An introduction to orris root: What is it and how should you use it?
Orris root or, to give it its scientific name, Rhizoma iridis, is taken from various species of the Iris flower. Itself part of the Iridaceae family, the Iris genus includes more than 300 different varieties, all of which are perennials. Widespread across Asia, North America and Europe, the Iris boasts attractive flowers which are often purple in colour – but there’s more to this plant than meets the eye.
What is orris root and how is it harvested?
Orris root is generally taken from one of a handful of different Iris varieties, including the Pallida, Germanica or Florentina. Otherwise known as the plant’s rhizome or bulb, the root has a wide range of perceived medicinal benefits (we’ll get to them later).
Harvesting orris root and making it ready to use is no mean feat. The plant has to be at least three to four years old before its root can be harvested, and this has to be left to dry for a further period of time (often years) before it fully dries out. It can then either be used whole or ground to create orris root powder, which is what we offer here at Mimea.
History and trivia
The name ‘Iris’ is taken from the Greek goddess of the rainbow, referring to all of the possible colours that Iris flowers can appear in. But what about orris? It’s thought that this is simply an alternative spelling or pronunciation of Iris which, somehow, has stuck to this day (although now it’s only used to refer to the root).
Like many dried botanicals, orris root doesn’t just have one name: it’s also been nicknamed Queen Elizabeth Root, albeit not after the Queen Elizabeth we’re familiar with. Instead, this is meant to refer to Queen Jezebel, who appeared in the Old Testament; she was thought to be married to King Ahab, who then presided over the Kingdom of Israel.
How is it used?
Dried orris root or powder has a wide range of potential uses. It’s often added to herbal teas alongside other botanicals, to create herbal medicines or in the creation of scented products. Orris root has historically been used for a variety of different things, including:
- As an addition to potpourri, which can prolong fragrances to make potpourri bowls last longer
- To stabilise and bind different flavours together in gin production
- To add to beauty products like peeling creams or exfoliants; the powder works well as an exfoliating grain
- Historically, orris root was used to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, toothaches, muscle and joint pains, digestive problems and much more (although scientific research is limited to support these uses).
Interested in trying orris root for yourself? Order our convenient peeled powder in various quantities online today.