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False Unicorn Root

falseunicorn

Scientific name(S): Chamaelirium luteum

Common name(S): False Unicorn, Helonias Root

Botany

Chamaelirium luteum is a native lily of the eastern US. It is considered a threatened species be?cause of a loss of habitat and effects of collection from the wild for herbal use. Cultivation is considered possible, but has not yet become commercially important. The root is collected in autumn. C. luteum is a dioecious species (ie, the male and female flowers are borne on separate plants). The plant has been confused with the lilies Helonias bullata and Aletris farinosa (true unicorn root), because of several shared common names.


History

False unicorn root was used by the Eclectic medical movement of the late 19th and early 20th centu?ries. Its chief use was for female complaints or as a uterine tonic in the treatment of amenorrhea or morning sickness. It has also been used for appetite stimulation and as a diuretic, vermifuge, emetic, and insecticide.


Chemistry

The root contains = 10% of a saponin, chamaelirin (C36H62018), but neither its structure nor composition have been fully elucidated. Diosgenin was isolated from a hydrolyzate of the root extract, indicating that some components of the saponin may be based on this genin? The fatty acids oleic, linoleic, and stearic acid were isolated from the root.


Pharmacology

The fluid extract of false unii root was examined for its effects on isolated gUine uterus; however, no stimulant or relaxant effectJ detected. Similar experiments in the intact dog I also negative. Nevertheless, a water extract di~ block gonadotropin release in the raj, A recent~ vation suggests, that false unicorn root may act tnl~ increasing human chorionic gonadotropin. The n that the occurrence of diosgenin might be responsiDhormonal effects is incorrect because the parent sa~ is unlikely to be hydrolyzed to a free sterol in vivo understanding of false unicorn root's effects music additional modern chemical and pharmacologicalst.


Toxicology

False unicorn root is emetic at doses. Cattle have died from consumption of the ~I, The safety of the plant for use in pregnancy has noli established.


Summary

False unicorn has been used as a ute: stimulant; however, there is no chemical or pharmaco! calliterature that substantiates this use. Its safetyc be guaranteed in pregnancy; however, its centu history of use contradicts serious acute toxicity. A graph of false unicorn can be found in the British Ht Pharmacopoeia, vol.


Patient information - False Unicorn

Uses

Historic sickness, false has been used as a uterine tonic for treatment of amenorrhea morning sickness as an appetite stimulant diuretic vermifuge emetic and insecticide.


Side effects

False unicorn can be emetic at high doses. Safety has not been established during pregnanc"