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 Herbal Materia Medica: Blood Root  
Sanguinaria canadensis


Names : Red Root, Red Indian Paint, Tetterwort.

Habitat : N. America and Canada.

Collection : The rhizome is unearthed in early summer (May to June) or in autumn when the leaves have dried. It should be dried carefully in the shade.

Part Used : Dried rhizome

Constituents :

  • Isoquinoline alkaloids, including sanguinarine (:1%), chelerythrine, sanguidaridine, oxysanguinaridine, sanguilutine, berberine, coptisine, chelilutine, protopine, sanguidimerine, sanguirubine, [[alpha]]-and [[beta]]-allocryptopine and others.
Actions : Expectorant, anti-spasmodic, emetic, cathartic, nervine, cardio-active, topical irritant.

Indications : Blood root finds its main use in the treatment ofbronchitis. Whilst the stimulating properties show in its power as an emetic and expectorant, it demonstrates a relaxing action on the bronchial muscles. It thus has a role in the treatment of asthma, croup and also laryngitis. However, by far the most important contributionSanguinaria has to make is in chronic congestive conditions of the lungs including chronic bronchitis, emphysema andbronchiectasis. It acts as a stimulant in cases of deficient peripheral circulation. It may be used as a snuff in the treatment of nasal polypi.

Ellingwood considered it specific for "harsh, dry cough with relaxed tissues of the pharynx, larynx and bronchi, with a sense of constriction and constant irritation and uneasiness or tickling of the throat. "In addition he recommends it for the following pathologies : congestion of the lungs, bronchial coughs, stridulous laryngitis, membranous croup; externally for otitis media, indolentulcerative conditions, nasal catarrh, anal fissure, epithelioma, lupus.

King's Dispensatory describes this herb as being specifically indicated in the following symptom picture: "Sensation of burning and itching of mucous membrane, especially of fauces, pharynx, Eustachian tubes and ears; less frequently of larynx, trachea, and bronchia, occasionally of stomach and rectum, and rarely of vagina and urethra. The mucous membrane looks red and irritable. Sometimes the redness will be of the end of the nose. Nervousness, redness of nose, with acrid discharge, burning and constriction in fauces of pharynx, with irritative cough and difficult respiration."

Combinations : It combines well with Horehound and Elecampane for congestive complaints. In pharyngitis it combines well with Red Sage and a pinch of Cayenne.

Preparations & Dosage : Decoction: put l teaspoonful of the rhizomein a cup of cold water, bring to the boil and leave to infuse for l0 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Citations from the Medline database for the genus Sanguinaria

Blood RootFrankos VH Brusick DJ Johnson EM Maibach HI Munro I Squire RA Weil CSSafety of Sanguinaria extract as used in commercial toothpaste and oral rinse products.

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):41-7Hannah JJ Johnson JD Kuftinec MM Long-term clinical evaluation of toothpaste and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract in controlling plaque, gingival inflammation, and sulcularbleeding during orthodontic treatment.

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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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