A herbaceous perennial found in low moist ground east of the Mississipi and flowering in May and June. Stem 1 to 3 feet high, simple, smooth, angular; leaves alternate, spatulate below, lanceolate above, radical leaves, 8 inches long, 1/2 inch wide, narrow at base and formed into a whorl; flowers numerous, small, greenish white, bractless, dioecious, in a dense, terminal raceme, nodding like a plume, 6 inches long, petals of such flowers narrow, stamens longer than the petals, filaments tapering; anthers terminal, two lobed; petals of female flowers linear; stamens short; ovary ovate, triangular, furrowed; stigmas three-capsule, oblong, three-furrowed, opening at summit; fruit many, compressed, acute; rhizome bulbous, terminating abruptly, 1 inch long; odour faint; taste bitter. Solvents: alcohol, water.
Emetic, tonic, diuretic, vermifuge. In large doses a cardiac poison. Of the greatest value in female disorders of the reproductive organs.
Chamaelirium luteum (L.) A. Gray (Liliaceae).
Synonyms and Part Used
Blazing Star, Chamaelirium carolianum Wild., Helonias, Helonias dioica Pursh., Helonias lutea Ker-Gawl., Starwort, Veratrum luteum L.
Limited chemical information is available on false unicorn. It is stated to contain a steroidal saponin glycoside,chamaelirin, and another glycoside helonin.
False unicorn is not used in foods.
False unicorn is stated to possess an action on the uterus. Traditionally it has been used for ovarian dysmenorrhoea, leucorrhoea and specifically for amenorrhoea. It is reported to be useful for vomiting of pregnancy and threatened miscarriage.
Dried rhizome/root :
1–2 g or by infusion three times daily.
1–2 mL (1 : 1 in 45% alcohol) three times daily.
2–5 mL (1 : 5 in 45% alcohol) three times daily.
No reported side–effects or documented toxicity studies were located. It is stated that large doses of false unicorn may cause nausea and vomiting.
Pregnancy and lactation
The safety of false unicorn has not been established. In view of the lack of phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicity data, and its reputed action as a uterine tonic, the use of false unicorn during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided.
The chemistry of false unicorn is poorly documented and no scientific evidence was located to justify the herbal uses. In view of this and the lack of toxicity data, the use of false unicorn should be avoided.