Health Benefits of Aralia

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Aralia (Aralia racemosa) is commonly referred to as spikenard or American spikenard and is a distant cousin of ginseng. Aralia racemosa grows wild in the Eastern United States, China, Northern India and Japan.

Aralia grows upwards of 5 feet from deep purple stems and very large compound leaves. Each leaf consists of multiple egg-shaped leaflets. Between the stem and each branch, long stems are covered with circular flower bundles that attract many insects. The aralia root is collected in late Summer and early Autumn and dried for later use.

The roots of aralia are aromatic and spicy and have been used medicinally for centuries for respiratory ailments, rheumatic fever, syphilis, and skin problems. Aralia today is cultivated commercially for use as an ingredient in root beer. The plant was often used by Native Americans as an alternative herb for the closely related wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis). Native American tribes also used aralia as a flea repellent, giving it another name, fleabane.

There are references to aralia in the Old Testament where aralia was said to be one of the central ingredients in the incense burned in the temples of Jerusalem. Islamic teachings refer to aralia as the forbidden fruit that Adam partook of in the Garden of Eden. Medieval Europeans used aralia as one of the main ingredients in hypocras, a medicinal spiced wine.

Medicinal Uses of Aralia

An herbal tea made from the pulverised aralia roots is used as a cough treatment which acts as an expectorant to loosen chest congestion while also encouraging increased respiration and sweating and is often used in alternative medicine for the treatment of pulmonary diseases and infections including asthma and similar respiratory infections including:

  • Bronchorrhea, chronic coughing with mucus secretions.
  • Chronic laryngitis with abundant mucus.
  • Chronic pharyngitis with thick mucus.
  • Chronic bronchitis with profuse secretions.
  • Acute cough with wheezing and dry mucus.

As recently as the turn of the century (early 1900s) aralia teas and berries were used in the treatment of serious infectious diseases including tuberculosis, whooping cough and in some cases, venereal diseases including syphilis.

Externally, aralia can be used as a poultice in treating rheumatism (inflammation and pain in the joints and muscles) and skin problems, including eczema. The poultice made from crushed and boiled roots and may include aralia berries or leaves which is then applied to wounds or sores, burns, boils, rashes and itchy skin, ulcers or swelling.

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