Bloodroot - A Herbceous Plant With Healing Values
Blood root, specifically Sanguinaria canadensis, is a paradoxical little flower. It is also called redroot, bloodwort, red puccoon, Indian red paint, sang-dragon, snakebite, and a dozen other based on minute variations of the region. Bloodroot is found in eastern North America and is the only species in its genus. Is it closest relative? Snow poppies found only in China. The species appears with a wide variety of different shapes in both its leaves and its white, yellow-centered flowers, but its juice is always bright scarlet, hence its name.
Despite its uncanny similarity to blood, this juice contains the toxin sanguinarine--named after blood itself--which kills cells and destroys tissue. When this juice contacts the skin, it can leave rapid, nasty marring.
It's this same property that means sanguinaria is being investigated as a cancer treatment. Investigations are inconclusive so far, but it's been used in alternative medicine for a long history. Native Americans historically applied it as a respiratory aid, and Colonial Americans used it as a wart remedy, a use likely at the heart of another of its names, tetterwort. It can be used to discourage dental plaque or treat a sore throat or poor circulation. The red juice means it can be used as a paint or dye, and even today it's a commercially used food additive.
This plant is also prized in specific capacities by gardeners. Double-flowered mutations are especially showy and last longer than the few days regular for sanguinaria flowers. They're considered lovely shade plants, which bloom in spring and look at home in woodland-like gardens and landscapes. Though their bloom time is short, bloodroot plants are relatively easy to collect seeds from, making them fun and easy to propagate, and they'll flower for years with little care. It needs to be handled carefully in the garden, however, due to the properties of the juice of its leaves and roots.
Blood root is surprisingly renowned as an experimental homeopathic cancer treatment, despite minimal studying having been applied to its efficacy. It's most commonly associated with treating skin tumors, harkening back to its history of being used to treat skin conditions. When it comes to managing severe circumstances, however, this plant is likely best left off the table in favor of proven remedies. As an odd treatment for moles and skin tags, though, it seems unlikely to vacate the pages of herbalists' books anytime soon.