Smilacina stellata – Soloman’s Seal, False
Solomon’s Seal, False – Smilacina stellata and S. racemosa
Smilacina = smee-la-keen-a, from Gr. Smilax (ancient Greek name);
stellata = ste-lah-ta, star-like (the flower);
racemosa = ra-kay-mo-sa, flowers in racemes;
Synonyms: Solomon-plume, wild lily-of-the-valley, wild spikenard, treacleberry, star-flowered solomon s seal.
Identification: False Solomon s Seal is a perennial herb, 10-40 cm tall, with creeping rhizomes and small cream-coloured flowers. There are 6 perianth parts and stamens. The annual stem bears few or many leaves which are sessile and broad. The fruits are spherical berries that are green with bright red stripes, turning black when ripe.
Distribution & Habitat: False Solomon s seal is found in moist places, often in thickets associated with willow or alders.
Preparation & Uses: This plant has a starchy rootstock that may be eaten. It should be cooked overnight in lye. The Ojibwa Indians used white ashes from their fire pits instead of lye. This removes the bitterness. The roots are then boiled and rinsed several times to remove the lye. The rootstock is also said to make a good pickle. Porslid lists this plant as non-edible. It is not listed as poisonous either to livestock or humans though it tends to be a purgative.
The young leaves and shoots can be used like asparagus and are good pot herbs. The berries are edible raw, but purgative if eaten in quantity. Anyone with loose bowels should not eat them. Cooking these bitter-sweet berries removes much of the purgative element and also makes them more palatable.
Moore lists S. racemosa roots as an effective demulcent and expectorant for inflammatory stages of lung infection, sore throats and to soften up mucus in the bronchials. He also adds it is good for frontal headaches associated with indigestion.
The Blackfoot used to powder the root and apply it to wounds. The Nevada Indians used the roots as a poultice for boils, sprains or swellings. The pulp of the root was sometimes used for earaches, as an infusion for eye inflammations and for regulating menstrual disorders. The Nevada Indians also used a tea of the leaves as a form of birth control (drinking one cup daily). Other Indians used the root to close up wounds by laying bruised roots on the wound for a couple of days. The roots, made into a decoction, are said to relieve sunburn. Inhaling the smoke of roots was used to treat “insanity” and to quiet crying children.
S. stellata roots were made into infusions to regulate menstrual disorders and as a form of birth control (conception is said to be prevented by drinking tea of the leaves regularly). The berries are high in vitamin C and help to stop scurvy and rickets.