© 2002 Thayne Tuason
Long-Tailed Wild Ginger
Asarum caudatum Lindl.
Evergreen, low-growing, aromatic perennial. Leaves heart- to kidney-shaped, emerge in pairs along the rhizome and are held on leaf stalks 2-6 inches long. Flowers purplish-brown to greenish-yellow, solitary, bell-shaped, petals 0 with 3 flaring lobes (sepals) that taper to long points, surrounding 12 stamens. Sepals white inside with single median stripe. The flowers are often concealed by the leaves. Fruits fleshy capsules, with several egg-shaped seeds bearing a fleshy appendage. Wild ginger grows in moist, deeply shaded forests, rich bottomlands, frequently lost in heavy leaf litter because of its slow growth, and often under western red-cedar. Common from low to middle elevations in British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana.
The whole plant, when crushed, has a strong smell of lemon-ginger. The roots can be eaten fresh or dried and ground as the tropical ginger substitute. The leaves are more strongly flavored than the rootstocks, and they are generally milder than the commercial ginger. The leaves may be used to make a fragrant tea.
Candied root stalks were used to relieve coughing and stomach problems. The leaves have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and were used as poultices on cuts and sprains. Rootstalks were boiled to make medicinal teas for treating indigestion and colic. It has also been taken to relieve fevers, gas, stomach upset; and to cleasnse the skin when treating measles, chicken pox, rashes, and acne.
A tea can be made from the roots and was sipped for stomach pains by some First Peoples. Substances within the plant have been known to have antibiotic properties.