Bloodroot: 5 Major Benefits, How To Use, And Side Effects

Written by Aparna Mallampalli, BEd (Biological Sciences), MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition

The rhizome of bloodroot (horizontal underground plant stem) contains a red liquid that renders it a blood-like appearance. Bloodroot benefits can be attributed to its medicinal properties and other important compounds. It is also known as bloodwort, Canada puccoon, and redroot. Read on to understand more about bloodroot, its benefits, and any potential side effects.

What Is Bloodroot? How Does It Work?

Bloodroot is scientifically known as Sanguinaria canadensis. It blossoms in spring and is mostly found in the eastern USA. It is majorly used to treat ailments like sore throat, respiratory discomfort, throat pain, and wounds. Bloodroot is taken orally or is applied topically to manage skin disorders. It is believed that it has chemical compounds that minimize the growth of microbes that cause skin conditions or respiratory ailments. To know more about the health conditions that can be managed by using bloodroot, scroll down to the next section.

Health Benefits Of Bloodroot

1. May Fight Skin Cancer

Research shows that the active compound in bloodroot, sanguinarine, has the potential to be effective against skin cancer. However, these claims are not backed by sufficient research. Hence, you should be aware of the usage and potential negative effects of bloodroot before using it on the skin. It is recommended to consult a doctor before you start using bloodroot or bloodroot-based products on the skin.

2. May Promote Oral Health

Research shows that bloodroot is majorly used for treating periodontal disease and gingivitis and for remineralization of enamel lesions. However, its exact mechanism of action in these treatments remains unclear.

A study has also shown that bloodroot, when mixed with mouthwash and toothpaste, exhibited a slight beneficial effect on gingivitis. However, more research is required to understand the detailed mechanism of action at play here.

3. May Promote Respiratory Health

In a study conducted in Australia, it is stated that bloodroot is used as a bronchial muscle relaxant for relieving asthma. It is also used to treat inflammation of the larynx and trachea, which causes difficulty in breathing (known as croup), especially in children. However, the exact mechanism remains unclear, and it is advised not to take bloodroot on your own. Consult a doctor if you want to take bloodroot as a remedy for managing asthma or any other respiratory illness.

4. May Promote Cardiovascular Health

Research shows that bloodroot has a positive inotropic effect on the heart. This effect helps the heart to pump more blood with lesser contractions. This helps improve the functioning of the heart. Despite the claimed promotion of cardiovascular health, bloodroot should not be administered on its own. You should consult your doctor before taking bloodroot to improve your heart health.

5. May Help In Relieving Constipation

Anecdotal evidence suggests that bloodroot can relieve constipation to some extent by increasing the number of bowel movements. But, it should only be used under medical supervision as it may induce diarrhea if you exceed the dosage.

All these benefits of bloodroot are dependent on the method of its preparation. Keep reading to learn about the preparation of bloodroot and how to use it.

How To Prepare And Use Bloodroot

Bloodroot is generally available in the form of dried powder or semi-wet pieces. The pieces can be cleaned, crushed, and boiled for further usage, while the dry powder can be used to make tea. Bloodroot is also available in the form of capsules that are taken as a supplement.

There are many ways that bloodroot is used as a home remedy:

  • It is generally crushed and applied as a paste on the affected area.
  • It is mixed with other ingredients like honey when applied topically.
  • It is cut into fine pieces and boiled with oils like olive or coconut oil. This mixture can be stored in a glass bottle after straining.
  • Alternatively, you can also boil crushed or chopped bloodroots with a cup of water for 15 minutes and strain them. The extract can be stored for 1 or 2 days in a glass bottle.

To use bloodroot topically, you can directly apply the paste or strained extract. However, if you are using it for any ailment or even as a supplement, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor as bloodroot may cause side effects if taken in excess.

Keep reading the next section to learn about its recommended dosage.

Recommended Dosage

Bloodroot tea can be had thrice a day. If you are taking bloodroot capsules as a supplement, one capsule per day after meals is generally recommended. However, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor before you start consuming bloodroot.

Learn how to select and store bloodroot in the next section.

Selection And Storage

Bloodroot is mostly available in the form of semi-wet pieces. Always choose bloodroots that are dark brownish in color and avoid the ones with white or gray patches. Select the ones with a thick and stout appearance with tiny hairs all around.

To store bloodroot, wipe it with a dry cloth and allow it to air-dry for few minutes. You can store it in a plastic box or glass container for 10-15 days in a refrigerator. Do not freeze it as it may lose its medicinal value.

If you want to store bloodroot for longer durations, dry it completely, wrap it in a muslin or cotton cloth, and store it in an air-tight container. It can be stored this way for up to one year. Before you store it in any form, you need to follow a few safety precautions to handle bloodroot. Read on to know more.

Safety Precautions

Bloodroot blossoms with pink or white flowers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that touching these flowers or the rhizome with bare hands can cause rashes. Hence, you need to follow some safety precautions:

  • Always wear gloves before handling bloodroot.
  • Do not inhale the flowers or rhizomes as they may cause slight respiratory discomfort.
  • Keep the bloodroot flowers and powder away from your eyes as they may irritate them and cause a mild burning sensation.
  • While crushing or chopping wet bloodroot, use a clean chopping board without any residue on it. After chopping it, clean the board with plenty of water as the bloodroot may stain it.
  • After handling bloodroot, wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly.

Despite all the medical advice and precautions, bloodroot may cause some undesirable side effects. Continue reading to learn all about these side effects.

Possible Side Effects

Despite its many claimed benefits, bloodroot may cause some side effects if taken on its own. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if it is consumed or applied in excess, it can cause the following side effects:

1. May Cause Rashes and Scars

Bloodroot, when touched directly, may cause a rash or a scar that may take a long time to heal. It may also cause a burning sensation and itching.

2. May Lower Blood Pressure

Bloodroot contains sanguinarine, which is believed to lower your blood pressure. Therefore, people with low blood pressure should avoid taking it even as a supplement.

3. May Cause Miscarriage

In ancient western medicine, bloodroot was used to induce abortion in humans and horses. So if you think you are pregnant, it is highly recommended not to take bloodroot even as a supplement.

4. May Induce Vomiting

Bloodroot may induce vomiting when taken in excess. At times, it may also be coupled with drowsiness, spinning sensation, and irritability. However, these are considered short-term side effects that subside on their own.

5. May Cause Diarrhea

Bloodroot may cause diarrhea if taken for longer durations. It can also cause stomach pain and abdominal discomfort. If you experience severe stomach pain and loose stools after consuming bloodroot, consult a doctor immediately.

The benefits of bloodroot can be attributed to the bioactive compounds in it. It helps fight skin cancer, promotes oral health, and aids respiratory health. In addition, it helps promote cardiovascular health and relieves constipation. Bloodroot can be taken in the form of capsules, dried powder, or fresh roots that can be cleaned and crushed for usage. Bloodroot can be consumed as well as applied topically. However, if taken on its own, it may trigger rashes and scars, lower blood pressure, cause miscarriage, and induce vomiting and diarrhea. But taking it in moderation helps in reaping its benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bloodroot good for?

Bloodroot has traditionally been used to manage cough, respiratory illness, toothache, sore throat, and muscle aches. However, there is only minimal scientific evidence to support these benefits.

Can bloodroot kill you?

Sanguinarine is a toxin present in bloodroot. It may kill animal cells when taken in large amounts. However, its bitter taste does not allow one to ingest it in large quantities.

Who shouldn’t take bloodroot?

People with a history of low blood pressure, pregnant women, and lactating mothers must avoid bloodroot. Additionally, if you have any medical conditions and want to start the consumption of bloodroot as a remedy, consult your doctor first as it may have potentially negative effects.

How can I make bloodroot tea?

Chop or crush a few clean bloodroot pieces. Boil water and add the bloodroot. You can also add dry bloodroot powder. Let it simmer for a minute or two. After 2 minutes, strain the tea and add honey to it. Do not drink bloodroot tea unless you are medically advised.

What did Native Americans use bloodroot for?

Native Americans used bloodroot to dye clothes and textiles. It was also used therapeutically to relieve some health conditions.

Are bloodroot flowers poisonous?

Bloodroot flowers are potentially toxic when consumed in excess amounts. If you touch them directly, they may also cause a rash on your skin.

Key Takeaways

  • Bloodroot rhizome is an underground plant root with medicinal and therapeutic properties.
  • With its antimicrobial properties, it can be taken orally or applied topically as well.
  • It is available as wet pieces, dry powder, and capsule supplements for ease of use and consumption.


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