Herbs & Plants

Aristolochia Serpentaria

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Botanical Name :Aristolochia Serpentaria
Family: Aristolochiaceae
Genus: Aristolochia
Species: A. serpentaria
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Piperales

Common Names: Aristolochia reticulata. Serpentatiae Rhizoma. Serpentary Rhizome. Serpentary Radix. Virginian Snakeroot. Aristolochia officinalis. Aristolochia sagittata. Endodeca Bartonii. Endodeca Serpentaria. Snakeweed. Red River or Texas Snakeroot. Pelican Flower. Virginia serpentaria. Snagrel. Sangrel. Sangree. Radix Colubrina. Radix Viperina.

Habitat : Aristolochia Serpentaria  is native to eastern North America, from Connecticut to southern Michigan and south to Texas and Florida.

Aristolochia serpentaria is a perennial herb, growing in rich, shady woods, the roots being collected in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, where it is packed in bales containing about 100 lb., often mixed with leaves, stems and dirt.

It has a short, horizontal rhizome, giving off numerous long, slender roots below. The flowers are peculiar, growing from the joints near the root and drooping until they are nearly buried in the earth or in their dried leaves. They are small, and brownish-purple in colour. Attempts at cultivation are being made, as the rather large use of serpentaria has caused the drug to become scarcer. A specimen was grown in an English garden as far back as 1632. There is one in cultivation at Kew, but it has not flowered there. The genus Endodeca was defined from this species, but it has no characters to distinguish it. Serpentaria has a yellowish or brownish colour, and both smell and taste are aromatic and resemble a mixture of valerian and camphor. Several kinds are cultivated in hothouses for the singularity and, in some cases, the handsome appearance of their flowers, though their colours are usually dingy. The bent shape causes some blossoms to act as a fly-trap. A. sipho, a native of the Alleghany Mountains, is cultivated as an outdoor climbing plant, for the sake of its large leaves, the shape of its flowers inspiring the name of Pipe-Vine or Dutchman’s Pipe.

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Many species of Aristolochia have been employed in medicine, the classical name being first applied to A. Clematitis and A. rotunda, from their supposedemmenagogue properties. A. serpentaria and A. reticulata, or Texas Snakeroot, differ slightly in leaves and flowers, the latter having a slightly coarser root. Both are recognized as official in the United States of America.

Virginia snakeroot is considered an endangered species in New York, where no reports of the species were made for the century between 1895 and 1994, when it was rediscovered in the Hudson Highlands. Since then, other scattered populations have been observed in the state.

The plant is also rare in Connecticut, where it is on that state’s list of species of special concern. In Michigan, its status is “Threatened

Constituents : A volatile oil in the proportion of about 1/2 per cent, and a bitterprinciple – Aristolochin – an amorphous substance of yellow colour and bitter and slightly acrid taste, soluble in both water and alcohol. The medicinal properties are due to these two substances, but the root also contains tannic acid, resin, gum, sugar, etc.

A more recent analysis gives volatile oil, resin, a yellow, bitter principle considered analagous to the bitter principle of quassia, gum, starch, albumen, lignin, malate and phosphate of lime, oxide of iron and silica.

About 1/2 OZ. of the oil is furnished by 100 lb. of the root, the coarser, A. reticulata, yielding rather more. The resinous aristinic acid has been obtained from a number of species, including A. serpentaria. The alkaloid Aristolochine, found in several varieties, requires fuller investigation.

Medicinal Action and Uses : Stimulant, tonic and diaphoretic, properties resembling those of valerian and cascarilla. Too large doses occasion nausea, griping pains in the bowels, sometimes vomiting and dysenteric tenesmus. In small doses, it promotesthe appetite, toning up the digestive organs. It has been recommended in intermittent fevers, when it may be useful as an adjunct to quinine. In full doses it produces increased arterial action, diaphoresis, and frequently diuresis. In eruptive fevers where the eruption is tardy, or in the typhoid stage where strong stimulants cannot be borne, it may be very valuable. An infusion is an effective gargle in putrid sore-throat. It benefits sufferers from dyspepsia and amenorrhoea.

Long boiling impairs its virtues. A cold infusion is useful in convalescence from acute diseases.

It is probable that as it does not disturb the bowels, it may often be used where Guaiacum is not easily tolerated, for stimulating capillary circulation and promoting recovery in chronic forms of gouty inflammation.

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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