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  • Trillium pendulum L.
  • Trillium erectum. L.
  • Liliaceae
  • Lily family

Common Names

herbsAmerican ground lily
herbsBeth root
herbsGround lily
herbsIndian balm
herbsIndian shamrock
herbsJew's-harp plant
herbsLamb's quarter (Chenopodium album)
herbsMilk ipecac
herbsNodding wakerobin
herbsRattlesnake root
herbsRed trillium
herbsThree-leaved nightshade

Parts Usually Used

Rootstock (dried rhizome)

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Birthroot is an herbaceous perennial plant; grows to the height of 10-15 inches, the simple stem arises naked from an oblong, tuberous, short, thick, rootstock (rhizome) and bears, only at the very top, a whorl of three round-ovate, acuminate leaves. In May and June a single yellow-white to reddish-white, unpleasantly scented flower appears above the leaves. The flower grows on a short stalk in the center of the whorl of leaves; it has 3 petals and 3 sepals. The fruit is a pink or red 3 or 6 angled berry.

Where Found

Found in rich soils and shady woods of the central and western states. Nova Scotia to Georgia mountains, Florida; Tennessee to Michigan, Ontario.

Medicinal Properties

Antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, tonic, alterative, pectoral

Biochemical Information

Tannin, resin, glycosides trillin and trillarin, traces of essential oil, saponin, fatty oil and starch

Legends, Myths and Stories

The root has the faint fragrance of turpentine and a peculiar aromatic and sweetish astringent taste when first chewed, but becomes bitter and acid, causing salivation. Its shape is remindful of popular Ginseng root.


Birthroot can be used for coughs, bronchial problems, hemorrhage from the lungs, asthma, difficult breathing, pulmonary consumption, and boiled in milk for diarrhea and dysentery. Used externally and internally for female problems. A poultice or salve relieves insect bites and stings, tumors, inflammations, and ulcers, snakebites, wounds, skin irritation. Birthroot is an indication of its use by the Native Americans as an aid during childbirth. They also used birthroot for menopause, aphrodisiac (root contains steroids). A tea of equal parts of Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) and birthroot was once used for diabetes.

Formulas or Dosages

Decoction: use 1 tsp. root with 1 cup water (or milk). Drink either hot or cold just before going to bed. Take 1 to 2 cups a day.

Tincture: take 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. at a time.

How Sold

Available in whole, cut, or powdered form. Tincture

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