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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Coonroot, Indian Paint, Paint Root, Paucon, Pauson, Red Indian Paint, Red Puccoon, Red Root,
Sanguinaria, Snakebite, Sweet Slumber, Tetterwort, White Puccoon, Yellow Puccoon

(Sanguinaria canadense)


Not to be used without medical supervision!.
• Root is caustic and an irritant to mucous membranes, causing
burning, nausea, vomiting, intense thirst, faintness, vertigo,
and vision impairment!
• Will cause vomiting even in moderate doses!
• Used by professionals in very small doses as OVERDOSE CAN BE FATAL!
• Excess depresses the Central Nervous System!
• NOT to be used by pregnant or lactating women.
• SEEDS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! Contain a violent narcotic which
produces fever, delirium, dilated pupils and other symptoms of poisoning.

CONTAINS: Alkaloids make up 1% of the total of which there are also opium-like alkaloids.
Sanguinarine, protopine (also found in opium), allocryptopine, orysanguinarine, homochelidonine, sanguindimerine, cholerythine, chelerythrine, berberine, whelidonine, chelidone acid, red resin, starch..
NOTE: Sanguinarine is an alkaloid which is antibacterial, preventing bacteria from converting carbohydrates into aced which eats into gum tissue; also blocks enzymes that destroy collagen in gum tissue. In Europe it has been used to make gums less sensitive. It also stimulates respiration, increases blood pressure, causes an increase in salivation, and increases intestinal peristalsis.

Native to eastern North America from Nova Scotia south to Florida and west to Nebraska. Flower (closes at night or on overcast days) is solitary, waxy white with 8 to 10 petals (2 to 4 inches across), growing in a whorl, and with golden-yellow stamens and a lightly cup-shaped corolla; leaves are deeply cleft, palmate, with orange veins beneath the paler underside, on a single stem which arises from a bud at the end of the thick, horizontal rhizome and which clasps the flower bud in the early stages of growth; fruit is a 1 inch long, 2-valved seed pod containing a number of reddish-brown, oval seeds. Sap is present in the entire plant, but of the deepest color in the root which is thick and with fine rootlets.

It's common name is derived from the similarity to blood of the red-orange sap oozing from the root.
Official in the USP from 1820 to 1926 as a stimulating expectorant and in the NF from 1926 to 1965.

An intriguing practice was reported by John Smith in 1612 concerning Native Americans. A male guest would be given a bed, then a native woman, painted with bloodroot and oil would be sent to him as a bedfellow. In 1729, Byrd's survey party also encountered this custom. He stated that the ruffles of the men's shirts were often tinged with red in the morning, much to the annoyance of the accompanying chaplain.

Astrologically ruled by Venus and assigned to Scorpio.

PROPAGATION: By seed in autumn (best planted fresh) and by division after flowering. Perennial to zone 3.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in part to full shade and moisture retentive, humusy soil which is on the sandy side with a pH of 4.8 to 8.2.
HARVEST: Rootstock is lifted in autumn. For dye use fresh (8 oz. chopped root to 4¼ gallons water).
PART USED MEDICINALLY: Rootstock which is dried and used for liquid extracts, oinments, and tinctures.
Dried rootstock, when powdered, causes sneezing and irritation of the nasal passages. The dried root loses its properties quickly when powdered, so should be kept in as whole a state as possible during storage.
SOLVENT: Alcohol, water
FLOWERS: Early spring.
S.c. 'Plena'
S.c. 'Multiplex' (double flowered)


Affects heart, lungs, liver. Bitter (extremely so), acrid, alterative, warming, cathartic, emetic, expectorant, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, antispasmodic, nervine, sialagogue, slows heart rate (once used in cases of palpitations and rapid pulse), locally anesthetic, antifungal, antibacterial.
Used only in small doses; internally it has been used primarily as expectorant (sometimes combined with wild cherry bark, eucalyptus, and honey in syrup form) and used to treat bronchial, respiratory tract and throat infections, including bronchial asthma (combined with Lobelia inflata), chronic bronchitis, bleeding lungs, pneumonia (1 to 2 drops tincture repeated often through day), whooping cough, croup, laryngitis, emphysema, bronchiectasis, sinus congestion, catarrh, scarletina, and colds, as well as to improve peripheral circuation and for sluggish liver, scrofula, jaundice, dyspepsia,, and dysentary; externally the sap, or liquid extract of the root, was applied directly for sores, eczema, ringworm, ulcers (especially those associated with varicose veins), warts (combined with Chelidonium majus), and other skin problems; also nasal polyps (combined with bayberry as snuff), benign skin tumors, sore throat (combined with sage and cayenne in gargle form), and chilblains. The tincture has also been used in cases of dyspepsia, dropsy, and liver conditions.
One old method of treating ringworm was to make a strong vinegar tincture from the fresh root.
Was used by Native Americans to induce vomiting and as an expectorant; the orange juice of the plant was dripped onto lumps of maple sugar and taken for coughs and colds.
The sap was applied by Native Americans to treat cancers of the breast, uterus, skin, nose, and ear. Some Native American tribes chewed the root, then spat the juice on burns to heal. The Onondagas used it as an emetic; the Tuscaroras for divination and disease; the Rappahannocks used a tea as a purge for fevers and rheumatism; the Mohegans used the tea as a 'blood medicine' and emetic; the Menominees used bloodroot to bolster the effects of other medicines; the Meskwakis chewed the root then spat on burns to heal them; the Pillager Ojibwe and the Potawatomis squeezed the juice of the root onto a lump of maple sugar and held it in the mouth for sore throat; the Potawatomis also made an infusion of the root for diptheria; the Penobscot strung pieces of the root together and wore around the neck to prevent bleeding; the Chippewa mixed it with Blue Cohosh in decoction form and took it for stomach cramps; the Seneca made a wash of the root with a small amount of wood ashes added and used it to wash the uterus during childbirth; for earache, the Mohawk made an infusion of the dried root and placed a few drops in the ear. One other use not attributed to a particular tribe was to soak the root in cold water for 2 nights, then mash and make a decoction which was used for stomach upset due to overeating; apparently a remedy prepared in advance of a known feast; used by the Malecites for consumption and infected cuts.
Was used in the mid-19th century in a London hospital for breast cancer by making a paste of the extract together with zinc chloride, water and flour.
Was used at one time to reduce high blood pressure.
A vinegar extract of the root has been used as an antifungal wash for athlete's foot and nail fungus. Also, the tincture has been applied directly to fungal infections, eczema, cancers, tumors and rashes. Ointment has been applied to venereal sores, ringworm, eczema, scabies and warts.
Is still used to treat gingivitis; the extract is found in toothpaste and mouthwash; sanguinarine has the ability to prevent dental placque and gum disease.

!All others purchase commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!.
POWDERED ROOT = 2 grains; 1/20th grain as gastric stimulant; 15 grains emetic.
DECOCTION = 1 tsp dried root in 1½ cup water, steeped 30 minutes; strained and cooled; 1 tsp traditionally taken 3 times daily, upto 6 times, as expectorant. Or 1/12th grain as expectorant.
TINCTURE = 0.5 to 1 ml (5 to 20 drops), 3 times daily.
FLUID EXTRACT= 10 to 30 drops.
OINTMENT= 1 oz. dried root in 3 oz lard; brought to boil, then simmered several minutes; strain.

Used for migraine, alcoholism, aphonia, asthma, breast tumor, cancer, catarrh, chest pain (not related to heart), colds, croup, deafness, diptheria, dysmenorrhea, dyspepsia, ear polyps, gleet, granular lids, headache, flu, keratitis, tender breasts during menstruation, ulceration of nails, neuralgia, opthalmia, pharyngitis, pneumonia, quinsy, rheumatism, poison ivy, false olfactory smells, loss of smell, syphilis, tinnitus, tumors, vomiting, whooping cough..

The leaves were once used by farriers in the treatment of equine diseases to make the animal sweat or shed their coats.

Ratio: 8 oz. chopped root to 4¼ gallons water.
Fresh rootstock yields red juice for dye which will give orange to orange-red with no mordant; rust with alum and cream of tartar; reddish-pink with tin.
Was once used to dye baskets, but does not take on some materials.
An old recipe of a Mrs. Razor for dying quills scarlet: 2 handfuls bloodroot, 1 handful inner bark of wild plum, 1 handful red osier dogwood bark, 1 handful alder bark; all were boiled together with 1 quart of water before adding the quills. Also: to produce dark red = 1 handful bloodroot and 1 handful inner bark of wild plum in 1 quart water, boiled together. Also: to produce dark yellow = 2 handfuls shredded bloodroot, 1 handful shredded root of wild plum, boiled together in 1 quart of water.

An important commercial source of sanguinarine which is a dental plaque inhibitor and added to some toothpaste brands and mouthwash.
Used by Native Americans to dye skin and implements; the fresh boiled root was used as face paint by warriors. Some Native American tribes wore clothing made of skins with the fur inward and decorated the outside with a bloodroot dye.
In some tribes single men rubbed the juice of the bloodroot on their hands, then would find a way to shake hands with the girl of their desire; after 5 or 6 days of this behavior, it was believed the girl would be ready to marry the man.
Was used as a charm by the Chippewa.

©2000 & 2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH