False unicorn root, or Chamaelirium luteum, is a relative of lilies that is native to the US. It was used in a variety of ways in traditional Native American medication, particularly among tribes located in the Eastern United States. It also has long been part of herbal medicine to treat a variety of conditions, most of them having to do with disorders affecting the uterus and ovaries, and a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Called by names like fairy-wand and devil’s bit, the root is normally used in the form of a tincture. It has been suggested that taking it may help regulate menstrual cycles, assist in the symptoms associated with menopause, reduce uterine cramping, end ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, help with fertility issues, reduce miscarriage, and address morning sickness. The herb also has diuretic properties and might be used to treat kidney disorders, and in high doses, it can be used to induce vomiting.
There are few studies of the benefits of false unicorn root in humans, and most information on this herb comes from anecdotal evidence. It is presently thought that chemicals in the herb may help release human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), often known as the pregnancy hormone, but this has not been proven.
There is some evidence in anecdotal lore that the herb can prove toxic in high doses to animal populations. Reports exist describing the death of cattle that have grazed on too much of the plant. If similar risk exists for humans, this has not been shown.
One of the difficulties with some of the reports regarding this plant is that pregnant women are often cautioned not to take it, because no studies exist regarding whether it may harm the fetus. This makes some claims about the plant challenging to understand, since it is recommended as a fertility treatment. Moreover, its use to end morning sickness or reduce threatened miscarriage would then be contraindicated, since pregnancy is present in both situations.
Another issue that people who try this tincture should be aware of is that it can take quite a few months before it becomes effective. Those who use it to regulate menstrual cycles or to end cramping or ovarian cysts may need to take it for a long time before they see any improvement in the symptoms. There’s very little data, and none from clinical double-blind trials, to determine exactly how, if at all, effective false unicorn will be for any one person.
Like all herbal preparations, false unicorn root should be viewed as real medicine, and it may interfere with other medications taken or with medical conditions a person may have. People should always discuss taking any herbs with a physician and weigh the risks versus benefits of any supplements thought necessary. Unfortunately, many medical professionals are unlikely to know that much about this particular herb because few studies exist to show when and how it may be appropriate to take.