Asarum Europaeum Asarabacca

Asarum europaeum (Asarabacca) is a Perennial which grows to a height of 0.1m and a width of 0.5m . It has a hardness rating of 4.

Asarabacca will flower in November to February. The flowers from this plant are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and they are pollinated by Flies, self







0.1 metres


0.5 metres


Central and southern Europe, east to W. Asia. Naturalized in Britain[17].

Asarum europaeum Soil Information

Asarabacca will grow in light (sandy),medium (loamy),hard (clay) soil. It is / is important for the soil to be well drained.

The soil prefers the following PH / acid levels :

  • pH of less than 6, Acidic soils
  • pH between 6 and 8, Neutral soils
  • pH greater than 8, Basic soils

Asarabacca prefers moist soils

Asarabacca Ideal Planting Locations

Asarabacca can grow in full or semi shaded areas.

Open woodland and waterside thickets[13, 19], especially in beech woodlands[7].

Planting places suited to this plant described below.

  • Grows within a woodland garden
  • Works within dappled Shade
  • Grows in a shady edge
  • Is suited to a deeply shaded location
  • Can spread to cover ground and will out compete weeds

Asarabacca Cultivation Details

Prefers a rich moist neutral to acid soil in woodland or a shady position in the rock garden[1, 200]. Other reports say that this plant prefers a calcareous soil[13, 19, 268]. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[200]. The flowers are malodorous and are pollinated by flies[200]. The root has a pungent, aromatic smell like mild pepper and ginger mixed, but more strongly aromatic. Plants often self-sow when growing in a suitable position[200]. This plant was at one time commonly cultivated as a medicinal herb[17].

Asarabacca Medicinal Uses*

* See disclaimer

Medicinal Rating: 2/5

Asarabacca has a long history of herbal use dating back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks, though it is little used in modern herbalism[268]. The root, leaves and stems are cathartic, diaphoretic, emetic, errhine, sternutatory, stimulant and tonic[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 46, 240]. The plant has a strong peppery taste and smell[244]. It is used in the treatment of affections of the brain, eyes, throat and mouth[4, 19]. When taken as a snuff, it produces a copious flow of mucous[268]. The root is harvested in the spring and dried for later use[7]. Use with caution[21], see the notes above on toxicity. An essential oil in the root contains 50% asarone and is 65% more toxic than peppermint oil[240]. This essential oil is the emetic and expectorant principle of the plant and is of value in the treatment of digestive tract lesions, silicosis, dry pharyngeal and laryngeal catarrh etc[240].

  • Cathartic - A strong laxative but less violent than a purgative.
  • Diaphoretic - Induces perspiration.
  • Emetic - Induces vomiting.
  • Errhine - Produces sneezing.
  • Sternutatory - Promotes sneezing and nasal discharges.
  • Stimulant - Excites or quickens activity of the physiological processes. Faster acting than a tonic but differing from a narcotic in that it does not give a false sense of well-being.
  • Tonic - Improves general health. Slower acting than a stimulant, it brings steady improvement.

Asarabacca Propagation

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the summer[134]. Stored seed will require 3 weeks cold stratification and should be sown in late winter[134]. The seed usually germinates in the spring in 1 - 4 or more weeks at 18°c[134]. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out when large enough in late spring. Division in spring or autumn. Plants are slow to increase[200]. It is best to pot the divisions up and keep them in light shade in the greenhouse until they are growing away strongly.

Scented parts of the plants

Root : Crushed Dried

Known Hazards

The plant is poisonous in large doses[13, 19], the toxin is neutralized by drying[7].

Other Uses

A vibrant apple-green dye is obtained from plant[7, 244]. A useful ground cover for a shady position so long as it is not dry[197], spreading by its roots[208].

  • Dye - Plants that provide dyes.
  • Ground cover - Usually low growing plants that can be grown with other plants, especially shrubs and trees, to prevent the growth of weeds.


The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.

  • Huxley. A.
  • Author: Huxley. A.
  • Publisher: Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
  • Date of Publication: 1992

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