The bloodroot is TOXIC if used in large doses. Bloodroot contains the poisonous alkaloid Sanguinarine, and the U.S. Food and Drug administration has characterized Sanguinaria canadensis as an unsafe herb. (Mabey, 50).
However there have been many uses of the Bloodroot in medicinal practice.
The bloodroot's juice is very abundunt. One should be careful when picking the bloodroot because it often dyes anything that it touches. The Indians were aware of this and mixed the juice with animal fat before painting themselves with it (Sanders, 103).
Indians also used the root to induce vomiting. A tea made from the root was used to treat fever and rheumatism; some tribes chewed the root and placed the spittle on skin burns - a dangerous practice because of the toxicity. Some New England Indians squeezed juice from the root onto a lump of maple sugar and held it in their mouth to cure sore throats -- another risky practice. The root has been used to clear the throat and nasal passages of mucus, as a tonic, and to induce vomiting (Krochmal, 200).
People in Algonkian nations used the bloodroot as a blood purifier. Some tribes used it to treat cramps, stop vomiting, induce abortions, and even as an insect repellent.
The plant is of great value in atonic dyspepsia, asthma, bronchitis, and the croup (Arnold, 331). A componet of the plant is protopine, which is also found in opium. The Ladies Indispensable Companion and Housekeeper's Guide (1860) claims that the bloodroot is excellent in coughs and the croup, and is an emetic, and narcotic. It also produces perspiration and menstrual discharge. It is good in influenza, hooping cough, and lung disease Sanders, 103).
The taste is very nauseating and it may cause expectorant action. The plant is of value in pulmonary consumption, nervous irritation, and helpful in lowering high pulse. It is also good for torpid liver, scrofula, and dysentery. It is often applied to fungoid growths, and ulcers(Arnold, 331). When mixed with zinc chloride, flour, and water, as proposed by a London physician, Bloodroot is capable of treating minor cancers (Sanders, 103). Some side effects of using this include: Stomach burning, intense thirst, vomiting, vertigo, and dimness of eyesight (Arnold, 331).
Some herbalists warn that contact of bloodroot with skin can cause an allergic reaction similar to that of poison ivy. Modern herbals warn taht the plant should not be used without medical supervision. An overdose can kill (Sanders, 103).
A chief modern medicinal use has been overlooked by medicine men and herbalists. In 1983 Vipont Laboratories started to market Viadent toothpaste and mouthrinse, both containing an extract of the bloodroot which is said to be excellent for reducing plaque growth. The American Dental Association said that the extract, the alkaloid Sanguinarine, was a promising plaque fighter. This extract will do for gum disease what flouride has done in fighting tooth decay (Sanders, 104).
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