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What is Helonias Dioica?

By Melissa King
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Helonias dioica is another name for False Unicorn, also known as Devil's Bit, Starwort, Fairy Wand and Blazing Star. Its botanical name is Chamaelirium luteum. It is a flowering, perennial herb that is often used as a homeopathic remedy for women's reproductive issues.

Helonias dioica is a native North American plant that can be found in the US from New England to Illinois, and further south into Florida. It is typically found in humid climates and in moist soil. Because it is so frequently gathered for medicinal uses, the plant is considered to be a threatened species.

False unicorn was first used by Native Americans, not only for women's health, but as a remedy for almost any ailment. Native Americans gave the plant the name Devil's Bit. This occurred when, according to folklore, an evil spirit became angered by its use, and so bit a piece of it off to prevent further usage. Early American settlers later discovered the plant's benefits, and additionally used it as a treatment for depression and a cough remedy. From 1916 to 1947, Helonias dioica was listed as a uterine tonic in the United States pharmacopoeia.

The plant's stem ranges from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) tall, with alternating leaves. The flowers are tiny and greenish-white. It is a dioecious species, meaning that the female and male flowers appear on separate plants. The root and the dried rhizomes, which are harvested in autumn, are the only parts of the plant that are used for medicinal purposes.

In homeopathy, Helonias dioica has been said to aid in curing many women's ailments. It is touted as being able to cause regular menstrual cycles and relieve symptoms caused by menopause and morning sickness. It is also thought to help correct fertility problems, low sex drive and assist in preventing miscarriage. It has also been suggested as a treatment for men's impotence.

It is not yet understood how the herb remedy works, due to a lack of medical research. The most common thought is that the steroidal saponins contained within the plant are what gives it its medicinal properties. It might also be possible that the herb increases progesterone production levels by influencing the hormone chorionic gonadotropin.

Despite its many supposed benefits, Helonias dioica has not been thoroughly scientifically studied. There may be unknown side effects or drug interactions. Extremely large doses have been reported to cause nausea and vomiting. It may also be unsafe to take during pregnancy, due to the herb having such an extensive effect on the uterus.

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Discussion Comments

By JessicaLynn — On Sep 27, 2011

@SZapper - Actually, I think people pay plenty of attention to womens health issues. I know breast cancer gets a lot of air time, not to mention the fund-raising walks. Don't be so paranoid!

Anyway, I almost think it's better if the FDA leaves this one alone. At least false unicorn is accessible to everyone at natural food stores. If this herb was studied and deemed useful, it would probably only be available by prescription!

By SZapper — On Sep 26, 2011

I'm always amazed when modern medicine is so behind on certain remedies. It sounds like helonias dioica has been proven to work. So why not study it and find out all there is to know about it?

Then again, it is mostly used for womens issues. I feel like if this plant worked for issues of the male reproductive system if would get plenty of study! However, a lot of womens health issues tend to be ignored, so this doesn't surprise me at all.

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