Botanical Name: Lomatium dissectum* et. al. | Family: Apiaceae
Common name(s): Lomatium, biscuit root, cough root, Indian consumption plant, desert parsley, Indian parsnip, toza. The dissectum variety is also known as fernleaf biscuitroot.
- Perennial; herbaceous | Zones 5 – 10 (varies for other varieties) | Mature plants are up to 51 inches tall | Large umbrels of yellow to purple flowers in April/May | Large tap root
- Sunny slopes and dry meadows | All soil types but must be dry; neutral PH | Drought tolerant
- Long-lived, hermaphrodite, self-fertilizing, pollinated by insects
Harvest the roots any time of the year from mature plants (which can take many years). The root should be strongly aromatic, bitter, and oily to be medicinal. The large taproots are slightly easier to dig up after a spring rain.
Harvest the seeds (which are thought to have the same properties of the root) when they appear after flowering. The flowers/seeds may also take some years to appear as the plant grows to maturity.
Cautions: the foliage strongly resembles that of poison hemlock. Lomatium can be distinguished from hemlock by purple spots on hemlock stems and petioles and hemlock’s white flowers. (Hemlock look-alike identification guide.)
*There are two varieties of lomatium dissectum, one that grows in western, semi-arid conditions, and higher altitudes (west of the Cascades mountain range), and the other in wetter, lower altitudes (east of the Cascades). All lomatiums are found in the west, northwest, and southwest.
PREPARATION / DOSAGE
Tincture (Dry root, powdered, 1:5, 70% alcohol): 10-30 drops up to 4-5x/day, or every hour for acute conditions
Tincture (Fresh root, finely chopped, or fresh seeds, 1:2, 70% alcohol): same dosage as dry root tincture
Tincture (Dried seeds, 1:3, 50% alcohol): 1 dropperful 3-5x/day, or every hour for acute conditions
Cold Infusion: 2-3 ounces up to 4-5x/day
Constituents: Glucoside of luteolin, tetronic acids, coumarins, essential oil (There are a number of constituents which vary in the variety of lomatium, the part of the plant, and the age of the plant. I have only listed a few.)
Actions: Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, expectorant, mucous membrane tonic
Uses: Infections of all kinds, especially respiratory infections, including pneumonia and all influenza strains
Cautions: avoid during pregnancy and lactation, because safety during these times is unknown; the dissectum varieties may cause a whole-body rash in about 1% of the population;** may cause nausea; test with a very small amount before using at recommended dosage;
**According to Buhner, the rash is unsightly and will appear within 8 hours. Nothing but time will make it go away. It is rarely (if ever) itchy or painful. It is thought to only occur with the fresh root tincture and then, only if taking a single tincture. So the solution to preventing this side effect is to make a dry-root tincture and/or a mixed-herb tincture.
Herb/drug interactions: none known.
Everybody is different and you should always pay attention to the effects a new food or herb is having on your body.
- Herbal Antivirals, Stephen Harrod Buhner
- The Natural Pharmacy, Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr. DC, et. al.
- Herbal Materia Medica, fifth edition, Michael Moore
- Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman
- Fernleaf Biscuitroot, USDA Plant Guide
- Strictly Medicinal Seeds
- Plants for a Future
- United Plant Savers
- photo credit: p medved Desert Parsley via photopin (license)
I first learned about this herb in Stephen Buhmer’s Herbal Antivirals book. I promptly ordered some and I’m making a large amount of lomatium root tincture. Because…lomatium is considered among many herbalists to be the primary antiviral. I wanted to have this magnificent herb on hand.