Canadian Snake root: A Bit of Botany
a little bit of botany about canadian snake root

Asarum canadense is a stemless plant which features two downy, heart-shaped to kidney-shaped, handsomely veined, dark green, basal leaves (to 6" wide). Cup-shaped, purplish brown flowers (1" wide) appear in spring on short, ground-level stems arising from the crotch between the two basal leaves. Flowers are quite attractive on close inspection, but bloom singly on or near the ground and are usually hidden from view by the foliage. The plant rises to only 4-6 inches tall but spreads indefinitely by rhizomes to form dense carpets of downy, heart-shaped, dark green leaves. Tiny, urn-shaped, ground-hugging, maroon-brown flowers bloom in April and May.

common names & nomenclature
The common name of Snake Root is due to the snakelike appearance of the root. The common name Wild Ginger is due to the plant having several similarities in common with true ginger, such as the aromatic scent.

Also known as:
canadian snake root, wild ginger, indian ginger, canada snakeroot, asarum, vermont snakeroot, heart-snakeroot, black snakeroot, colt's-foot, snakeroot, black snakeweed, broadleaved asarabacca, false colt's-foot, cat's foot, colicroot

Canadian Snake Root, the topical tonic
Canadian Snake root: Where in the World
habitat and range for canadian snake root

Asarum canadense is native to eastern North America, from the Great Plains east to the Atlantic Coast, and from southeastern Canada south to the southeastern United States.

Canadian Snake root: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting canadian snake root

Canadian Snake Root grows in dense patches on shady forest floors, in part shade to full shade.

Canadian Snake Root can grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. Prefers constantly moist, acidic soils in heavy shade.

Propagate by division in spring or autumn. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing strongly. Sow seeds in a cold frame as soon as seeds are ripe in the summer. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 - 4 or more weeks.

When large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring.

Harvest roots in early spring before the leaves appear or in late fall when the leaves die back.

Dry roots completely and cut into small pieces or grind into a powder. Store in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

It has similar aromatic properties to true ginger (Zingiber officinale), but should not be used as a substitute because it contains an unknown concentration of the carcinogen aristolochic acid and asarone.

Canadian Snake root: The Rest of the Story
canadian snake root history, folklore, literature and more

Canadian Snakeroot (Asarum canadense), also known as Canadian wild ginger, is a perennial herb with a natural range that extends from the Great Plains region of the U.S. to the northeast and southeastern coastlines. As its name implies, its natural habitat includes the southeastern portion of Canada as well. This plant is a forest floor dweller, preferring shady areas where it can grow in dense patches.

Native Americans used the long rhizome of the plant as a flavoring agent since it imparts an aroma similar to that of ginger root, which explains the common nickname of Canadian wild ginger. However, Canadian snakeroot is no longer used for culinary purposes because the root has been found to contain aristolochic acid.