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Sweet Cicely

Osmorhiza longistylis

Swwet Cicely Herb Flower

Other Names: Aniseroot, Longstyle Sweetroot, American Sweet Cicely, Licorice root, Wild Anise

Sweet Cicely Herb Use and Medicinal Properties

Sweet Cicely was used extensively by Native American Indian tribes to treat digestive disorders and as an antiseptic wash for a range of problems. Sweet Cicely is medicinal and edible, the root being the strongest for use in alternative medicine it is antiseptic, aromatic, febrifuge, oxytocic, pectoral, stomachic, carminative, tonic, ophthalmic, and expectorant. Medicinal tea made from the root is a very good digestive aid and is a gentle stimulant for debilitated stomachs. A weak herb tea is used to bath sore eyes. A strong infusion has been used to induce labor in a pregnant woman and to treat fevers, indigestion, flatulence, stomach aches. The crushed root is an effective antiseptic poultice for the treatment of boils and wounds. A medicinal cough syrup can be made of the fresh juice and honey, it is very effective and quite tasty, children take it readily. The leaves and flowers are edible in salad and add a great flavor, or boiled and eaten as a pot herb. The root is eaten raw or dried and ground for use as spices.

Sweet Cicely Habitat and Description

Sweet Cicely is a North American native perennial herb, found growing in rich woods and thickets from Eastern N. America - Nova Scotia to Ontario, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and Colorado.

The root of Sweet Cicely  is a very aromatic with a strong smell of licorice, it is thick with long branches, light brown out side and white fleshy inside, a little fibrous and very strong in fragrance, with a sweet taste, you begin to smell it as soon as the ground is broken, almost always you will find earthworms next to the roots. The stem is branched it grows from 2 to 3 feet high, it is reddish and smooth with many lacey light green, leaves and white flowers in an umbelliferae atop the stem. The sweet scented flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs). The plant is self-fertile and blooms from April to May.

Growing Sweet Cicely

Sweet Cicely is a very attractive plant that succeeds in any deep moisture-retentive soil in sun or dappled shade. Grow from seed or transplants.

Harvesting the Herb

Gather the edible roots, flowers and leaves in spring, as soon as they bloom. Dry roots for later herb use.


Fennel seed substitute: Cut root into small pieces, dry, grind, and sprinkle on pizza instead of fennel seed.

"Medicinal" tea: Use fresh or dried root 1 tsp. to a cup of water, bring to boil, steep 10 minutes.

Sweet Cicely Folklore and History

   A decoction of the herb was used as nostril wash to increase dog’s sense of smell. A valuable tonic for girls from 15 to 18 years of age, according to an old herbal. The aromatic scent is said to be an aphrodisiac, used as a love medicine.

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron

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