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False Unicorn

Scientific names: Chamaelirium luteum

Common names: False unicorn also is known as helonias root, devil's bit, blazing star, drooping starwort, rattlesnake, and fairy-wand.

Efficacy-safety rating:

Ò...Little or no evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is False Unicorn?

Chamaelirium luteum is a native lily of the eastern US. It is considered a threatened species because of a loss of habitat and effects of collection from the wild for herbal use. Cultivation is considered possible, but has not yet become commercially important. The plant has been confused with the lilies Helonias bullata and Aletris farinosa (true unicorn root), because of several shared common names.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

False unicorn root was used by the Eclectic medical movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its chief use was for female complaints or as a uterine tonic in the treatment of amenorrhea or morning sickness. It also has been used for appetite stimulation and as a diuretic, vermifuge, emetic, and insecticide. None of these claims have been supported by animal or clinical studies.

What is the recommended dosage?

Traditional doses of false unicorn root are 2 g as a uterine tonic or diuretic; however, no clinical studies have been performed to support a particular dose.

How safe is it?


No longer considered safe.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Side Effects

False unicorn can be emetic at high doses. Safety has not been established during pregnancy.


Cattle have died from consumption of the plant.


  1. False Unicorn. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2006. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 16, 2007.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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