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Black Root

  • Varonicastrum virginicum L.
  • Leptandra virginica L.
  • Scrophulariaseae
  • Figwort family

Common Names

herbsBeaumont root
herbsBowman's root
herbsCulver's physic
herbsCulver's root
herbsPhysic root
herbsPurple leptandra
herbsTall speedwell
herbsTall veronica

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Black root is a perennial plant; the slender, simple, straight, smooth, herbaceous stem grows 2-5 feet tall from a horizontal, woody rootstock. The lanceolate, finely serrate leaves grow in whorls of 4-7; and the tiny white (or purple) flowers are tubes, nearly sessile, and very numerous, grow in panicled spikes, calyx, four-parted corolla, small and nearly white; two projecting stamens on showy spikes. The fruit is an oblong-ovate, flattened, many-seeded capsule.

Where Found

Native to the United States, grows in moist soil, moist woods, and swamps from New England to Minnesota and south to Kansas.

Medicinal Properties

Cathartic, cholagogue, emetic, hepatic, alterative, tonic, antiseptic

Biochemical Information

Lepthandrin in root

Legends, Myths and Stories

Lepthandrin is the extract made from the root; it should be used in lesser amounts, from 1/4-1 grain, adjusting according to age and case. Dose of the powder, as a cathartic, 20-40 grains.


Use cautiously. The infusion of the dried root used for sluggish conditions of the liver. The root is a cathartic for chronic constipation, and chronic Hepatic diseases. Used effectively for pleurisy, stimulating vomiting, diuretic, and some forms of dyspepsia. Cathartic for dysentery. Used, also, as a blood purifier or tonic.

Formulas or Dosages

Not recommended for use without medical supervision.

Infusion: use 1 tsp. dried root to 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes. Take in 3 equal parts, before each meal.

Tincture: take 2-4 drops in water.

Formula for Liver Disorders:
1 oz. Black root (Leptandra virginica)
2 oz. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
2 oz. Senna (Cassia marilandica)
2 pints of distilled or boiled water
Reduce water to 1 pint by boiling. Take 2 tbsp. 3-4 times a day increasing the quantity if it fails to operate gently, or decreasing if it operates too much.


The fresh root is too toxic to use safely. Dried root should be used. Not recommended for use without medical supervision.

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