Forget Me Not Herb Series: False Unicorn

by blog optimumhealthvitamins on April 29, 2013


Forget Me Not Herbs

A series extolling the virtues of valuable

but often overlooked herbs

By Jacqueline Spencer, health consultant at Optimum Health Vitamins

Chamealirium Luteum

also known as
False Unicorn, Helonias root, Devil’s Bit, Blazing Star, Drooping Starwort, Rattlesnake, and Fairy Wand

In herbalism, it is the root of the False Unicorn which is used as a tincture, or decoction. As defined by the, a decoction is “(Medicine / Pharmacology) Pharmacol the extraction of the water-soluble substances of a drug or medicinal plants by boiling”, In some cases, you may be advised to prepare a simple tea from the root, this is usually a precautionary measure. One should follow the advice of their naturopath or herbalist regarding preparation.

According to Michael Tierra, L. Ac., O.M.D., Professor of Herbology, founder of the American Herbalists Guild and author, Chamealirium luteum has a bitter/warm energy and exerts influence on the kidney, spleen and uterine systems.

Traditionally, False Unicorn, Chamealirium luteum, (never to be confused with True Unicorn or Aletris farinosa) has been used for conditions of the reproductive system for both men and women, in the treatment of digestive disturbances (heart burn, indigestion, nausea, vomiting), as an over-all tonic for the reproductive and urinary systems, and as a vermifuge to rid intestinal parasites. Today it is most often used to ease painful, irregular periods, to prevent miscarriage and to prevent morning sickness associated with pregnancy. Iroquois and Algonquin people historically used this herb for diuresis and as male and female reproductive tonic. Many North American indigenous people similarly employed False Unicorn root. British herbalist, Liz Sanders M.R.H., D.B.TH, M.B.H.U., N.N.E.B., writes, “This root is known to contain precursors of oestrogen-but, it is really a balancer of a range of hormones. It can be of equal benefit to men.” (1)

There is some concern that use of False Unicorn may irritate the digestive tract and/or cause nausea and vomiting, though many herbalists attribute this to the mistaken use of True Unicorn, believing it to be False Unicorn. Remember, these are two different herbs, False Unicorn is Chamealirium luteum and True Unicorn is Aletris farinosa. Of course, it is also likely that consuming an excessive amount of False Unicorn may present the same side effects. As with any herb which impacts the reproductive system, those on birth control or those undergoing medical fertility treatments will want to avoid the use of False Unicorn. If you become pregnant while taking False Unicorn root, it is advisable to discontinue its use; there have been no studies to determine whether or not it is safe to take while pregnant. According to MedScape no side effects have been reported, but it is still wise to discontinue its use during pregnancy and while breast-feeding.

The chemical profile of Chamealirium luteum (False Unicorn root) currently reveals the presence of camaelirin and aglycone diosgenin (saponins); oleic and linoleic fatty acids; stearic acid. There has yet to be a thorough investigation into its remaining unidentified components. It is expected there will be some nutritional substances present also (in addition to those offered by its fatty acids content) though this remains to be confirmed.

Saponins, as defined by medical-dictionary, are “any of a group of glycosides widely distributed in plants, which form a durable foam when their watery solutions are shaken, and which even in high dilutions dissolve erythrocytes.” It is scientifically represented that the saponins found in False Unicorn perform a regulatory action on the reproductive hormones and, while this potentially raises havoc with contraceptive meds and interferes with fertility drugs, they present no danger in the absence of these types of pharmaceuticals, when used in the recommended amount. Your naturopath or herbalist are best able to instruct you as to the safe use of herbs in your individual circumstance and the information presented in this article is intended purely for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your health professional.

1 False Unicorn Root- Chamealirium luteum, by Liz Sanders M.R.H., D.B.TH, M.B.H.U., N.N.E.B.

The Way of Herbs, 1998 Tierra, Michael Tierra, L. Ac., O.M.D., Professor of Herbology, founder of the American Herbalists Guild and author, Pocket Books a div. Of Simon & Schuster Inc. NY, NY.

False Unicorn Root & Fertility, July 19, 2011,by Babara Diggs a free-lance writer and former corporate lawyer, information retrieves April 4, 2013,

Marker RE, et al. Sterols. CXLVI. Sapogenins. LX. Some new sources of diosgenin. J Am Chem Soc 1942;64:1283.
Cataline EL, et al. The phytochemistry of Helonias I. Preliminary examination of the drug. J Amer Pharm Assoc . 1942;31:519. Information retrieved April 4, 2013, from

Starwest Botanicals,

North Carolina State University Database,, A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. M. Grieve, False Unicorn Root,
St. Francis Herb Farm, database, False Unicorn Root,
University of Michigan Health System, database, False Unicorn,
False Unicorn, Medicinal Herb Production Guide, Jackie Greenfield M.S. and Jeanine M. Davies Ph.D.,
The Naturopathic view – Miscarriage, Fall 2005, Judith Fiore N.D., Infertility Awareness Association of Canada (IAAC),

Topics: Herbs, Product Reviews

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