Photo by Deb Jackson Copyright 2000
Other Names: Aniseroot, Longstyle Sweetroot,
American Sweet Cicely, Licorice root, Wild
Habitat North America native
perennial herb, found growing in rich woods and
thickets Eastern N. America - Nova Scotia to
Ontario, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and
Colorado. Cultivation: a very attractive plant
succeeds in any deep moisture-retentive soil in
sun or dappled shade from seed or transplants.
The root of Sweet Cicely is a very
aromatic with a strong smell of licorice, it is
thick with long branches, light brown out side
and white fleshy inside, a little fibrous and
very strong in fragrance, with a sweet taste,
you begin to smell it as soon as the ground is
broken, almost always you will find earthworms
next to the roots. The stem is branched it
grows from 2 to 3 feet high, it is reddish and
smooth with many lacey light green, leaves and
white flowers in an umbelliferae atop the stem.
The sweet scented flowers are hermaphrodite
(have both male and female organs). The plant
is self-fertile. Blooming from April to May.
Gather the edible roots, flowers and leaves in
spring, as soon as they bloom. Dry roots for
later herb use.
Properties Sweet Cicely was used
extensively by Native American Indian tribes to
treat digestive disorders and as an antiseptic
wash for a range of problems. Sweet Cicely is
medicinal and edible, the root being the
strongest for use in alternative medicine it is
antiseptic, aromatic, febrifuge, oxytocic,
pectoral, stomachic, carminative, tonic,
ophthalmic, and expectorant. Medicinal tea made
from the root is a very good digestive aid and is
a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. A
weak herb tea is used to bath sore eyes. A strong
infusion has been used to induce labor in a
pregnant woman and to treat fevers, indigestion,
flatulence, stomach aches. The crushed root is an
effective antiseptic poultice for the treatment
of boils and wounds. A medicinal cough syrup can
be made of the fresh juice and honey, it is very
effective and quite tasty, children take it
readily. The leaves and flowers are edible in
salad and add a great flavor, or boiled and eaten
as a pot herb. The root is eaten raw or dried and
ground for use as spices.
Folklore A decoction of the herb
was used as nostril wash to increase dog’s
sense of smell. A valuable tonic for girls from
15 to 18 years of age, according to an old
herbal. The aromatic scent is said to be an
aphrodisiac, used as a love medicine.
Fennel seed substitute: Cut root into small
pieces, dry, grind, and sprinkle on pizza
instead of fennel seed.
"Medicinal" tea: Use fresh or dried
root 1 tsp. to a cup of water, bring to boil,
steep 10 min.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
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