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 Herbal Materia Medica: Snake Root  
Polygala senega


Names: Senega Snake Root

Habitat: USA


Part Used: Rhizome.


  • Triterpenoid saponins based on the aglyuconespresenegenin, senegenin, hydroxysenegin, polygalacic acid and senegenic acid.
  • Phenolic acids; p-coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, p-methoxycinnamic.
  • Polygalitol, a sorbitol derivative
  • Miscellaneous; methyl salicylate, sterols, fats.
Actions: Expectorant, diaphoretic, sialogogue, emetic.

Indications: Snake Root comes to us from the Seneca nation of Native Americans, who used it for a range of problems including snake bites. It has excellent expectorant effects which may be utilized in the treatment of bronchitic asthma, especially where there is some difficulty with expectoration. It has a general power of stimulating secretion, including saliva. It may be used as a mouthwash and gargle in the treatment of pharyngitis and laryngitis. If too much is taken it acts in a way that will irritate the lining of the gut and cause vomiting.

A quote from Ellingwood will be highly suggestive of the possibilities offered: " The agent is indicated in typhoid pneumonitis, capillary bronchitis, in aged and debilitated subjects, chronic bronchitis with profuse secretion, in the declining stages of pnuemonitis, bronchitis and croup, when the inflammatory condition has passed off, chronic bronchitis with pain and soreness in the chest and asthma. The agent is in use in the treatment of dropsy from obstruction and glandular enlargement, also in rheumatism, syphilis, squamous skin diseases and in amenorrhoea. In inflammation of the eyelids and iritis it is beneficial. Snake Root has been employed as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, in aged and debilitated subjects, where a stimulating medicine is demanded and in the later stages of pneumonia and catarrhal inflammation. In these cases, given in small doses, it improves secretion, removes abnormal deposits and restores the strength. It is an energetic stimulant to the mucous membranes of the air passages; and, when given before the inflammation has subsided, aggravates the cough and does harm. Given in small doses, it also acts as an alterative, and may thus be given in dropsy from obstruction, in syphilis, and in squamous skin diseases. In the treatment of chronic asthma this is an efficient remedy."

Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1/2 teaspoonful of the dried root and leave to infuse for 5-l0 minutes. Drink one cup three times a day. Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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