Plant A Day – Canadian Wildginger

Canadian Wildginger Asarum canadense

Canadian Wildginger
Asarum canadense

Canadian Wildginger, or Ginger as we call it, is a fairly common plant in our neck of the woods.  It is generally found in patches covering the floor of the woodland and is very easy to recognize.  You’ll never see the flower unless you bend over and move the leaves out of the way.  They’re cool looking flowers, so it’s worth the trouble.

Asarum canadense is not the same as Ginger (Zingiber officinale), which is used in gingerbread or ginger ale.  It is said the Canadian Wildginger root is edible and can be used as a flavoring.  Be careful though.  Studies with rats show that if you eat about five pounds a day for nine months, you’ll get sick.

Why, do you ask, did anyone ever feed Wildginger to rats?  Well it turns out that Wildginger contains Aristolochic Acid (AA).  AA is also found in a Chinese herb that was being used to make dietary supplement pills that were eventually found to be causing kidney failure in dieters in Belgium and the U.S.  Medical investigators went to a lot of trouble to find the cause of this outbreak of kidney failure and when it was discovered that AA from these pills was the cause, the FDA issued a warning to discontinue the use of any of these types of pills.

They also noted that Canadian Wildginger also contains AA, thus implying that it shouldn’t be eaten.  They do mention that the cases of kidney failure were people that had been taking pills of concentrated “Aristolochia” daily for several months.

They never did go to the trouble of feeding the actual roots to rats.  So, if you have the urge, I suppose you can try it at your own risk.  I suspect that it’s like so many other things that would be toxic if taken in large quantities.  Heck, even water will kill you if you go in deep enough.

The ginger leaf has a very distinctive shape

The ginger leaf has a very distinctive shape

Ginger plants grow in colonies low to the ground

Ginger plants grow in colonies low to the ground

It's not uncommon to see groups of plants along the woodland trails in Indiana

It’s not uncommon to see groups of plants along the woodland trails in Indiana

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