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Iris (Iris versicolor)

What is Iris?

The iris flower is a popular garden flower for its unconventional shape and vibrant colors — often resembling something more along the lines of an orchid than your standard garden variety flowers.

Medicinally, iris root is predominantly used as a lymphatic. The herb stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system with a particularly strong effect on the liver and gall bladder.

This bitter-tasting herb is used to promote the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder to remove stones and improve digestion.

Other uses include supporting various skin conditions (like psoriasis and eczema), and as a mild laxative.

Iris should be used under the guidance of an experienced herbal medicine practitioner because the herb will cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and general malaise if too much is taken or if the herb is used for too long. Most herbalists will combine iris in small amounts with other herbs to help reduce the chances of experiencing these side effects.

Common Names of Iris

  • Blue Flag
  • Harlequin Blue flag
  • Iris
  • Poison Flag
  • Sweet Flag

Herbal Actions of Iris

  • Alterative
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Astringent
  • Bitter
  • Cholagogue
  • Choleretic
  • Diuretic
  • Hepatic
  • Laxative (mild)
  • Lymphatic
  • Pancreatic trophorestorative

Safety & Contraindications

Iris root is considered an emetic (makes you vomit) and mucous membrane irritant in higher doses. Therefore, the herb should be used in low doses to avoid side effects like nausea, vomiting, mucous membrane irritation, and diarrhea.

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