Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (also called puccoon originally) is an early spring wildflower of eastern North America. Its unmistakable orange-red sap was formerly used by Native Americans as a skin stain for war dances and ceremonial rituals, as well as a fabric dye. Bloodroot belongs to the poppy family and is allied to the opium poppy from which is obtained important medications like opium, heroin, morphine, and codeine.

The leaves and flowering stem shoot up from the rhizome in early March or April. In the beginning, the leaves are wrapped around the flower bud, but later on the daisy like flower begins to expand above them as they gradually unfurl. The 8 to 16-inch flowering stems bear a single flower almost 2 inches in diameter, which can have anywhere from as little as six or as many as 12 white petals surrounding the many golden stamens.

In the 1994 edition of Folk Medicine Journal there was an important article on a variety of anti-cancer salves that are very useful, but certainly very unorthodox when compared to conventional medications. One of the most famous of these is simply called "The Black Salve" and includes bloodroot as its primary ingredient.

There are different ways to make a salve. Take two ounces of fresh bloodroot; grate it or grind it up but be sure you wear gloves while doing so. Then add it to 1-1/2 to 2 cups olive oil in a stainless steel pot. Keep the liquid simmering for an hour on very low heat, just enough so that it bubbles but doesn't smoke. Keep a lid on the pot during the cooking process.

In another pot slowly melt about 3/4 ounce of beeswax on low heat. Then add this to the contents of the first pot, stirring the whole time with a wooden spoon to make sure everything is mixed well. Then add a couple of tablespoons of zinc chloride and continue stirring. Put in 1-2 teaspoons of gum benzoin or tincture of benzoin or pine tar to help preserve the salve.

Additional variations to this "Black Salve" formula include the addition of a teaspoon of either powdered goldenseal root or gotu kola herb. If this is done, then decrease the zinc chloride solution by one-quarter. Also, mutton or goose tallow can be substituted for olive oil with good results. Even Crisco, for that matter, may be used if none of the others is readily available.

The salve is poured into clean, empty baby food jars, sealed with their lids and stored in a cool, dry place until needed. A small amount of salve is applied with a gloved hand to the area of the skin where the tumor exists. As mentioned before, it will severely irritate the skin and produce a scab of some sort. The skin should be dry when it is applied. Repeated treatments may sometimes be necessary, but not very often. Generally one application of salve is sufficient and should be left on for a week or longer. When reaction to the salve diminishes or when the affected area grows smaller in size, then that is an indication the therapy has worked.

In the event a scab gets jostled or knocked off prematurely and a small amount of bleeding commences, simply dust the area with a little powdered turmeric or kelp. It is advisable to keep the site of treatment covered at all times with several thin layers of gauze held in place by adhesive tape. The area surrounding it should be frequently cleansed with a moist washcloth, but no water should come in contact with the salve itself.

To prevent permanent scarring once the salve dressing has been removed, rub some aloe vera gel or slippery elm paste on the skin. To make the paste, just mix a little powdered slippery elm bark with a little water and olive oil before applying. Or else bathe the area frequently with any tea made of yarrow, chamomile, or red clover blossoms.

The properties of this native American plant, the settlers discovered, were more medicinal than decorative. As they learned from the Indians (who used the blood-red juice as a treatment for sore throats and cancer and an infusion of the rhizome for rheumatism), bloodroot is a powerful herb. Both the powdered rhizome and the juice from bloodroot are extremely caustic, chemically capable of corroding and destroying tissue. Therefore bloodroot came to be prescribed as a cure for surface cancers, fungal growths such as ringworm, and nose polyps. Folk healers also recommended bloodroot as an emetic (to induce vomiting), as an expectorant for bronchitis, as a laxative, and even as a stimulant for the digestive organs.

PARTS USED
Rhizome.

USES
In contemporary herbal medicine, bloodroot is chiefly employed as an expectorant, promoting coughing and the clearing of mucus from the respiratory tract. The plant is prescribed for chronic bronchitis and - since it also has an antispasmodic effect - for asthma and whooping cough. Bloodroot may also be used as a gargle for sore throats, and as a wash or ointment for fungal and viral skin conditions such as athlete's foot and warts. Prepared as a powder, bloodroot may be sniffed to treat nasal polyps.
Other medical uses - Homeopathy, Tooth decay.

HABITAT AND CULTIVATION
Native to northeastern North America, bloodroot grows in shady woods. Bloodroot is cultivated as a garden plant. The rhizome is unearthed in summer or autumn.

CONSTITUENTS
Bloodroot contains isoquinqline alkaloids, notably sanguinarine (1 %), and many others, including berberine. Sanguinarine is a strongly expectorant substance that also has antiseptic and local anesthetic properties.

USUAL DOSAGE
Decoction:
put 1 teaspoonful of the rhizome in a cup of cold water, bring to the boil and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 2-4rnI of the tincture three times a day.


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