Unpleasant-smelling perennial plant growing to 30 in (75 cm). Has a thick tuberous rootstock, cabbage-like leaves, and small purple flowers on a hooded spike.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to northern North America, skunk cabbage thrives in meadows, swamps, and marshes. The root and rhizome are collected in autumn or early spring.
Skunk cabbage contains a volatile oil, serotonin (5HT), and resins.
History & Folklore
The Winnebago and Dakota peoples used the expectorant and antispasmodic skunk cabbage root to treat asthma and bronchitis. The root was also employed as a poultice to draw splinters and thorns, to heal wounds, and to relieve headaches. It was much used in America in the 19th century.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Skunk cabbage continues to be used primarily as an expectorant, treating cases of asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. It is also taken for upper respiratory problems such as nasal congestion and hayfever. Less commonly, skunk cabbage is used as a treatment for epilepsy, headaches, vertigo, and rheumatic problems, and to stop bleeding.
Handling fresh skunk cabbage may cause the skin to blister. Excessive doses can bring on nausea and vomiting, headaches, and dizziness.