Perennial growing to 6½ ft (2 m). Has a creeping rhizome, many long-stemmed oval leaves, and flowering stems with clusters of creamy-white flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to northern South America and the Caribbean islands, arrowroot is cultivated mostly on the island of St. Vincent. The rhizome is unearthed 10 to 11 months after planting.
Arrowroot contains 25–27% neutral starch.
History & Folklore
In Central America, the Maya made the root into a poultice for smallpox sores, and an infusion for urinary infections. Arrowroot was a staple food of the Arawak people of the Caribbean. The plant reputedly gets its name from its use to treat poisoned arrow wounds—presumably as a drawing poultice.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Arrowroot is used in herbal medicine in much the same manner as slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), as a soothing demulcent and a nutrient of benefit in convalescence and for those with weak digestions. It helps to relieve acidity, indigestion, and colic, and is mildly laxative. It may be applied as an ointment or poultice mixed with antiseptic herbs such as myrrh (Commiphora molmol).