false unicorn root

Medically Reviewed on 3/27/2023

Generic Name: false unicorn root

Other Names: blazing star root, Chamaelirium luteum, devil's bit, helonias, starwort, veratrum luteum

Drug Class: Herbals

What is false unicorn root, and what is it used for?

False unicorn root is an herbal product used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous Americans, and eventually by Europeans as well, to treat menstrual, gynecological, digestive, urinary, and other disorders. The false unicorn herbal medicine is prepared from the root and rhizome of the herb false unicorn (Chamaelirium luteum), an herb native to the regions east of the Mississippi river in North America. False unicorn appears similar but is unrelated to the true unicorn plant, Aletris farinose. False unicorn root is available over the counter (OTC) in the U.S.

Limited studies indicate that false unicorn contains steroidal saponins including chamaelirium and aglycone diosgenin which are believed to normalize the female hormones and boost ovarian activity. There are, however, no scientific studies that show evidence of the safety and efficacy of false unicorn root use in female reproductive issues. The chemical diosgenin is used as a raw material for commercial synthesis of sex hormones, however, diosgenin itself does not have hormonal properties, nor can the body convert it into sex hormone.

False unicorn root is now a threatened species of herb and wild harvesting is further endangering its existence. Efforts to grow false unicorn commercially have not met with much success. With rising demand, exploitation of wild plants may wipe out the species, despite the lack of scientific evidence to back any of its uses.

The suggested uses of false unicorn root include the following:


  • Do not use false unicorn root products if you are hypersensitive to any of their components.
  • There is no scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of any of its suggested medicinal uses.
  • Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Do not take false unicorn root if you have any gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, it can irritate the GI tract and worsen your condition.

What are the side effects of false unicorn root?

Common side effects of false unicorn root include:

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:

This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.



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What are the dosages of false unicorn root?

There isn’t enough scientific information on what might be an appropriate dose of false unicorn root. The dosage may depend on age, health and other factors.

Suggested Dosing

  • Dried rhizome and roots: 1-2 g decocted in a cup of water orally three times a day
  • Liquid Extract (1:1 in 45% alcohol) 1-2 mL three times a day
  • Tincture (1:5 in 45% alcohol): 2-5 mL three times a day
  • Capsules: comes in different strengths, follow manufacturer’s instructions


  • False unicorn root overdose can cause nausea and vomiting. Symptoms should resolve with discontinuation of false unicorn and adequate hydration.

What drugs interact with false unicorn root?

Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.

  • False unicorn root has no known severe or serious interactions with other drugs.
  • Moderate interactions of false unicorn root include:

The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.

It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • Even though false unicorn has been traditionally promoted for treating morning sickness, it may stimulate uterine contraction and induce miscarriage. Avoid if you are pregnant.
  • There is no information on the presence of false unicorn in breastmilk or its effects on milk production and on the breastfed infant. Avoid use.
  • Never use any herbal product, including false unicorn root, without first checking with your physician, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What else should I know about false unicorn root?

  • There is no information and no studies on the safety and efficacy of false unicorn root products.
  • Use false unicorn exactly as per label instructions. Natural products are not necessarily safe always and following suggested dosing is important.
  • Check with your healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement, including false unicorn root, particularly if you have any health conditions or on regular medications.
  • Herbal products often contain many ingredients. Check labels for the components in the false unicorn root product you choose.
  • False unicorn root is marketed as an herbal supplement and is not regulated by the FDA. Products may differ in formulations and strengths, and labels may not always match contents; exercise caution in choosing your product.
  • Store false unicorn root safely out of reach of children.
  • In case of overdose, seek medical help or contact Poison Control.


False unicorn root is an herbal product used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous Americans, and eventually by Europeans as well, to treat menstrual, gynecological, digestive, urinary, and other disorders. The suggested uses of false unicorn root include the following the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), ovarian cysts, infertility, repeated miscarriages, morning sickness, menopausal symptoms, and others. Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Common side effects of false unicorn root include nausea and vomiting.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/27/2023