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 Blood Root :
Herbal Medicine Materia Medica
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.

Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop (1989 Sep) 96(3):199-207Harkrader RJ Reinhart PC Rogers JA Jones RR Wylie RE 2d Lowe BK McEvoy RMThe history, chemistry and pharmacokinetics of Sanguinaria extract.

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):7-12Harper DS Mueller LJ Fine JB Gordon J Laster LL Effect of 6 months use of a dentifrice and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract and zinc chloride upon the microflora of the dental plaque and oral soft tissues.

J Periodontol (1990 Jun) 61(6):359-63Harper DS Mueller LJ Fine JB Gordon J Laster LL Clinical efficacy of a dentifrice and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract and zinc chloride during 6 months of use.

J Periodontol (1990 Jun) 61(6):352-8Karjalainen K Kaivosoja S Seppa S Knuuttila M Effects of sanguinaria extract on leucocytes and fibroblasts.

Proc Finn Dent Soc (1988) 84(3):161-5Kopczyk RA Abrams H Brown AT Matheny JL Kaplan AL Clinical and microbiological effects of a sanguinaria-containing mouthrinse and dentifrice with and without fluoride during 6 months of use.

J Periodontol (1991 Oct) 62(10):617-22Kuftinec MM Mueller-Joseph LJ Kopczyk RA Sanguinaria toothpaste and oral rinse regimen clinical efficacy in short-and long-term trials.

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):31-3Laster LL Lobene RR New perspectives on Sanguinaria clinicals: individual toothpaste and oralrinse testing.

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):19-30Lobene RR Soparkar PM Newman MB The effects of a sanguinaria dentrifice on plaque and gingivitis.

Compend Contin Educ Dent (1986) Suppl 7:S185-8Mallatt ME Beiswanger BB Drook CA Stookey GK Jackson RD Bricker SL Clinical effect of a sanguinaria dentifrice on plaque and gingivitis in adults.

J Periodontol (1989 Feb) 60(2):91-5Miller RA McIver JE Gunsolley JC Effects of sanguinaria extract on plaque retention and gingivalhealth.

J Clin Orthod (1988 May) 22(5):304-7Nikiforuk G The Sanguinaria story--an update and new perspectives (overview of theToronto symposium).

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):5-6Parsons LG Thomas LG Southard GL Woodall IR Jones BJ Effect of sanguinaria extract on established plaque and gingivitis when supragingivally delivered as a manual rinse or under pressure in an oralirrigator.

J Clin Periodontol (1987 Aug) 14(7):381-5Schwartz HG Safety profile of sanguinarine and sanguinaria extract.

Compend Contin Educ Dent (1986) Suppl 7:S212-7Southard GL Harkrader RJ Greene JA Efficacy and compatibility of a toothpaste containing sanguinaria extract and fluoride.

Compend Contin Educ Dent (1986) Suppl 7:S189-92Southard GL Parsons LG Thomas LG Woodall IR Jones BJ Effect of sanguinaria extract on development of plaque and gingivitis when supragingivally delivered as a manual rinse or under pressure in an oralirrigator [published erratum appears in J Clin Periodontol 1988Jan;15(1):83]

J Clin Periodontol (1987 Aug) 14(7):377-80Walker C Effects of sanguinarine and Sanguinaria extract on the microbiota associated with the oral cavity.

J Can Dent Assoc (1990) 56(7 Suppl):13-30

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 About The Author
Whilst 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......moreDavid Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH
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