Sanguinaria canadensis

In the Great Lakes area, spring is always a very exciting time of the year. Our winters are long, and spotting blossoms amongst the brown and dead foliage of the previous season is always a delight!

One of my favorite native spring ephemerals is bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). It usually makes an appearance towards mid-April through May, depending on weather conditions. The flower immerges first while the leaf remains curled around the stem. As the flower fades, the leaf starts to unfurl and appears palm-like. Once it is finished flowering, the oblong-shaped seed pod remains.

The name bloodroot originates from the root which contains a red liquid. This red "juice" contains the alkaloid sanguinarine, among other constituents, and is toxic if taken internally. However if applied externally, sanguinarine has been successful in abating viral conditions of the skin such as warts, skin tags and even certain types of skin cancers (however not medically documented).

There are many "black salves" or "drawing salves" on the market that contain bloodroot. Although I have never personally tried it, some of my clients have with positive results. Sanguinarine has the ability to dissolve abnormal growth without disturbing the surrounding tissue. Once the abnormal growth has been dissolved; new, healthy tissue will grow where the abnormal growth was once. However it is important that before using a salve that contains bloodroot, one needs to read and follow the instructions completely.

Aside from the benefits that bloodroot can provide for the skin, it's beauty is one of those much-anticipated flowers of the spring. Bloodroot was once considered a species that was threatened but now there are healthy populations throughout the area.

Bloodroot in bloom

Bloodroot leaf and seed pod


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