Blood Root – Used by Indians

Bloodroot: Tiny Flower, Powerful Properties

A small, well-known, yet hard to find in the wild, ground cover flower, Bloodroot, is uncommonly named. If you were to see this tiny flower on a hillside or in the mountains, you may walk right past it, never knowing what you had just seen. This is most likely because the tiny flowers on this plant are white–it is named solely for the deep red extract that can be taken from the roots of the plant.

While this interesting plant may seem like the perfect white to spruce up a garden of reds, yellows and purples, it may be difficult to find, incredibly expensive to purchase, hard to take care of and above all, dangerous for the wildlife, children, pets and people who will be around it. The blooms, which double flower, are widely sought after by prize-winning gardeners, because they produce showy and extremely large, incredibly white flowers. And although these flowers are highly prized, the blooms last only one to two days, which in addition to the harmful properties of the plant, makes them less attractive to a people-active garden.

There is much history surrounding the use of the juices extracted from Bloodroot. It was used by Native Americans as body paint for many different ceremonial purposes and was also used as a dye for fabrics–it produced a yellowy orange that was nearly fade-resistant. In Native American lore, it was reported that young men would put the juice on their hands, shake the hand of a maiden they wished to marry and then she would agree within five or six days. However, noting this history and lore, it is now known that the juices extracted from the roots of this plant are escharotic–they kill tissue–and should not be applied to human skin.

In addition, Bloodroot was used by Native Americans to treat skin cancers, sore throats, ringworm, warts, polyps, fungal growths and many other similar diseases that required the flesh and tissue eating properties of the plant for effective treatment. Researchers have considered the plant’s value in treating cancer and are currently investigating its use.

Although the USDA has sanctioned the root of Bloodroot to be used in small doses to stimulate the digestive tract, and its extract to be used in toothpastes and mouthwashes that attempt to fight plaque and gingivitis, the same organization has labeled the plant as unsafe and discourages its use by herbal healers and herbalist adventurers alike.

Untrained gardeners and others should be careful not to use the root juice for cooking or to ingest any part of the roots for any reason, and should avoid ingesting any other part of the plant, as it can be toxic. Even in small doses, the plant has been known to cause visual distortion and other problems.

If you choose to plant Bloodroot, you should do so with care, and you should avoid planting it in a garden that is consistently used for medicinal or cooking purposes as the effects of cross-contamination are not known.

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