Bloodroot is a flowering plant that originates from the east of the US and Canada. Its root and budding rootstalk (the rhizome) release a red fluid when they’re cut, hence the unusual name.
In the autumn, the root and rhizome are harvested by herbalists and used as natural medicine. In fact, Native Americans have been using it for a long period of time to encourage vomiting in the practice of cleansing the body from toxins.
Alternative medicine proponents promote it as able to alleviate various medical issues. In western herbal medicine, bloodroot is used mostly as an antimicrobial and expectorant for respiratory infections, but also as a debriding agent for oral health.
You can find bloodroot under other names, including Indian red paint, pauson, bloodwort, sweet slumber, redroot, etc.
The Best Healing Uses of Bloodroot
Bloodroot is used as an oral or topical antibacterial agent. Internally, people consume it to relax the smooth muscles, especially the ones in the lungs and heart.
It’s believed that bloodroot helps better respiratory and cardiovascular health. However, the scientific evidence is poor on whether bloodroot is really able to improve health issues when taken internally.
Most current research isn’t conclusive.
- Good for the dental health
Some evidence suggests that bloodroot may help lower dental plaque and avert or relieve gingivitis and other gum illnesses.
One study from 2012 published in the Phytotherapy Research journal concluded that toothpaste and mouthwash with bloodroot have antibacterial characteristics that are good for oral health.
When used for dental health, bloodroot is generally safe according to the FDA.
- May be of aid for skin issues
Bloodroot is often included in topical skincare products thanks to its abundance of antioxidants.
It’s used for acne, eczema, and psoriasis and it’s praised for its ability to lower skin growths like moles, warts, and benign tumors.
However, despite these claimed benefits, one study from 2009 published in the journal of American Academy of Dermatology found that excessive use of bloodroot topically can cause injury and even tissue death!
The risk seems to be the highest in people who apply undiluted salves from the bloodroot to the skin. But, even the diluted options can cause irritation of the skin.
- May help out with respiratory health problems
Bloodroot is often used to relieve flu, cold, sinus infections, as well as lung infections. It also plays the role of an expectorant and encourages the removal of phlegm and mucus in the airways.
What’s more, research notes that it may also have inotropic properties, that is, it strengthens the contraction of the heart muscle. This may better the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.
Although it’s popular for its potential to alleviate respiratory problems, there’s no scientific evidence that it treats or prevents bacterial or viral infections when consumed internally.
- Destroying cancer
Bloodroot has a chemical known as berberine and this chemical has been found promising in encouraging apoptosis or programmed death of cancerous cells in breast, skin, and prostate cancer done in test tube studies.
Apoptosis is a biological process during which older cells die and new ones replace them. In the case of cancer, there’s a lack of apoptosis and this enables tumor growth.
Despite the importance of these findings, there have been other compounds able to encourage this cell death in test tube studies, but only a few are able to do this in animal and human studies without causing injuries and toxicity.
- Better cardiovascular health
Bloodroot is claimed by proponents of folk medicine to be beneficial for people with cardiovascular health problems.
A chemical found in it known as sanguinarine is believed to lower blood pressure and avert the buildup of plaque that can cause atherosclerosis.
According to clinical studies, these claims aren’t actually the truth.
High dosages have been associated with heart issues like arrhythmia and in some rarer cases, coma. Excessive use of bloodroot may also cause hypotension (a drop in blood pressure).
Are There Any Side Effects of Bloodroot?
There are no risks of taking bloodroot for a short amount of time, as an addition to your diet, though some people have reported experiencing an upset stomach.
The topical application may cause irritated skin, swelling, and itchiness. The signs of sanguinarine poisoning are blurry vision, nausea, vomiting, dilated pupils, diarrhea, and fainting.
If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, it’s pivotal to look for medical aid asap.