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Botanical Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
Species: S. canadensis
Common Names: Bloodwort, Redroot, Red puccoon, Pauson Tetterwort, although that name is also used to refer to Chelidonium majus.
Parts Used: Root and rhizome
Habitat: Bloodroot is native to eastern North America. It grows in Rich woods. Across Canada to Nova Scotia; south from New England to Florida; west to Eastern Texas; north to Manitoba.
Bloodroot is a perennial, herbaceous flowering plant. It grows from 20 to 50 cm (7.9 to 19.7 in) tall. It has one large basal leaf, up to 12 cm (4.7 in) across, with five to nine lobes. The leaves and flowers sprout from a reddish rhizome with bright orange sap that grows at or slightly below the soil surface. The rhizomes grow longer each year, and branch to form colonies. Plants start to bloom before the foliage unfolds in early spring. After blooming the leaves expand to their full size and go summer dormant in mid to late summer.
The flowers bloom from March to May depending on the region and weather. They have 8-12 delicate white petals and yellow stamens, and two sepals below the petals, which fall off after the flowers open. The flower stems are clasped by the leaves. The flowers are pollinated by small bees and flies. Seeds develop in green pods 40 to 60 mm (1.6 to 2.4 in) long, and ripen before the foliage goes dormant. The seeds are round and black to orange-red when ripe, and have white elaiosomes, which are eaten by ants.
Bloodroot is cultivated as an ornamental plant. The double-flowered forms are prized by gardeners for their large showy white flowers, which are produced very early in the gardening season. Bloodroot flower petals are shed within a day or two of pollination so the flower display is short lived, but the double forms bloom much longer than the normal forms. The double flowers are made up of stamens that have been changed into petal looking like parts, making pollination more difficult.
American Indians used root tea for rheumatism, asthma, bronchitis, lung ailments, laryngitis, fevers; also as an emetic. Root juice applied to warts; also used as a dye and a decorative skin stain.
A bachelor of the Ponca tribe would rub a piece of the root as a love charm on the palm of his hand, then scheme to shake hands with the woman he desired to marry. After shaking hands, the girl would be found willing to marry him in 5 to 6 days.
One of the earliest reported uses of bloodroot, or puccoon, as it was then commonly known, was a dye. John Smith reported in 1612 that “Pocones is a small roote that groweth in the mountaines, which being dryed and beate in powder turneth red; and this they use for swellings, aches, annointing their joints, painting their heads and garments . . . and at night where his lodging is appointed, they set a woman fresh painted red with Pocones and oile, to be his bedfellow.”
Constituents: Sanguinarine, Sanguidimerine, Cholerythrine, Protopine, Berberine, Copticine, Red resin.The root contains several alkaloids, most notably sanguinarine, which has shown antiseptic, anesthetic and anticancer activity. American Indians used the root for rhuematism, asthma, bronchitis, lung ailments, laryngyitis and fevers. The red-orange juice from the root was applied to warts, used as a dye and a decorative skin stain.
Medicinal Properties: Antiseptic, antispasmodic, cathartic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, sedative, stimulant, and tonic.
Bloodroot has been used as a diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant, and tonic. Bloodroot has been used historically in numerous topical preparations for the treatment of various skin cancers, and also for sores, warts, eczema, and other dermal & epidermal problems. It has also been used internally in herbal preparations for congestive lung conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Studies find that sanguinarine, a compound found in bloodroot, kills bacteria, stops them from converting carbohydrates into gum tissue-eating acid, and blocks enzymes that destroy collagen in gum tissue. Some studies have shown small amounts to be even more effective in reducing dental plaque than chlorhexidine, the active ingredient in mouthwashes and the effects can last up to 4 hours. Some companies are now making toothpaste and mouthwash using it as an active ingredient. The root in a vinegar extract makes a very good antifungal wash for athlete’s foot. Prepared as a powder, bloodroot may be sniffed to treat nasal polyps.
The paste of the root has been recommended to remove warts and the powder is used in a number of cancer salves (a process too complicated for this monograph). Carcinomas of the human nose and ear have responded to topical treatment with a preparation containing bloodroot extract.
It is used when bronchitis, sub-acute or chronic asthma, croup, laryngitis, pharyngitis and deficient capillary (blood) circulation is indicated. It is used as a specific for asthma and bronchitis with feeble peripheral blood circulation.
Bloodroot has been used for many years by American Indians and herbal practitioners as a remedy for skin cancer. The fresh juice from the root, a concentrated tincture, or a salve containing capsicum and fresh juice concentrate has been used.
Contraindications: In some cases, excessive doses of Bloodroot can cause low blood pressure, vertigo, tremors, vomiting, reduced pulse, shock, and coma. Large doses can be poisonous.
Some experts recommend the following doses:
Steep a level teaspoonful of the fresh root into a pint of boiling water for half an hour. Strain. When cold, take a teaspoonful 3 times a day.
As a tincture (1:5 in 60% alcohol), 2 drops three times a day.
As an extract (1:1 in 60% alcohol), 1 drop three times a day.
Commercial uses of sanguinarine and bloodroot extract include dental hygiene products. The United States FDA has approved the inclusion of sanguinarine in toothpastes as an antibacterial or anti-plaque agent. However, the use of bloodroot in oral hygiene products is associated with the development of oral leukoplakia, a premalignant lesion which may develop into oral cancer. On 24 Nov 2003, the Colgate-Palmolive Company of Piscataway, New Jersey, United States commented by memorandum to the United States Food and Drug Administration that then-proposed rules for levels of sanguinarine in mouthwash and dental wash products were lower than necessary. However, this conclusion is controversial.
Some animal food additives sold and distributed in Europe such as Phytobiotics’ Sangrovit contain sanguinarine and chelerythrine. On 14 May 2003, Cat Holmes reported in Georgia Faces that Jim Affolter and Selima Campbell, horticulturists at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, were meeting with Phytobiotics to relate their research into commercial cultivation of bloodroot.
Bloodroot is a popular red natural dye used by Native American artists, especially among southeastern rivercane basketmakers. The blood of the root (when cut open) was used as a dye. A break in the surface of the plant, especially the roots, reveals a reddish sap.
Warning! Bloodroot is dangerous. It should only be used with
guidance of a trained herbalist or physician.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.