Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

History and Traditional Use


Native Americans used bloodroot as a dye for their skin (1) and, in small doses, as a tonic for the blood.(8)
Some traditional herbalists consider bloodroot to be poisonous and use it with caution internally.(1,6) Bloodroot has also been termed a “heroic” remedy” due to its ability to provoke vomiting.(9) Because of its properties, herbalists use it in small doses to stimulate the appetite and to treat acute and chronic coughs.(6,7) Herbalists also find it useful for treating a variety of skin conditions, because of its escharotic and antimicrobial properties.(2,7)

Herbalists have treated conditions ranging from fungal skin infections and warts to skin cancers and varicose ulcers.(1,7,10) Allopathic use of bloodroot as an escharotic for treating skin cancers was popularized by Frederick Mohs, M.D., who used a bloodroot paste to assist in the demarcation of the lesion, allowing a targeted surgical excision.(11) Harry Hoxsey used a paste containing bloodroot as well as an herb cocktail to be taken internally, to treat skin cancers in the 1930s and 40s.(12,13)

Bloodroot has also been used externally as a treatment for breast cancer.(2) It has a reputation as an herb that can lower the pulse.(1)
In recent years, dentists have recommended mouthwashes containing bloodroot’s chief alkaloid, sanguinarine, because it reduces plaque formation.(10)

Effectiveness for treating chronic coughs: unknown: Scientific analysis of the primary traditional use of the herb is lacking.

Phytobiotics GmbH, a German company, produces livestock feed to fatten animals using bloodroot rather than synthetic antibiotics.(14)


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History and Traditional Use Botanical Characteristics
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