False Unicorn

Botanical Name: Chamaelirium lutem Family: Liliaceae

Common name(s): False Unicorn, Helonias, Colic root, Devil’s bit, Fairy wand, Star grub root, Grub root


  • Evergreen herb | Zone 5-8 | 1 foot, 8 inches tall | White flowers in May-June | Male and female plants, only females produce seed.
  • Dappled shade | Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil


Harvest the root in autumn and dry for later use.


Decoction: Pour 1 – 2 teaspoons of the herbin a 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x/day or in large amounts for threatened miscarriage.

Tincture: 2-4ml 3x/day


Constituents: Glycosides, steroidal saponins including chamaelirin, helonin, diosgenin

Actions: Adaptogen, anthelmintic, diuretic, emetic, estrogenic, uterine tonic, vermifuge

Uses: Ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalance, low fertility, menopausal symptoms, internal parasites, threatened miscarriage, nausea during pregnancy

Combinations: A cardiac toxin in large quantities, which may cause nausea and vomiting. Should not be used in pregnancy except under the care of an experienced practitioner.


Bitter, warm


Aletris farinosa is True Unicorn. False Unicorn is an endangered plant because not too many people are cultivating it and harvesting the rhizome destroys the whole plant. I think I have the right conditions for growing this plant so it may wind up on my property at some point. (I haven’t noticed it on my property growing wild.)

There seem to be some contradictory indications in this materia medica. Used for nausea in pregnancy but can also cause nausea….