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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 American fleur-de-lis, Blew flower-de-luce, Dagger flower, Dragon flower, Flag lily, Flower-de-luce,
Iris, Larger blue flag, Liver lily, Marsh iris, Poison flag, Snake lily, Water flag, Water flay, Water lily, Wild iris

(Iris versicolor)

• Rhizomes TOXIC!
• All parts of iris are toxic but particularly the rhizomes which are also an allergen and skin irritant!
• Fresh root causes nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, purging and intestinal pain!

CONTAINS: Rhizome contains starch, gum, oleoresin, tannin, alkaloid, volatile oil, isphthalic acid, trace amounts of salycylic acid. An opalescent water distillate of the rhizome when separated produces a white camphor-like substance with a faint odor.

Hardy perennial found in swamps and low grounds of eastern and central North America. Stems to 3 feet, often branched, growing from a stout, cyclindrical rootstock bearing 2 ranks of swordshaped long narrow leaves with each stem producing 2 to 3 large blue to purple flowers with 3 recurved sepals below and 3 smaller petals above. Leaves to 3 feet and 1 inch wide, linear, sharply pointed. Flowers are of typical iris form, being blue to purple (rarely white) with yellow and whitish markings at the base of the sepals. Rhizomes have a dark brown exterior with longitudinal wrinkles.

Official in the USP from 1820-1895 and in the NF from 1916 to 1942. Once a source of Iridin or Irisin which was used by physicians as a diuretic and aperient.

PROPAGATION: By division in spring or summer or fresh seed in autumn. Cultivars do not come true from seed.
NEEDS: Perennial grown as an ornamental in full to part sun and requiring moist to wet, rich, humusy soil, or can be grown in shallow water in sun.
FLOWERS: May to July
HARVEST: Leaves for fiber; flowers for potpourri or crafts; pods for craft, rhizomes in late summer to early autumn.
PART USED: Rhizomes; must be DRIED for use and cut transversely. Prepared as decoctions, liquid extracts, and powders.
SOLVENT: Boiling water, alcohol, ether.
Kermesina: Smaller and with wine-magneta flowers.
Rosea: Flowers pink.


Acrid, slightly aromatic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, sialagogue, vermifuge; stimulates liver and gall bladder. Purgative in nature, the dried root was once used as an emetic, diuretic, cathartic, and liver stimulant.
Has been combined with Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum), Poke (Phytolacca decandra), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), Sarsparilla, and Yelow Dock (Rumex crispus) in compound medicinals as remedies for a variety of ailments.
The oleoresin was once used as a liver purgative and small doses were employed in cases of biliousness.
Once used internally for acne (and other skin conditions), arthritis, "blood cleanser", bronchitis, cancer, chronic hip disease, constipation, coughs, eczema, enteritis (chronic), fibroids, gall bladder problems, gastritis, heartburn, (chronic), herpes, leukorrhea, liver disorders, migraine (associated with liver dysfunction), non-malignant enlargement of lymphatic and thyroid glands, PID (pelvic inflammatory disorder), psoriasis, rheumatism, septicemia, sinusitis (root powder as a snuff), swollen glands, vomiting (chronic). Also for syphilis (particularly secondary syphilis), and some forms of scrofula and dropsy.
Has been used externally for rheumatism, infected wounds, ulcerations, skin diseases (combined with Yellow Dock, Red Clover, Pokeweed, or Stillingia). The juice of the root was once used topically for pain of piles or hemorrhoids. Also used for anal fissures.
Was considered specific for correcting milk-colored or clay-colored stools in adults.
For poisonous stings and bites 1 oz of the powdered root was boiled in 1 pint of water with 1 tbsp of vinegar; 1/2 cup every hour was taken until symptoms were gone.
Was used by Native Americans as a cathartic and for dropsy. The bruised leaves were used for burns and sores. Also used for bruises and sores on legs was the rootstock, washed then boiled a short time, then crushed between stones and spread as a poultice while the leg was rubbed with the water used to boil the rootstock. The Missouri Indians mixed the mashed rootstalk with water or saliva as an earache remedy, an eyewash and as a poultice for sores and bruises. The Meskwakis used the rootstock for colds and lung problems and as a poultice burns and sores. The Objibwe used it as an emetic and physic. The Potawatomis used it as a poultice for inflammation. The Tadoussacs of Quebec crushed the entire plant, mixed it with flour and used it as a poultice for pain. The Penobscots considered it a cure-all and preserved the rhizomes by stringing them together and hanging in their homes; they believed that steaming them prevented disease from entering their homes; the steeped root was believed to be a specific for cholera.
In Russia it was traditionally used for dropsy, lung inflammation, angina, infected wounds, ulcers, fistula, and as a freckle remover.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
POWDERED ROOT = 20 grains as a cathartic
INFUSION = 1 tsp powdered root to 1 pint boiling water; taken cold throughout the day in 6 intervals, 2 or 3 tbsp at a time.
DECOCTION = 1/2 to 1 tsp dried root in 1 cup of water simmered 10 to 15 minutes; 1 cup taken spread out over day.
COLD EXTRACT = 1 tsp dried and powdered root steeped in 1 cup of cold water for 8 hours; strain; 1/2 to 1 cup taken mouthful at a time, slightly warmed.
SOLID EXTRACT = 10 to 15 grains
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 1 tsp
TINCTURE = 1 oz powder to 1 pint alcohol, steeped 2 weeks, shaking daily, then strained; 5 to 10 drops in water 3 to 6 times daily.

Tincture to the 30th potency has been used for: anal fissure, biliousness, constipation, Crusta lactea, problems of the intestinal glands, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentary, dysmenorrhea, dyspepsia, eczema, fistula, gastrodynia, intermittent headache, impetigo, liver problems, migraine, neuralgia, noctural emissions, pancreatic problems, parotid gland problems, morning sickness, psoriasis, rectal burning, rheumatism, sciatica, vomiting, whitlow, zoster.

In farm animals it has been used for liver problems, jaundice, gall bladder problems as a general tonic and as a laxative. A standard infusion was made by steeping 1 tbsp of the dried rootstock in 1 cup of water, then administered 1 tbsp at a time twice daily; it was also steeped in wine for a half day to produce an extract and administered 1 tbsp twice during the day.

On a commercial scale, the annual yield per acre is 3 to 4 tons of rhizome.

The powdered root has been used in place of Orris root (Iris germanica) as a fixative.
Flowers used in floral decor.
Pods used in dry floral arrangements.

The flowers produce a blue infusion which can be used as a test for acids and alkalies.

©2000 & 2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH