Bloodroot, Red Pucoon – Sanguinaria canadensis

Parts used: root

Traditional uses: Because of its astringent properties, root infusion used for sore throats, cough, and croup. Infusion used to wash sores and wounds. Fresh juice applied to skin cancers. Snuff used for catarrh.

“Emetic cathartic expectorant and emmenagogue, and of great value in atonic dyspepsia, asthma, bronchitis and croup. (The taste is so nauseating, that it may cause expectorant action.) Of value in pulmonary consumption, nervous irritation and helpful in lowering high pulse, and in heart disease and weakness and palpitation of heart of great use. For ringworm apply the fluid extract. Also good for torpid liver, scrofula, dysentery. It is applied to fungoid growths, ulcers fleshy excrescences, cancerous affections and as an escharotic. Sanguinaria root is chiefly used as an expectorant for chronic bronchitis and as a local application in chronic eczema, specially when secondary to varicose ulcers. In toxic doses, it causes burning in the stomach, intense thirst, vomiting, faintness vertigo, intense prostration with dimness of eyesight.” ~Grieve MH

*** Cautions: Sanguinarine kills animal cells by blocking the action of Na+/K+-ATPase transmembrane proteins. As a result, applying bloodroot to the skin may destroy tissue and lead to the formation of a large scab, called an eschar. Bloodroot and its extracts are thus considered escharotic.

Internal use is inadvisable. Applying escharotic agents, including bloodroot, to the skin is sometimes suggested as a home treatment for skin cancer, these attempts can be severely disfiguring. Salves derived from bloodroot cannot be relied on to remove an entire malignant tumor. Microscopic tumor deposits may remain after visible tumor tissue is burned away, and case reports have shown that in such instances tumor has recurred and/or metastasized.

The use of sanguinaria in oral hygiene products is associated with the development of a premalignant oral leukoplakia, which may develop into oral cancer. ***

Blood remedy – “Bloodroot or red puccoon (Sanguinaria) is also supposed to be a great blood remedy, apparently because it has blood-red sap.” ~Randolph OMF 106

In vinegar for an itch – “Bloodroot or red puccoon, pounded up fine and steeped in vinegar, is another very popular itch medicine.” ~Randolph OMF 109

“Sure cure for winter itch is dig bloodroot…pulverize it, and steep in strong apple vinegar. Apply 3 or 4 times a day.” ~Parler FBA II 2565

As a tonic – “For a good tonic boil roots of the red pucoon (Sanguinaria) and mix with alcohol forming a syrup.” ~Parler FBA II 1356


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)