What is Orris Root?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Orris root, also known as Iris germanica or German iris, is the root of a particular iris which is sometimes used for its fragrance as well as its curative properties. With a violet scent, this root is also sometimes used as a breath freshener. Medicinally, Orris root was once widely used to treat bronchitis, the common cold, sore throat, diarrhea and heart ailments. While not used in herbal medicine too often in modern times, it is still popular for creating potpourri and other crafts, toothpaste, and perfumes. It is also used to create a unique Moroccan spice blend known as ras el hanout.

The iris flowers from which Orris root hail are primarily grown in the Mediterranean, North Africa, India and parts of southern Europe. At one time, it was widely available for purchase in American pharmacies, as it was used for medicinal purposes until approximately the 1950s. Now, primarily available for purchase from online vendors or from merchants that specialize in the sale of herbs and spices, the root of Iris germanica can be obtained whole and ground at home, can be purchased in powder extract form or can be purchased as an essential oil. Sometimes, the root is used to make a tincture comparable in taste to raspberry. Orris root powder can also be used to add a refreshing scent to linens after they have been laundered.


Some who prefer the use of herbal remedies have found this root to be beneficial for the treatment of multiple ailments. With anti-inflammatory properties, Orris root is believed to help reduce swelling that accompanies a sore throat. It may also help reduce swelling in airways that present breathing difficulties in individuals stricken with bronchitis. In past generations, it was even used in the treatment of congestive heart failure.

Orris root is also commonly used in creating wreaths and pomander balls during winter holiday months. Its pleasant aroma helps fragrant crafts maintain and prolong a holiday scent. Often, it is also combined with the scent of cinnamon when used for winter crafts.

Orris root is sometimes used by individuals who practice witchcraft and voodoo. While both of these belief systems utilize various herbs for magic and other rituals, Orris root in particular is believed to be useful as a type of love potion that attracts the affections of a particular individual. Those who practice witchcraft and voodoo also use the root for its fragrant violet scent.



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