Bloodroot

(Sanguinaria canadensis) A North American plant whose rootstock produces a reddish juice, used by the Indians as a dye, for basketry decoration (Speck), for clothes, for weapons (Sanford), or for staining their face or bodies, by which it served not only as a decoration, but kept away insects, too (Lloyd). One other use - with various other plants, they were used to dye porcupine quills a brilliant scarlet (Densmore).

It was also used as a love charm. A man would rub some of the root on the palm of his hand, and then contrive to shake hands with the girl he wanted, in the belief that after five or six days she would be willing to marry him (Corlett).

Small doses of the rootstock were given as a tonic, mild stimulant, and to induce sneezing and vomiting (Sanford). An overdose must have been dangerous (Lind-ley), as it has been described as "an arterial sedative" (O P Brown). Leighton mentions it as a powerful emetic. The Indians of the Mississippi region drank a root tea for their rheumatism (Weiner). In what seems to be an example of the doctrine of signatures, Cherokee medicine men used bloodroot in remedies for regulating menstruation (Cunningham & Coté), and for anaemia (B L Bolton). There is a recipe for cramp from Alabama: mix one teaspoonful of crushed bloodroot with half a cup of vinegar and four teaspoons of sugar. Heat to boiling, strain, and give up to one teaspoonful every half an hour (R B Browne). The Cherokee used a preparation of bloodroot for treating breast cancer. This was taken up in a big way in the 19th century by the cancer quacks in the USA. It has been tested, but there was insufficient evidence to prove the genuine case, but it became quite popular for the treatment of warts, and nasal polyps (Thomson. 1976).

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