Aruncus is a very small genus of herbaceous flowering plants placed in the rose family. The common name “goatsbeard” is used in reference to the species in this genus. In addition to being grown ornamentally in some regions of the world, Aruncus species also have medicinal applications. Stores that carry herbal medicines may stock products made with this plant in addition to carrying dried roots for people who prefer to prepare their own herbal medicines.
This genus is very widely distributed across the world, and the plants are tolerant of a wide range of conditions. They have low growth habit, although they can spread quite wide when they are left uninterrupted. The small, simple green leaves appear on branching, fleshy stems, and the plant produces an array of white to cream flowers on spikes in the spring and summer. The flowers develop into small, poisonous seeds.
Gardeners can cultivate Aruncus species if they are between United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones four and nine. In the warmer end of this range, the plants tend to prefer shade, while plants in cooler areas can tolerate partial shade and full sun. The soil should be rich and well drained, worked with some organic material to promote drainage and provide nutrients to the growing plants. Aruncus species can make good groundcover, especially in a woodland garden, and they can also be grown as specimen plantings.
These plants can be started from seed in a greenhouse in the early spring, allowing people to plant out seedlings as soon as the last chance of frost has passed. In many regions, Aruncus can be grown as a perennial, and it will reseed itself unless the flowers are removed after blooming. In areas where the climate is very cold, the plants may need to be grown as annuals. Trimming and pinching back can encourage the plants to grow in a more compact, aesthetically pleasing shape.
The roots of Aruncus plants are used in a variety of herbal preparations. A paste made with the roots can soothe skin pain and irritation and is sometimes recommended for bee stings. Tinctures are used for the treatment of cramps, internal bleeding, and nausea. As with all herbal medicines, it is important to check with a doctor before using Aruncus products, as there may be contraindications or concerns. A doctor can conduct an evaluation to check for other causes of symptoms being treated with goatsbeard and can confirm the safety of these products for use in a given patient.