Herbs & Plants

Pinkroot, Indian Pink

Botanical Name: Spigelia merilandica

Family: Loganiaceae

Other Names: Indian Pink, Maryland Pink, Pinkroot, Wormgrass, American Wormgrass, American Wormroot, Starbloom

Parts Used : Root

Caution : Toxic! Useful only to experienced herbalists familiar with its use.

Southeastern N. American native perennial herb, found in rich woods from New Jersey to Florida and west to Texas and Wisconsin, primarily in the Southern States.

Long ago, the pinkroot herb grew in Maryland (in the northern parts of the United States), but it now grows only in the wild in the Deep South of North America. However, owing to the noted adverse side affects of the herb it is no longer in use and is hardly collected by anyone.

Description:The pinkroot is a perpetually growing herb that is distinct for its ornamental flowers. The plant usually grows up to a height of one to two feet and has a number of four-sided smooth and purple colored stems each of which end with a single sided barb containing four to twelve decorative flowers.


Indian Pink is fast disappearing, due to over harvesting. The leaves are pointed, stemless, alternate and opposite growing from 2 to 4 inches long, and up to 3 inches wide. The showy flowers are tube-shaped, bright scarlet red outside, opening into a bright yellow 5 pointed star, flowers bloom from May to July atop a smooth simple erect stem from 6 inches to 2 feet high. The roots are rhizome, knotty and dark-brown externally, with many thin, long, wiry rootlets attached to it, marked with scars of the stems of former years, internally the rhizome is whitish, with a darkbrown pith. Collect rootstock, after the flowers fade. The root is best used when fresh but can be harvested in the autumn then dried for herb use.

Cultivation: A very ornamental plant, Indian Pink succeeds in most fertile soils in semi-shade, transplant root cuttings in rich well drained soil. It’s best sited to well-drained, organic soil that receives good light but not direct sun. The north or east side of a house makes a good location. Once established, the plant will form a clump that will gradually get a foot or so across. Plants should be watered during dry weather.

Spigelia is available from the nursery trade, but you have to hunt to find it. It can be propagated by cuttings with the slips taken in the spring as they emerge. Care must be exercised to prevent them from rotting during the rooting stage. Seed does not seem to be readily available in the trade.

Constituents:The pinkroot herb encloses alkaloids (primarily spigeline), a volatile oil, tannin (a plant chemical used in tanning) and resin. It may be noted here that spigeline not only causes irritation, but also induces a vomiting tendency in the stomach.

The pinkroot also holds a bitter and pungent substance that is soluble in water as well as alcohol, but not soluble in ether (an organic amalgam related to the hydrocarbon group). The herb also encloses little quantity of wax, fat, mucilage (a thick water-based blend), albumen, myricin, a viscid (a thick and sticky substance), saccharine material, lignin (a composite polymer found in plant cell walls), sodium salts, potassium and calcium. It may be mentioned here that the effects of the venomous alkaloid spigeline present in pinkroot is similar to those of nicotine, coniine and lobeline.

Medicinal Properties and Uses:
Pink Root, was being used medicinally by the Native Americans long before America was even discovered. Long used as an alternative medicine its proven medicinal constituents are Spigeline, Lignin, tannin, albumen, and myricin. Some of these are showing promise as antiHIV, anticancer and anticoronary. Other medicinal properties include antibacterial, antidiarrheic, antioxidant, antiviral, anthelmintic, and laxative. It is most popular as an anthelmintic and is most potent for tapeworm and for the round worm. It is a safe and efficient drug, if administered in proper doses and always followed by a saline aperient, such as magnesium sulphate. Otherwise unpleasant and serious side effects may occur. Said to be narcotic in large doses, causing increased heart action, dizziness, vertigo, disturbed vision, muscular spasms, convulsions and possibly death.

Although the pinkroot is reported to have several remedial uses, presently herbal practitioners use the herb primarily to throw out worms, especially tapeworms and roundworms, from the intestines. In fact, herbalists also recommend the use of pinkroot along with other herbs like senna and fennel with a view to make certain the removal of both the worms and the root too. It may be mentioned here that the root of the pinkroot herb is said to be potentially noxious if it is absorbed by the stomach.

It may be mentioned here that the natives of America have been using the pinkroot to cure several ailments much before Columbus discovered America. Chemical analysis of the pinkroot has shown that it comprises proved medical elements like spigeline, lignin, tannin, albumin and myricin. Latest researches conducted on pinkroot have shown that some of these ingredients have properties that may be used to treat HIV, cancer and coronary ailments. The other remedial properties of pinkroot consist of anti-bacterial, anti-diarrheic, antioxidant, anthelmintic and laxative. The herb is accepted most for its anthelmintic properties and is considered to be a very powerful medication for tapeworm and roundworm. Normally, the pinkroot is considered to be a protected and effective medicine provided it is administered in the right dosage and always pursued by a saline aperient like magnesium sulphate.

However, if the administration of the drug is not followed by any saline aperient, it may often lead to horrid and grave side effects. If taken in large doses, the pinkroot is said to produce narcotic effects that may cause enhanced heart action, giddiness, lightheadedness or vertigo, unclear or diffused vision, muscular spasms, convulsions and even prove to be fatal.

It is interesting to note that the Cherokee and other native North Indian tribes used the pinkroot as a sacrament or ceremonial herb to help induce visions as well as predict the future. At the same time, the herb was also used as venom during some suicidal rituals.

Pinkroot Dosage Information
Pinkroot comes in various forms and can be an ingredient in some products. Due to its strong actions, it is best to consult with your physician for the treatment of your condition.

Suriname’s traditional medicine:
The plant is used against headache, throbbing pain, neuralgia, stabbing violent pain, vermifuge, congestion and as an expeller of intestinal worms.

Other medical uses:

Used by the Cherokee and other American Indians tribes as a ritual and ceremonial herb to induce visions and foretell the future. Also used as poison in some suicidal ceremonies.

Pinkroot Safety & Interaction Information:
Pinkroot is emetic and can irritate the stomach. Due to its toxicity, caution should be used. It is possible to have side effects such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, blurred or dimmed vision, and convulsion while taking Pinkroot. If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue use. Not for use by small children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease.
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.


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