Botanical Name of Arrowroot: Maranta arundinacea.
The plant is named in honor of Bartommeo Maranto, a medical practitioner of the mid-1500’s.
The common name is a misspelling of the name given to the root used extensively by the Aruac people in South America, “Aru-root.”
Other Common Names: Maranta starch, obedience plant, Bermuda arrowroot.
Habitat: Native to the West Indian Islands.
The plant also grows in Central America, parts of Africa, parts of the United States, much of Latin America, Australia, and the Philippines. It prefers moist, warm climates.
Plant Description: Arrowroot is a perennial plant with a large, fibrous root. The tubers are fleshy and scaly. The plant grows about 3 to 6 feet tall with branching stems.
Long, pale-green lance-like leaves up to ten inches in length, pairs of white flowers and small, currant-like fruits characterize this popular and useful plant.
Plant Parts Used: Fecula (starch) of the tuberous root.
Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims of Arrowroot
The flavorless arrowroot is used as a non-irritating, nutritious diet for people with certain chronic diseases, during recovery from an illness, or for certain internal irritations including bladder irritation.
Arrowroot has been used as an infant formula in place of breast milk or to help the baby adjust after weaning. A jelly made from arrowroot is often preferred by recently weaned infants to infant cereal or other farinaceous foods. Compared to other starches, arrowroot is believed to be the easiest to digest.
Because of its demulcent properties, the herb has been used as a treatment for various bowel complaints.
It is believed that the herb is an effective treatment for poisoned wounds, including scorpion stings, snake bites, and spider bites. Additionally, arrowroot has been used to treat gangrene.
Fresh arrowroot juice mixed with water, if drunk, is said to be an antidote to vegetable poisons.
The plant is used as an herbal remedy to alleviate nausea and to replenish nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting.
Used as a foot powder to combat excess moisture that may lead to athlete’s foot or other foot problems. Arrowroot does not have antifungal properties, so its use is restricted to moisture control alone.
Dosage and Administration
Starch can be extracted from the tubers when the leaves wither, signaling that the plant is mature. Generally, these tubers are less than a year old.
Through a pulverizing process in which the fibrous parts of the root are removed and the impurities strained out of the remaining pulp, a useful powdered starch can be extracted.
For use in infant formula or those needing a non-irritating diet, boil approximately one tablespoon of arrowroot in a pint of water or milk. The resultant jelly can be seasoned in any way desired.
The powder can be mixed with milk, water, or juice to take internally or it can be cooked in a number of dishes including soups and stews.
The most effective dose for therapeutic purposes is unknown, though arrowroot is considered safe to take in large quantities.
Potential Side Effects of Arrowroot
As with any herbal remedy, caution should be exercised when taking arrowroot. While a doctor should always be consulted before using herbal remedies, use special caution before giving it to children, pregnant or nursing mothers, or anyone with kidney or liver disease.
If considering arrowroot for an infant formula, consult the child’s pediatrician first and monitor closely for allergic reactions.
There are no known side effects linked to arrowroot, and it is not known to have any adverse interactions with drugs or chemicals in food.
When using the herb to alleviate diarrhea, it should not be taken with any other medication or supplement for diarrhea, as this may lead to constipation.