The colicroot or the unicorn root is a plant that belongs to the Liliaceae family and has the scientific name of Aletris farinose. It is considered one of the bitterest plants discovered so far.
This herbaceous plant has a thin stem that can reach up to 1 m and laceolate leaves, gathered in the inferior side of the stem in a dense rosette. The small, white, bell-shaped flowers appear in the superior part of the stem. The plant grows in the forested regions in North America.
The colicroot’s leaves and rhizomes are used therapeutically as they have a high content of bitter substances, volatile oil, resins and saponins. The ancient Amerindians used the colicroot as a remedy for snake bites and for gastrointestinal affections. Today, the plant is mostly used in homeopathy in all sorts of products for increasing appetite, stimulating digestion, treating rheumatism and all sorts of affections related to pregnancy of menstrual disorders, as well as for calming pain. Also, the plant is used to make products that have a beneficial effect on the stomach, kidneys, tissues, endocrine system, articulations, bones, sexual organs, urinary system, uterus and ovaries. These are obtained from the colicroot root and thus they have carminative, digestive, diuretic, anti-spasm and laxative properties. Considering these effects, the plant is indicated mostly in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, menopause disorders, intestinal fermentation, rheumatism, constipation, rheumatic and spasmodic pain. According to specialists, the root of the plant becomes useful to control symptoms that appear during menopause or for menstrual symptoms, having a good effect against vaginal dryness, inflammation, itches and sudden mood swings.
The toxicity of the plant is low, but it should only be used at the recommendation of a medic.
Another bitter plant is the bitter milkwort, which has the scientific name of Polygala amara. This is part of the Polygalaceae family.
This perennial plant originates from Europe, reaching a height of 10-15 cm and having a ramified root and large, green and oval basal leaves. Those in the superior side of the stem are smaller and more elongate. The flowers are small and tubular, looking like some bluish bells. The blooming period is in May-June.
The bitter milkwort was used in the past to feed cattle, which thus produced more milk. For medicinal purposes, the root of the plant was appreciated for its content of saponin substances, tannin, volatile oil and bitter substances, being used to stimulate digestion, purify the blood and calm cough. The plant has a slight diuretic effect; prepared as teas, it helps increase appetite and treat rheumatism and gout. In the traditional medicine, the fresh crushed leaves were applied in the shape of cataplasms on wounds and lesions of the skin, thus helping to heal them. The Polygala amara tea should not be drunk excessively, as 2-3 cups are enough per day. In large doses, it can affect the stomach and irritate the kidneys and intestines.