Since long, people have been using asarum for therapeutic purpose. According to some available documents, the use of this medicinal herb actually dates back to the ancient Greeks. During the Middle Ages, Asarum europaeum was used for its laxative, diuretic and emetic properties. In fact, asarum was the primary herbal remedy for poisoning due to food and mushrooms till ipecacuanha (scientific name Cephaelis Ipecacuanha) was introduced in the 1600s in Europe. Ipecacuanha is native to South America and possesses similar emetic properties as asarum, but it has fewer and less harmful side effects. On the other hand, asarum is highly toxic and, hence, it's used did more harm than good to people. Earlier, Asarum europaeum was used for treating rhinitis, a condition wherein the mucous membrane in the interior of the nose becomes inflamed and irritated. In addition, this herb was also employed for treating conditions like angina pectoris, pneumonia, liver ailments, migraine and jaundice. Asarum was also used for curing dehydration as well as to induce abortion and menstruation. Once, people used the dried and powdered leaves of this herb as a constituent of some kind of a sneezing powder to promote expulsion of mucus congested inside the respiratory tract. Sniffing a small amount of this sneezing powder through the nostrils promoted fierce sneezing and profuse outflow of mucus from the respiratory system. This action of the herb made people use it for treating headaches, giddiness, catarrhs, drowsiness as well as a number of other conditions attributed to congestion of mucus in the respiratory tract. Aside from sneezing powder, asarum has also been used as an ingredient of several popular and widely used commercially available remedial snuffs. In present times, asarum is only used in consistent form for treating a number of health conditions including asthma, bronchitis, cough due to smoking, laryngitis and silicosis. Plants found in China as well as some other countries enclose ingredients like aristolochic acid and asarone, which are same as those contained by asarum and they are still used in traditional herbal and other medicines. Asarum is also used for treating various types of eye problems. In addition, this herb also aids to comfort the brain when there is any disorder. This herb is also used for treating toothache, besides curing paralysis of the mouth and tongue. Blended with ribwort, Asarum europaeum is also effective in getting rid of mucous congestion in the respiratory tract, thereby providing relief in several disorders including cough, headaches and catarrhs. This herb is also employed in making cephalic substances that induce sneezing and alleviate headaches. Another use of asarum is in the treatment of lesions in the digestive tract. In many cases, this herb is used as a substitute for ipecac to induce vomiting. The taste as well as smell of Asarum europaeum is potently peppery. This herb is also used for treating conditions related to the eyes, throat, mouth and even the brain. The essential oil present in the root of this herb encloses 50 percent asarone, which is about 65% more noxious compared to peppermint oil. Asarum root essential oil possesses potent emetic properties and is highly valued in treating laryngeal catarrh, dry pharyngeal catarrh, silicosis and various other conditions related to the respiratory system.
Asarum europaeum is perhaps one of the best groundcover plants, especially for growing in shaded locations. Hence, it is not surprising that plants of this species are in high demand by gardeners. As a result, there is always a dearth in good supply of these plants. Soon after the first lot of asarum is planted, they gradually develop into a condensed patch of shiny, deep green smoothed leaves that continue to be evergreen even in places where winter conditions are relatively mild. The brownish blooms borne by this species are inconsequential, as they remain concealed under the thick foliage. It is advisable that you plant asarum in small areas, as it takes some years for these plants to establish themselves. After they have established, asarum plants begin to self-seed in moderation. This species grows well alongside primroses, miniature hosta as well as low-growing ferns.
Chemical analysis of the asarum (Asarum europaeum) rootstock has revealed that it encloses several valuable compounds including starch, resins, flavonoinds, tannins, and aristolochic acid. In addition, about 4 percent of the rootstock is composed of essential oil. Even the essential oil of the rootstock encloses various different substances mainly asarone (30 percent), bornyl acetate (15 percent) and methyl eugenol (20 percent).
Consuming the asarum plant may result in a number of undesirable and painful side effects including a burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting, heartburn, diarrhea, acute pain in the abdomen and also inflammation of the kidneys. Internal use of this plant may also lead to uterus hemorrhage and cause forced abortions. Hence, it is strongly advisable that pregnant women and nursing mothers should never use asarum. The essential oil found in asarum rootstock is extremely poisonous and has the potential to damage the kidneys as well as result in the failure of the respiratory system. This essential oil is highly corrosive for the mucus membranes. In addition, its use can cause skin irritation and even form blisters on the skin. Handling this plant with bare hands may cause skin irritation. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you not only wear gloves while dealing with this herb or any part of this plant, but also wash your hands thoroughly soon after you hold or come in contact with Asarum europaeum.
Usually, the aerial parts of asarum are harvested during the period between May and June. On the other hand, the rootstock of asarum is collected in August. All parts of this herb need to be dried in the air in a shaded location. The dried parts of the herb are later pulverized into its powdered form, which has a bitter flavour.