Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)*
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Painting by Vicki Malone
The bloodroot is one of the first plants to bloom in the woods in the spring. Its pure white blossoms poke up through the dead leaves on the forest floor and promise that spring has arrived.
Like the mayapple I painted the bloodroot in gouache on black illustration board. but because I wanted to show more detail in the leaves and in the red root I also added colored pencil on top of the gouache. The produced a more refined painting in contrast to the "free-wheeling" mayapple.
Native Americans used the root tea for rheumatism, asthma, lung ailments, fevers and as an emetic. They also used the root juice as a cure for warts and as a dye and decorative skin stain. Some tribes also used the root as a love charm. According to Foster and Duke, a bachelor of the Ponca tribe would rub the orange-red juice from the root onto the palm of his hand, “the scheme to shake hands with the woman he desired to marry.” Within a week after the handshake, his beloved would consent to marry him.
Early European settlers used the root as an ingredient in cough medicines, as an appetite stimulant, emetic, antimicrobial agent, and to stimulate menstruation. Due to its toxicity especially in higher doses bloodroot is no longer considered to be safe to use medicinally in all routes of administration, even topically. (NSD)
Today it is used in small amounts as a plaque-inhibiting as well as antigingivitis agent in toothpastes and mouthwashes. The alkaloid sanguinarine shows antiseptic, anesthetic and anticancer properties. (Foster and Duke, pp 54-56; Peterson)