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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.

ArumArum, Other

aka Adder's root, Bobbins, Cocky-baby, Cuckoo-pint, Cypress powder, Dragon root,
Friar's Cowl, Gaglee, Kings and Queens, Ladysmock, Lords and ladies,
Parson and Clerk, Portland Arrowroot, Quaker, Ramp, Starchwort, Wake Robin

(Arum maculatum)

CAUTION: The FRESH PLANT IS POISONOUS, being an irritant and a purgative. The BRIGHT SCARLET BERRIES which appear in fall are EXTREMELY POISONOUS. Deaths of children eating the berries has been recorded. CHILDREN'S DEATHS were preceded by cramps and convulsions. A drop of the juice will cause a burning sensation in the mouth and throat for hours. In its fresh state it is violently irritant to mucous membranes, causing intense burning to the mouth and throat, violent gastro-enteritis and possible death. A fresh slice of the root applied to skin will produce a blister. NOT FOT HOME USE.

A European perennial of moist, damp woodland and shady places. The flowers trap insects which the plant digests for food. The roots are about the size of a pigeon egg, the exterior being brown and the interior white. When fresh the flesh of the root yields a milky juice which is seemingly tastless at first but soon produces a burning, prickling sensation. This acridity is lost during a proper processing of drying or cooking when the substance of the tuber that remains is starch. According to one source (Gilbert White), the roots are scratched up and eaten by thrushes in severe snowy seasons and the berries are eaten by several kinds of birds and particularly pheasants. Pigs who have eaten the tubers are known to have suffered ill effects. The juice of the fresh tuber is purgative, but is so violent in action that it is unsafe to use. Italian Arum is derived from A. Italicum and possesses the same poisonous properties. A. dioscorides (related plant) is found in Asia Minor.
The Dragon Arum (aka Carrion Flower) of the ancients was most likely Amorphophallus campanulatus of the East Indies. One species of Arum in Guiana is supposedly the source of arrow poison (Maschi). Many species of Arum have been used as both food or poison since cooking usually destroys the toxicity.

See also: Dragon Arum and Jack-in-the-Pulpit for related plants with similar properties.

CONTAINS: Arum gives off prussic acid when bruised which is the result of certain cyanaphoric glucosides being present. The tuber contains volatile acrid principle, starch, albumen, gum, sugar, lignin and salts of potassium and calcium, saponin and a brownish, oily liquid alkaloid resembling coniine in property, but less active.

PROPAGATION: Not recommended for home gardens.
HARVEST: Roots for medicinal use are dug in autumn or early spring before the leaves are fully developed. An old method of preserving them in a fresh state was to place them in sand in a root cellar. They can be dried slowly in gentle heat, then sliced and powdered and stored in a cool dry place.
PART USED: Dried root ONLY.


Diaphoretic, expectorant.
At one time was used as a diuretic and stimulant but its use was discontinued.
Powdered root has been mixed with honey or syrup for internal use and used an ointment externally.
Has been used for bronchitis, asthma, chronic catarrh, flatulence, and rheumatic problems.
A decoction has been used for sore throat.
For stomach problems a 1:1 mix of powders of Arum and Sweet Flag was once used.
Ointment has been used for sores and ringworm. Also: the fresh sliced root stewed with lard has been used for ringworm (also the juice of the fresh plant combined with lard).
For swellings it has been simmered with cumin in wine or oil to make a plaster.
The fresh root was once beaten with gum to form a pill.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
POWDERED ROOT = 10 to 30 grains

A tincture from the plant and root is used for chronic sore throat with swollen mucous membranes and hoarseness, also for feverish sore throat, for inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes and for nasal irritation with polyps.

The starch of the root makes a kind of arrowroot after repeated washings and was once sold under the name of Portland Arrowroot (British) for this purpose. It was either roasted or boiled, then dried and pounded, the skin being boiled first.
Arum starch was used for stiffening ruffs in Elizabethan times, however the laundresses' hands suffered greatly from chapping, blistering and stinging.
A starch formed the Cypress Powder of the Parisians who used it as a cosmetic for the skin. It is also reported to have been used in Italy to remove freckles.
In parts of France the mucilagenous juice was used as a substitute for soap. The stalks were cut while the plant was in flower and soaked for 3 weeks in water which was poured off daily and the residue collected at the bottom of the pan, then dried and used for laundering.
In South America the species Arum indicum (aka Mankuchoo and Manguiri of Brazil) was much cultivated around native villages for use as a food (the stem and pendulous tubers being used.)
The root of A. montanum is used in India to poison tigers.

(Arisaema spp)

•Irritates skin, eyes and mucous membranes.
•Oxalic acid, common in spinach and rhubarb, can combine
with serum calcium to form insoluble calcium oxalate.

The name is derived from the Greek "aris" (arum) and "haema" (blood).

PROPAGATION: By offset corms removed when plant is dormant or by seed sown in autumn.
NEEDS: Well-drained, humus-rich soil in dappled shade. Corms will rot if too wet or too cold.
HARVEST: Corms are lifted in autumn or winter when plants go dormant, then are dried for use.

Arisaema heterophyllum

In addition to the same uses as A. consanguineum, it has also beem used for apoplexy, hemiplegia and as a sialogogue.

Arisaema italicum

Has been used for "brain-fag" with headache in occipital region.

Arisaema japonicum

Anodyne, resolvent, sedative, tonic.
Has been used for numbness after stroke, headache, contusions,
injuries associated with falling, scrofula
(TB of the lymph glands of the neck
formerly associated with drinking infected milk), abscesses, pain
in chest and shoulders.

Arisaema lobatum
[tian nan xing]

Corms have been ground and applied as an antiseptic to malignant sores.

Arisaema lyratum
No Image Available

Has been used as a food by natives of the Cicar mountains after a laborious process of several boilings and special preparation.

Arisaema maculatum

Has been used for inflammation and ulceration of mucous membranes; also, nasal irritation with polyps.

Arisaema pentaphyllum
No Image Available

Has been used like A. thunbergii in cancer treatment (tubers are mixed with vinegar and/or oil and poulticed onto small tumors).
The fresh root is QUITE POISONOUS; the extracted juice injected into rabbits induced convulsions and paralysis and death.

aka Green Arum
(Arisaema dracontium)

Contains crystals of calcium oxylate which cause irritation to mouth and throat if plants are eaten raw and to the eyes on contact. Used in HOMEOPATHY for pharyngitis with sore, raw throat, head feels heavy with shooting pains in ears and aching behind right ear; also for dry sore throat which is worse on swallowing; croupy, hoarse cough with sore throat; urge to pass urine which burns and smarts; expectoration which is thick and heavy.

(Arisaema consanguineum)
[nan xing]

A late herb for the Chinese as it did not appear until 1865 (Qing dynasty). Part used is the corms. The Chinese make three different preparations: tian nan xing (sun-dried), shi nan xing (cooked with raw ginger), dan nan xing (processed with ox bile). A. amurense and A. heterophyllum have similar properties. Acrid, irritant, analgesic, anticancer, expectorant, relaxes convulsions. Research indicates some anti-cancer effects. Has been used for coughs with profuse phlegm, tumors, cervical cancer, epilepsy, tetanus, complaints involving convulsions, spasms and twitching, dizziness, blood poisoning, inflammation of the liver and pancreas, snake bite.

(Arisaema thunbergii)

The root has been used fresh in decoction made in beef bile and used internally as analgesic and antispasmodic. In Chinese Traditional Medicine it has been used medicinally for apoplexy (brain hemorrhage/stroke), epilepsy, hemiplegia (paralysis affecting one side of the body). It is pounded and mixed with vinegar or oil and applied to swellings or small tumors. Has also been used in local anesthetics.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH