Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wildflowers of Ainsworth: Bloodroot

(Click on image to enlarge)

One flower and one large, lobed leaf for each of these early-blooming plants. Per Jack Sanders: "Bloodroot's arrival is almost endearing. Both the budded stalk and the plant's single leaf arise together, but in no ordinary fashion. The leaf is wrapped around the stem and bud, like a mother protecting its baby with a cloak." The flowers are delicate and last only a few days.

Sanguinaria canadensis is known as bloodroot because the orange-red juice in its stem and leaves resembles blood. It is a member of the Poppy family and contains protopine, an alkaloid also found in the opium poppy. Bloodroot has been used in folk medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including ulcers, ringworm, cancer of the nose and ear, and croup; however, according to Jack Sanders, modern herbalists "warn that the plant is so strong that it should never ben ingested or used without medical supervision. An overdose can kill a person, though its taste is so awful it's hard to believe anyone could consume an overdose."

Bloodroot was for a time used in the Viadent line of tootpaste and mouthwash, but I understand there were some undesirable side effects and the manufacturer stopped using bloodroot.

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