Aralia (American Spikenard)

Latin:  Aralia californica

Family:    Araliaceae

Parts Used:  Roots, leaves and berries

Taste/Energetics:  Spicy, sweet, slightly cooling

Properties: Antimicrobial, diaphoretic, adatogenic, anxiolytic, expectorant

Actions:  Aralia is a very gentle adaptogenic tonic herb that is somewhat rare and not part of common herbal pharmacopeias.  It has been used primarily for deep hacking coughs, bronchitis with lots of phlegm and mucus.  More recently it has been noted for its ability to gently strengthen people who appear exhausted, run down, depleted and anxious.  In the Northwest where I live it is often discussed in connection with Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus), its cousin from the Aralia family.  Both have tonic qualities but while Devil’s Club appears to be a more spicy, stimulating and a “yang” tonic, Aralia tends to be more gently rejuvenative,restorative and “yin”.   Herbalist Scott Kloos writes “Take the root or leaf tincture during acute episodes of anxiety when the nerves are frazzled to bring calmness and peace of mind.”  It should be treated with quite a bit of respect as it is not a common plant and wild.  We have a long history of overharvesting herbs (American Ginseng, goldenseal, etc) and should be very cautious in our use of Aralia.

Dose:  As tincture 3-5 ml twice a day.  In tea, decoct 1-2 tablespoons root to one pint of water.

Contraindications:  None

Further Reading: 

Aralia spikenard  prepared by Michael Moore

Aralia californica monograph