Herbaceous medicinal perennial of the ginseng family and sharing some of its attributes - modulating the body’s response to stress, nourishing the adrenals and improving energy and stamina. In fact the plant is a veritable wonder herb, as it has a raft of uses. It is as a powerful respiratory remedy and tonic, stimulating the immune system and having anti-microbial and expectorant properties. It can be used during the first stages of cold or flu to boost immune function and relieve symptoms. A syrup of the herb is said to be particularly helpful when first getting a throat irritation and for sharp, dry, and percussive coughs. In addition, California Spikenard's anti-inflammatory properties are useful for treating gout, rheumatism, and backaches. The plant can also be helpful for stomach aches, and reducing gas and wind. Furthermore it is considered a uterine tonic, and can help relieve pre-menstrual symptoms. This herb also has a history of being used topically for bruises, rashes, eczema, and other skin conditions, and last but not least the juice of the berries can be placed in the ear to treat ear infections. Apart from the latter, it is the root, which is aromatic and dripping with sticky white oleoresin, which is the part normally used medicinally. It can also be cooked for food, and used in making herbal root beers. The berries are also used for making wine.
This is a large, fast-growing herb and naturally grows near running water and prefers moist, rich soils in part shade but is sufficiently robust and adaptable to be grown in regular garden conditions. It can reach almost 3m tall when in flower - umbels of yellow-greenish flowers that bloom in mid-summer, and mature into blue-black berries in early autumn, which attract birds. The stems bear large bright green pinnately compound leaves 1–2 m long and 1m broad - so give it space! Frost hardy. Sold in 9cm pot.