Common Name:  Bloodroot, Indian Paint, Red Pucoon

Scientific Name:  Sanguinaria canadensis  (from Latin sanguis meaning blood)


The pure white blossoms of the bloodroot are among the first flowers to emerge in the spring.  The 7 to 12 delicate petals last for only a few days before the first moderate wind or rain removes them.  It is the only member of its genus in the world.


Potpourri:  The name bloodroot derives from the orange-red juice in the stem and root structure, which was widely used by Native Americans as a red dye. It was mixed with fat to paint their faces, to dye baskets, and decorate weapons.  The Iroquois used it as a dye for fabric, a fact that was noted by early French settlers, who exported bloodroot to dye wool.  The alternative name pucoon was derived from the Algonquin word pocan, meaning blood red.


Although bloodroot is toxic in large doses, it has long been used for a variety of medicinal purposes.  It contains protopine, an alkaloid also found in opium..  Indians and colonists used a drop of bloodroot on a lump of maple sugar for sore throat.  A London physician concocted a treatment for skin cancers consisting of bloodroot, zinc chloride, flour and water that was used extensively at London's Middlesex Hospital. It is still used to treat minor cancers and polyps of the nose and ear.  


Bloodroot also contains the alkaloid sanguinarine, which was found by the American Dental Association to be an excellent remedy to excessive plaque buildup.  It has been marketed in toothpaste and mouthwash under the trade name Viadent since 1983.

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