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  • Sanguinaria canadensis L.
  • Papaveraceae
  • Poppy family

Common Names

herbsIndian paint
herbsIndian plant
herbsIndian red paint
herbsRed paint root
herbsRed puccoon
herbsRed root

Parts Usually Used

Rootstock collected early in the spring, carefully dried, then ground into powder.

Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Bloodroot is a small perennial plant, about 6 inches high. The finger-thick rootstock contains a toxic red juice when fresh; when dried it is yellow inside and brown outside. The leaves are basal, each coming from a bud on the rootstock; they are cordate or reniform in shape, palmately veined and lobed. The naked single flower stem is shorter than the footstalk of a leaf and bears a white flower with 8 to 12 petals arranged in 2 or more whorls. Early spring blooming, North American poisonous wildflower of the poppy family. Blooms March to June, before its leaves appear and usually before the leaves on the trees emerge. Difficult to find in its woodland home.

May be propagated by seed or division.

Where Found

Found in shaded, rich soils in the northeastern states of the U.S.

Medicinal Properties

Expectorant, alterative, stimulant, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative, antibacterial, emmenagogue, tonic, emetic in larger doses. An overdose can be fatal.

Biochemical Information

Alkaloids including whelidonine, berberine, chelerythrine, sanguinarine

Legends, Myths and Stories

Bloodroot was used by the American Indians as a body paint and as a dye. A bachelor of the Ponca tribe would rub a piece of the root as a love charm on the palm of his hand, then scheme to shake hands with the woman he desired to marry. After shaking hands, the girl would be found willing to marry him in 5-6 days.

One Indian folk medicine guide recommended a tincture made by filling a pint bottle half-full with finely mashed root and adding equal parts of alcohol and wart until full. The recommended dosage ranged from 1-7 drops every 3-4 hours.

A recommended ointment was made by mixing an ounce of the powdered root in 3 oz. of lard, bringing the mixture to a boil, simmering briefly, then straining.


Internally: expectorant for acute and chronic respiratory tract affections, sinus congestion, stimulates the digestion, laryngitis, sore throat, asthma with cold thick phlegm, and croup. Most effective for pneumonia are 1 to 2 drop doses repeated frequently throughout the day. It combines well with cherry bark, eucalyptus, and honey in a syrup. A syrup may also be made with garlic and bloodroot tincture

Externally: The tincture is directly applied externally for the treatment of fungus, eczema, cancers, tumors, and other skin disorders . It is a good remedy for athlete's foot and rashes. An ointment of bloodroot alone or in combination with other herbs is directly applied to venereal sores, tinea capitis, eczema, ringworm, scabies, and warts.

Can be used for the following ailments: adenoid infections, nasal polyps, syphilitic troubles, piles (use strong tea as an enema), typhoid fever, catarrh, scarlatina, jaundice, dyspepsia, whooping cough and rheumatism.

Small doses stimulate the digestive organs and heart. Large doses act as a sedative and narcotic. When the condition is not easily overcome, combine with equal parts of goldenseal.

Experimentally, the alkaloid sanguinarine has shown antiseptic, anesthetic, and anticancer activity.

Formulas or Dosages

As a stimulant, expectorant, or alterative use; 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of the powdered root or 1/2 to 1 gm. in decoction; tincture, 5 to 20 drops.

In a dose of 1/20 grain (a grain is 0.002083 ounces), bloodroot is a gastric and intestinal stimulant. A dose of 1/12 grain, it is an expectorant. Doses any larger will produce emetic (vomiting) effects. 8 grains given to a patient resulted in nausea after 15 minutes. 40 minutes later complaints of headache, nausea much more violent; 60 minutes later, the patient vomited twice. The cautions surrounding care in doses is clear.

The drug is usually administered in several-drop dosages of a tincture.

How Sold

Tincture, powdered root Today, components of the root are used in minute amounts in commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes to fight plaque.


Bloodroot is a powerful herb. Some reports of nibbling the root has caused tunnel vision. Do Not Ingest.

Do not use without medical supervision. An overdose can be fatal.

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