Leaves Of Wild Ginger

Asarum caudatum is called wild ginger because the rhizome is said to taste and smell like ginger root. Maybe I will get the chance to dig and smell the rhizome which apparently lies just under the soil surface.

If I did, I would need to be careful because the rhizome contains the carcinogen nephrotoxic toxin aristolochic acid. A nephrotoxic toxin is a toxin that damages the kidneys, making them unable to pass urine.

I wonder how the gardeners who deal with Asarum species protect themselves when they tend the plant? Can one absorb the poison by simply brushing against the rhizome? Is handling enough to poison a person? Or does one have to eat it to be in danger of poisoning?

Wildflower Finder has a section on the birthwort plant (another plant in the Asarum family) and on aristolochic acid. It says the acid is extremely stable and has been detected in patients 20 years after exposure. Creepy, eh.

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