Golden Ragwort

Botanical Name : Packera aurea
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Packera
Species: P. aurea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names: Life Root,Golden Ragwort, Squaw Weed, Golden Sececio, ragwort, uncum root, waw weed, uncum, false valerian, cough weed, female regulator, cocash weed, ragweed, staggerwort, and St. James wort.

Habitat :Golden Ragwort is native to eastern North America, from Labrador to Minnesota and from North Carolina to Arkansas (with additional populations in the panhandle of Florida).Grows in swamps, wet meadows and moist woods

Description:
This is a herbaceous plant, it is a perennial which can reach 80cm in height (31inches). The plant often spreads via creeping branches or stolons. Young plant may be slightly hairy but becomes glabrous.
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Leaves: The leaves are alternate. The basal leaves are heart shaped with blunt teeth and a long petioles. The stem leaves are smaller, clasping the stem or at least without petioles and deeply, pinnately lobed. The leaves are variable.

Flowers: The flowers have numerous parts and are up to 2.5cm wide (1 inches). They are golden yellow. Blooms first appear in mid spring and continue into late spring. The flowers are in a flattened terminal cluster. The phyllarys have red or purple tips

Medicinal Uses:
Herbalists have prescribed the plant for the treatment of urinary tract problems such as kidney stones.  It is used as a douche for excessive vaginal discharge.  As a uterine tonic, Life Root may be used safely wherever strengthening and aid are called for. Useful for menopausal disturbances of any kind. Also useful for delayed or suppressed menstruation. For leucorrhoea it can be used as a douche. It has a reputation as a general tonic for debilitated states and conditions such as tuberculosis.  While often stated to be completely safe to use, recent research has found that the plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that, in isolation, can cause liver damage.  The roots and leaves are abortifacient, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, pectoral, stimulant and uterine tonic. It is used externally in the treatment of vaginal discharge.  A tea made from the plant was frequently used by the N. American Indians as a remedy for various female troubles, including the pain of childbirth. Pharmacologists have not reported any uterine effects, but the plant does contain an essential oil (inuline) plus the alkaloids senecine and senecionine (which are poisonous to grazing animals).

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In contemporary times, P. aurea is not much used due to its saturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can cause liver veno-occlusive disease upon metabolism. If used, a PA-free extract would be required for safe use for more than a two week course.

Life root, as it was called by the Eclectics was used as a uterine tonic. It is an ingredient in Lydia Pinkham‘s compound.

The plant was an important treatment among the Native Americans and among the Eclectic medicine physicians for reproductive conditions. Scudder wrote:

The Senecio exerts a specific influence upon the reproductive organs of the female, and to a less extent upon the male. It relieves irritation and strengthens functional activity. Hence it has acquired the reputation of a “uterine tonic.” It may be prescribed in all cases in which there is an atonic condition of ovaries or uterus, with derangement of function. It makes little difference whether it is amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea or menorrhagia, or whether it takes the form of increased mucous or purulent secretion, or displacement. The remedy acts slowly, and sufficient time must be given. In the male we prescribe it in cases of fullness and weight in the perineum, dragging sensations in the testicle, and difficult or tardy urination. in both male and female we sometimes use it with advantage in painful micturition with tenesmus.

Herbalist may still recommend a root tea from this plant for some conditions such as urinary problems. It has been studied and found to have little if any value for urinary problems. It is known to increase blood pressure and stimulate uterine contractions. In any case, this plant should not be consumed due to the toxic alkaloid pyrrolizidine it contains.

Known hazards:This plant may contain highly toxic alkaloids associated with liver damage and cancer.

Disclaimer:
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.

Resources:
http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H280.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packera_aurea
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_LMN.htm

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