I wanted to talk a little bit about the medicinal herb Coral Root. Members of the Corallorhiza family are many, and most of them are endangered. In our forest we’re lucky to have a variety of coral root that is not state or nationally endangered. Coral root is an orchid. It’s entirely parasitic. It produces no leaves and contains no chlorophyl. It survives by leeching nutrients from the roots of the plants around it, as well as being fed by mycelium and other generous members of its ecosystem.
The rhizomes, unfortunately, smell like urine. Both fresh and dried. I really wish they didn’t, because I love this herb. And I dislike drinking my “cup of hot urine” when I need to take coral root. Thankfully the flavor is easily masked with mint, pine needles, or other strongly aromatic herbs that combine well with it medicinally.
The harvested rhizomes are a PAIN to clean. If I wanted to get paid a living wage for selling coral root I’d have to charge $20-30 an ounce for it. I’m not going to do that because I want folks to have access to this herbs that has little or no industrial production and is not widely available. To clean the rhizomes, root balls anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches across must be completely broken apart. Every last little segment of rhizome (each segment is less than an inch long, there are thousands of them in a small ball) must be broken apart, since their style of growth means they have encased huge quantities of substrate and forest debris. The amount of substrate they can harbor is astounding. So the entire ball must be tediously picked apart in a container of water, and thousands, if not millions, of little segments must then be washed and virtually scrubbed free rocks and soil. It took me many back-aching hours to clean about 10lbs of coral root rhizomes in 2020. And sadly they dried down to just 1 pound of dried rhizome. It didn’t
leave much to go around, and I ended up gifting the majority of it to friends in need of herbal anxiety relief.
Coral root is also specific to lung infection recovery. Weakened immune systems and long-standing lung infections specifically indicate oral root. One friend I sent coral root to in 2020 found drastic improvement in his condition. He got COVID in the spring of 2020 and even though he had otherwise recovered, he had a persistent lung infection he couldn’t clear up. I now know of at least 3 people who have this same complication, where 6-9 months after
recovering they still have deep stubborn lung infections. This particular friend saw an immediate movement and expulsion of the long-standing fluids with each cup of tea he drank. I likewise use coral root when I have lung complaints or stubborn fluid in the lungs after an incident or illness.
Additionally, coralroot can be mildly stimulating to menstruation, so best to exercise caution if One is striving for pregnancy.
Coral root is relatively safe and benign. It provides a bounty of benefits that are extra applicable during this pandemic. I’m not trying to sell you on COVID cures- I don’t even have any coral root for sale at the time of posting this! My intent is to provide you with another tool in your arsenal of herbal healing. If coral root sounds like it could improve your quality of life, find a good source to buy from, or better yet, go wander your nearest conifer forest, identify you local coral root variety, and if it’s not endangered, dig yourself up some anxiety relief and lung-healing rhizomes.
It’s worth noting, additionally, that when digging up a rhizome ball, I take all of the ‘buds’ and replant them. These are thick, thumb-like nodes on the finger-ball. They are bulbous and often have a small ‘spike’ on them, which is an immature shoot poised to sprout out of the node. I try to leave these buds with a small amount of rhizomes still attached and replant them in the area so I don’t impede on my local coral root’s population.
the coralroot undisturbed.
I can only assume that this was a successful symbiotic relationship. It was the largest, healthiest patch of coral root I’ve ever seen, and the ants seemed to be flourishing as well. I have to wonder if ant feces or carcasses fed nutrients to the rhizomes, or if said waste fed mycelium that fed the rhizomes. Or perhaps the ants themselves offered supportive nutrition to the coral root via bodily fluids or intentional delivery of physical nutrients. I’d really like to know! It was a fascinating discovery!