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What is False Unicorn Root?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By anon271610 — On May 27, 2012

I think pharma corporations are scared of people knowing about herbs because if we tried them and they work, why in the world would we line the pockets of the rich? Just grow it yourself for free and enjoy the scenery while you're at it!

By anon165721 — On Apr 05, 2011

I have heard many stories and testimonies from people who have tried this herb and had success. We grow False Unicorn in its natural habitat in N.C. at Pinnacle Mountain Native Nursery. We have to look out for the future.

By anon160386 — On Mar 15, 2011

Chaste Berry and False Unicorn Root actually enhance each other. If taken for PMS, Chaste Berry and B6 are another good combination.

By anon155345 — On Feb 23, 2011

I have actually been taking the false unicorn liquid extract, which is supposed to be more potent than the tincture, for a little over two months now and I have actually seen a change in my cycles. I have extremely irregular cycles that ranged anywhere from three to five months in between, but for the past two months my cycles have been 30 days apart. There's also been a huge change in my sex drive and it does help with vaginal dryness. I love it. You do have to take it as recommended for it to work, though.

By anon136015 — On Dec 21, 2010

My naturopaath has made up a tonic for me which contains false unicorn root with the aim in helping fertility issues. I don't know whether it will work or not but am willing to try this alternative medicine.

By Planch — On Oct 25, 2010

There are a lot of anecdotal benefits to false unicorn root besides fertility and menstrual cramps.

Many people use false unicorn root to help with extra periods and irregular periods, and also to treat chronic inflammation of the uterus.

False unicorn root has a lot of benefits for men too. It is a good treatment for impotence, and can also help with appetite and digestive problems in both men and women.

Finally, false unicorn root can also kill and get rid of worms in the body.

So although most of the benefits do rotate around the female reproductive system, false unicorn root has a lot more benefits as well. Be sure to ask your TCM practitioner or naturopath for more information about this fascinating herb.

By closerfan12 — On Oct 25, 2010

This sounds like such a great herb! I wonder why it hasn't gotten more press.

I know that I'd be up for anything that helped with period cramps, whether they're herbs, medicinal teas or plain old pills.

I may have to see where I can buy some -- it sounds really interesting!

By naturesgurl3 — On Oct 25, 2010

This may be a rather silly question, but why is it called false unicorn root? I mean, of all the names, what's the story behind that one?

I think that the link between false unicorn and fertility is really interesting too. I guess you wouln't want to take that along with chaste tree berries!

If it does work so well as a fertility supplement, I wonder that it doesn't show up in more fertility blends for women. It seems like many women would try about anything to get pregnant. Of course, I'm sure the threat of luteal phase defects plays a role, but still, if they're unconfirmed, I don't see why the herb wouldn't be more commonly used.

Very interesting article -- I definitely want to know more about this herb.

By anon95343 — On Jul 12, 2010

This is a very interesting herb and too bad not much has been researched about it.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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