|Wild Ginger, or Asarum canadense leaves|
|The 3-Petaled flower with Recurved tips, and Fuzzy Stem of Asarum|
Wild ginger is not the same ginger you may be used to buying in the store. The latin name for store-bought ginger is Zingiber officinale.Zingiber is native to Asia, and in a completely different family than American wild ginger. While wild ginger smells very similar to store bought, and the plant is used in the same way by herbal practitioners, the efficacy has not been proved to be the same. Additionally, many have questioned the safety of wild ginger.
During the 1990's, a bunch of people in Europe developed kidney failure after ingesting diet pills that contained a high amount of a substance found in Asarum of a different species. Hank Shaw does a fabulous job of writing about why we should limit our oral intake of Asarum, although it appears it should only be enjoyed as a water-based infusion or tisane. This is one herb you don't want to drink in a tincture, or alcohol-based infusion.
Asarum does have it's redeeming qualities. One study that found that an extract of one Asarum species proved effective on treating Human Papilloma Virus.
Look for two heart-shaped leaves on fuzzy stems of approximately equal length. The three-leaved, purplish-brown flower is easily identified in the spring. Here is a video I took just outside of Washington, D.C., in May.