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In the late fall when I have finished gathering the last of my herbs, I know it won’t be long before I can start digging up roots like Solomon Seal Root (actually a rhizome), dandelion, and burdock. These are used for powerful earth medicines, usually in the form of tinctures, teas, and infused oils. The best time to do this is after a few hard frosts. This is when the plants send their energy below the ground to their roots, which makes them more potent than at any other time.
You can make root medicines into the winter as long as you can identify the herbs you’re harvesting, and until the ground is too frozen for your shovel. The focus of this article is on Solomon Seal root, its properties, and how to make powerful root medicines from it.
You can learn more about the root medicine tinctures here: Root Tinctures: Powerful Earth Medicine
Medicinal Uses of Solomon's Seal
As a medicine, solomon’s seal shines most with connective tissue trouble. Old or new injuries involving joints, ligaments, bones, etc can benefit from Solomon’s seal, which will loosen overstretched connective tissues or constrict overtight connective tissues.
Solomon seal root will also provide relief to fractures and bone spurs thanks to its ability to recalcify bones or decalcify unhealthy deposits. This herb can also rebuild cartilage with extended consumption, especially when applied externally and consumed internally. Back problems generally can benefit from Solomon’s seal as they are often a conglomeration of cartilage, tendon, bone and synovial fluid issues.
Solomon’s Seal may help to soothe irritation in the digestive tract, lungs, throat, and reproductive system. Its expectorant qualities also aid in loosening up coughs.
The Basics: Solomon Seal Root
Botanical (Latin) Names: Polygonatum biflorum, P. multiflorum
Common Names : Solomon’s seal, King Solomon’s seal, Seal root, Drop berry, Sealwort
- Parts Used: Rhizome (sometimes called the root)
- Constituents: Solomon’s seal contains steroidal saponins (similar to diosgenin), flavonoids, and Vitamin A
- Actions (Foundational and Clinical)
Lubricant, vulnerary, tension modulator, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, astringent, demulcent, nutritive, expectorant, hypotensive, diuretic
- Contraindications and Cautions (if any)
Some species are endangered, or if not endangered, at risk. Please use care if harvesting in the wild and mindful of sources when purchasing. Solomon’s seal is easy to grow in a shady spot. Seeds are toxic. If you can’t find the herbs you need locally, you can purchase them from Mountain Rose Herbs. My favorite place to buy high-quality, organic dried herbs and herbal products.
Identification, Using & Sharing the Roots
Solomon’s seal, or Polygonatum spp., is a graceful understory perennial with a thick, creamy white rhizome that looks a bit like a segmented worm. Its round scars indicate previous years’ growth. Some liken it to the intestines and look to it as a signature of its use there. Another interpretation is that the roots look like bones and/or joints.
It emerges in the spring as an upright shoot of tightly furled leaves. Alternate, ribbed, smooth-margined, ovate leaves unfold from a long arching subtly zig-zagging stem that reaches 1-3 feet in length. Dangling down like little bells, small clusters of creamy white to yellow-green flowers appear at the bottom to top of this stem and where the hummingbirds come in to sip the nectar. Once fertilized, these become round blue-black berries that ripen in late summer to fall.
This year, I was blessed with several pounds of this “miracle” root from my patch that seems to grow larger every year. I encourage you to plant, harvest, use it in your day-to-day, then share away! There is so much empowerment in plant powered wellness; I can’t help but want to share what I’ve learned!
The History & Folklore
Solomon’s seal has been used in Western herbal medicine since classical times. In China, the herb’s first recorded use goes back to the Divine Husbandman’s Classic (Shen’nong Bencaojing) of the 1st century AD.
In North America, the plant was well known to many Indigenous tribes and was used both as a food source (the young shoots are edible) and as medicine. The young shoots were eaten raw or boiled. The starchy rhizomes were even used to make bread. The roots were also made into a tea to treat woman’s complaints associated with menstruation, indigestion, general debility, infertility, dehydration, broken bones, dry cough, lung ailments and general internal pains. It was used externally as a poultice or liniment for cuts, bruises, sores, rheumatism, arthritis, and general skin irritations.
Respecting Solomon Seal 'Root'
Solomon’s seal, formerly a member of the lily family, is found through the temperate Northern Hemisphere, with over sixty species occurring in Asia, twenty of those in China. China also widely consumes solomon’s seal as a food, cooking the leaves, shoots, and rhizomes into various dishes, including festival dishes. They are also soaked in honey to make sweet snacks, or steeped into tea in Korea.
Given the current endangered and at-risk statues in the US, I do not recommend harvesting Solomon Seal root in the wild. Instead, I recommend purchasing Solomon’s Seal plants or seeds from a reputible sourcel and adding them to your medicinal gardens. Solomon’s seals are steady growers and can form dense colonies over the years, giving you many opportunities to harvest without hurting wild native populations of these wonderful plant allies.
How to Harvest the Rhizome
To harvest the rhizome, dig around the base of the plant with your fingers until you find it. Take care not to disrupt the aboveground portions of the plant. Using a small trowel or knife, pierce the rhizome to sever it from newer growth. If you find a rhizome that’s connecting two shoots, you can harvest the section in between them. Count the knobby joints to determine the age of the plant. Clean off the rhizome and tincture or infuse it in oil fresh, or cut it up and dry it for future use in decoctions.
Solomon’s Seal is amazing. I could make an entire apothecary using this plant, as it aids in the healing process throughout the body. I have maintained a special place in my native medicinal plants garden where I live here in Northeastern Connecticut for the express purpose of growing and protecting Solomon’s Seal.
Following its growth pattern stages, first with the shoots, then the bending stems with their alternate deep green leaves, then hidden flowers before they turn into berries enabled me to learn its true nature. It is delicate in nature, yet with a deep-seated integrity ready to support. When making medicine from Solomon’s Seal, I recall its growth pattern which in many ways resembles the many stages of medicine making. It is also so versatile: salve, decoction, oil, tincture—all these are from one plant!
I discovered the power of Solomon’s Seal Root as a salve made from an infused oil when I was recovering from a back injury that required two major spinal surgeries and resulted in chronic pain, nerve damage, and drop foot. I rubbed the salve all around my lower back for about a week. By that time, I forgot that I had any pain.
I also make a tincture of Solomon Seal root to moisten and soothe muscles, and when I combine it with Lavender and Blue Vervain, it’s great for relieving headaches.
I’m often asked if a tea will work as well as a tincture, but I don’t know because I haven’t tried it. But I have heard from other herbalists of its use as a tea for its demulcent qualities (also referred to as mucilaginous or muco-protective). As a tea (demulcent), Solomon’s Seal may help to soothe irritation in the digestive tract, lungs, throat, and reproductive system. Its expectorant qualities also aid in loosening up coughs. Joint health may be supported by regulating fluidity within buffering membranes and cartilage.
I have found Solomon’s Seal to be among the most valuable herbs for addressing joint injuries of all kinds. I believe that Solomon Seal root restores proper lubrication in the joints, and also helps restore pliancy to tendons and ligaments by supplying moisture to them if they are atrophied. Though nothing works all the time in all cases, it has been my experience and that of others I know who use it that Solomon’s Seal almost always helps a condition, and sometimes does so miraculously.
Dosage and Preparations
Solomon Seal Root Tea:
1 tsp. dried rhizome, 8 oz. water, decoct 10 minutes, steep for 40 minutes, take 4 oz. 3x per day. Also, standard decoction (1 oz – qt. Use as a linament for musculo-skeletal injury).
Solomon Seal Root Tincture:
1 part fresh rhizomes
2 parts menstrum (95% alcohol, 5% water)
1 part dried rhizomes
2 parts menstrum (60% alcohol, 40% water)
Take 5-30 drops as needed, up to 3 times per day
Solomon Seal Root Infused Oil:
2 parts oil
Apply to injured or inflamed muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints.
Where to Buy High Quality Herbs
Solomon’s Seal is a medicinal herb with widespread uses, but all parts of the plant except for the root and young shoots are toxic. The berries are said to cause vomiting and nausea if chewed.(http://www.Solomonsseal.net/abouttheplant.html )
*This blog post — Solomon Seal Root: Uses, Benefits, and 3 Easy Preparations — is for general health information only. The information provided throughout this site is for educational purposes only and is not to be regarded as substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
“Solomon’s Seal” class notes. Apprenticeship 2017, Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism.
Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants.
McDonald, Jim. “Back Pain”. Herbcraft.org. http://herbcraft.org/backpain.html