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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 Starwort
(Aster spp)

A number of asters worldwide have been used historically as medicines and in a few cases as food. Asters belong to the Compositae family of which there are a great number in herbalism (ie. echinacea, boneset, etc) In Chinese medicine it is A. tartaricus that is chiefly used and, other than in Chinese medicine, asters are not used today. Among the Ojibwe it was not considered a chief medicine, being considered weak in action. Most asters are hardy perennials.
A. tartaricus is native to eastern Asia in northern China, Siberia and Japan and is found in meadows and along rivers. It grows 5 to 6 feet with a 3 to 4 foot spread, a thickened stem base and is long stalked. The leaves are elliptic, hairy and upto 16 inches long (basal leaves) with toothed margins. The whole plant is covered with minute bristles. Flat-topped corymbs of purple to blue daisy-like flowers, about 1 inch across, open in summer and autumn. (The central flowers are yellow and the marginal ones blue to purple.)
A. umbellatus is a North American native with a usually smooth stem with many flowers on branching stems at the top and yet the whole plant looks flat at the top. Leaves are long, narrow, without teeth but with an edge of fine hairs. The upper surface is dark green and the under is lighter with fine cross veining. There are 30 to 300 heads of white flowers with 7 to 14 rays each around a golden center. Found from Newfoundland to southern Alberta, south to Nebraska, Georgia and Kentucky in low places.
The name Aster is Latin for "star". Asters have been used as a charm against snakes and are considered sacred to Venus.

PROPAGATION: By softwood cuttings in spring or by division in spring and autumn.
NEEDS: Moist soil in full sun to part shade. It can be affected by mildew during dry conditions.
HARVEST: Roots are taken in autumn and used raw or dried for decoctions.
PART USED: Root [zi wan]

The stems, leaves and flowers of asters will produce a yellow-green with alum mordant, brassy gold with a chrome mordant, greenish-gold with a copper mordant, bright yellow-gold with a tin mordant, dark grey-green with an iron mordant and a yellow-green with no mordant. It seems to be quite lightfast with no visible fading.

Aster ageratoides
[shan bai ju]

CONTAINS: Leaves contain per 100 grams: 305 calories, 32.8g protein, 5.5g fat, 50g total carbohydrate, 8.6g fiber, 11.7g ash, 328mg calcium, 594mg phosphorus, 31mg iron, 4164mg Potassium, 26mg beta-carotene equivalent, 1.41mg thiamine, 2.81mg riboflavin, 8.59mg niacin, 688mg ascorbic acid (high).


Used in Chinese medicine for hemorrhage, malaria, and pulmonary ailments. Also used for animal poisoning.

Aster amellus

Used folkorically in the Orient for inguinal tumors.

Aster fastigiatus
[nu wan]

The roots have been used in Chinese medicine for dysentary, epilepsy, fever, hangover, plague, and plethora (a reddish cast to the skin caused by excessive body blood).

Many Flowered Aster
A. multiflorus syn Virgulus ericoides

Was used by the Meskwaki as a reviver of consciousness in the sweat bath as are some of the other asters (see: A. laevis and A. lateriflorus)

Aster trinervius

In Oriental medicine the plant is decocted or crushed and used for boils, coughs, colds, epistaxis (nosebleed), hematemesis (vomiting of blood), hemorrhage, hepatitis, malaria, snakebite, and traumatic bleeding.

Blue Wood Aster
(Aster cordifolius)

Was used as an aromatic nervine in place of valerian (see also: A. puniceus).
This root was one of nineteen that were used by the Ojibwe to make a smoke, or incense, which, when smoked in a pipe, would attract deer near enough to be shot with a bow and arrow. Deer carry their scent or spoor in between the toes and wherever the foot is impressed into the ground, other animals can detect its presence. It is a peculiar scent and Native Americans were very successful in counterfeiting it with roots and herbs to attract the game (see also: Angelica)

Bog Aster
(Aster nemoralis)

The Chippewa used a decoction of the plant which was dropped into the ear or applied on a warm cloth for soreness in the ear. Lukewarm water was used.

Calico Aster
aka Starved Aster
(Aster lateriflorus)

The entire plant was used as a smoke or steam in the sweat bath by the Meswaki who also smudged only the blossoms to cure a crazy person who had lost his mind.

Flat-topped White Aster
(Aster umbellatus)

Used by early Canadian physicians much as they used Betony (Betonica officinalis) in Europe.
The dried leaves were used for "Indian tea" as well as boiled and eaten with fish by the Mohegan.
The Potawatomi used the flowers as a smudge to drive away evil spirits which were working against a patient's recovery. Also used by early settlers as an expectorant and emmenagogue and for croup.

Forking Aster
(Aster furcatus)

The basal leaves were used by the Potawatomi. They were steeped and the solution rubbed on the head to cure severe headache.

Large-leaved Aster
(A. Macrophyllus)

Was used by the Flambeau Ojibwe as a good charm in hunting, but they did not regard it as a strong medicine, considering it to be weak at best. They did use the young roots to make a tea to bathe head for headache and the leaves were eaten when young and tender. The Flambeau Ojibwe valued the plant because it tasted fine and also acted as a medicine (albeit weak) at the same time.

New England Aster
(A. novae-angliae)

Was employed in decoction internally and a strong decoction was used externally for eruptive skin diseases and also for poison ivy.
The Chippewa smoked the root in a pipe to attract game.
The Mohawk used an infusion of the entire plant combined with root of Lady Fern for mothers who had a fever in their intestines.
New England aster, along with Blue and Panicled asters, were used in infusion for treatment of fever.
New England aster was used as a fumigating agent by Native Americans and possibly early settlers.
The root tea was used by Native Americans for fevers and diarrhea.

Panicled Aster
(Aster paniculatus)
Was used in infusion with Blue aster for treatment of fever by the Mohawk.

Purple-stemmed Aster
(Aster puniceus)
Noted for bristly purple stems. Was used like Blue aster as an aromatic nervine in place of valerian.
The Chippewa used fine tendrils of the root to smoke with tobacco to attract game.
Also used like A. tartaricus for coughs with excessive phlegm or occasionally blood-streaked phlegm.

Red-stalked Aster
(Aster tartaricus)

CONTAINS: Arabinose, quercetol, shionone, saponins, anthole, eleic acid and aromatic acid.

Sometimes substituted with Ligularia fischeri, L. siberica and L. hodgsonii which are used as pectorals in Indo-China.
Spicy, slighty warm; stimulant, expectorant, anti-tussive, purgative; affects lung. Often taken with raw honey to increase the expectorant effect.
Has been used for the bronchial system and to help clear out infection.
Has been used internally for chronic bronchitis and tuberculosis.
Has been used for colds, coughs with excessive sputum, dysuria, hemoptysis (coughing up of blood), hematuria (blood in urine), pertussis (whooping cough), puerperium (childbirth, labor), shortness of breath, painful menstruation.
A folk remedy for cancer and has shown some anti-cancer activity.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Standard decoction, or, 3 to 9 grams.

Short's Aster
(Aster shortii)

The Potawatomi used the flowering tops for a medicinal tea. The National Dispensatory states that the flowers have been also used by early settlers as a mild carminative, anti-spasmodic, and intestinal astringent.

Smooth Aster
(Aster laevis)

The entire plant was used to furnish smoke in the sweat bath by the Meswaki. They also employed it in a smudge as a reviver of consciousness for an ill person. A paper cone was fitted over the nostrils of the unconscious person and this smoke was forced into the nostrils to revive him.

Undetermined Varieties
The Pawnee used the charcoaled stems of a prarie aster as a moxa or counter-irritant on affected skin areas.
The Shoshone made an infusion of the roots from a small purple aster and drank it to cure diarrhea.

©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH