo in an arrow poison mix.
Arrowroot appears as a reagent in the USP 1820-82 and again in the USP and the NF from 1936-60. It was once used as a convalescent nutrient, especially for children. It is now used as a reagent and grown as food by the Arawak and Taino tribes of South America.
The starch is extracted from the rhizomes which are not more than 1 year old. They are washed, pulped, stirred in clean water, the fibers wrung out by hand, the milk liquid sieved and allowed to settle, then they are drained. Clean water is again added, mixed and drained. The starch is then dried on sheets in the sun. The yield is about 1/5 of the original total. The resulting powder should be odorless and free of unpleasant taste. Today the rhizomes are washed and pulped to extract the milky white fluid. The insoluble powder that settles out of the fluid is dried and milled.

CONTAINS: An 1887 analysis of St. Vincent's arrowroot yielded: starch 27.17%, fiber, fat, albumen, sugar, gum as and 62.96 % water.


Main value is as an easily digested, nourishing diet for convalescents especially in bowel complaints.
Mashed rhizomes are said to have been used on wounds from poisoned arrows, scorpion and black spider bites and to halt gangrene; also said to be useful is the freshly expressed juice mixed with water as an antidote for vegetable poisons.
The Mayas used a poultice of the root for smallpox and made an infusion to drink for pus in the urine.
CONVALESCENT FOOD = 1 Tbsp of arrowroot powder to 1 pint of water. First make it into a smooth paste with a little cold water or milk. Then stir carefully while the boiling liquid is added. Lemon juice, sugar or wine may be added. If thick it will cool into a jelly that is suitable for weaning infants.

Useful in cases of diarrhea in dogs.

Thickener for soups, sauces and gravies.

Used in talcum powders and hair dyes. Added to moisturizers as a thickening agent and to help active ingredients penetrate the upper levels of the skin.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH