Bloodroot: Sanguinaria canadensis, Tetterwort, Pauson, Puccoon, Indian Paint, Red Root, Coon Root


Bloodroot is an herb, commonly found growing in woods, or other shady areas of the Eastern U.S. and Canada. This environment provides the shade necessary for it to survive. It has a single white flower, which emerges from within the leaf of the plant as it is growing. The stout rhizome contains a red liquid, giving bloodroot its name. The first flowers bloom in late March, and the leaves grow until August when they reach 6-10 inches in length


The rhizomes of bloodroot contain a mixture of isoquinoline alkaloids, the most common being sanguinarine. Chelerythrine has also been isolated as a compound in liquid found in the rhizome. These alkaloids, in combination with the other less concentrated chemicals, are responsible for the antibiotic effects of the plant.

Fun Fact:

Bloodroot was commonly used by many North American Indian tribes as dye and war paint when going into battle. Unfortunately, the sap of the plant that was used to make the paint is extremely dangerous to the skin and caused severe deformations.


Bloodroot was used by eastern tribes of the Native Americans as a red dye,in addition to being used medicinally to treat sore throats and various skin conditions. In these instances the liquid from the rhizome of the plant was used. The red dye has also been used as a love charm by various Indian tribes. For example, men of the Ponca tribe would put the red liquid on their palms and then shake hands with the woman they wished to marry.


Sanguinarine, the chemical found in the rhizome of bloodroot, has long been used for its antibiotic properties. It is no longer used as an antibiotic due to safety issues, and recent clinical studies have shown other antibiotics such as doxycycline to be stronger. More commonly, sanguinarine has been found in dental washes because it is known to inhibit the growth of plaque. Chlorhexidine has been found to be more effective, and safer for use as an antiplaque mouth wash.


Bloodroot has no specific dosing, but causes vomiting in humans when used in doses of 30mg-125mg.

Recipe for an orange/red dye using bloodroot:

Mix 4 tbs. fresh Bloodroot juice in 1 gal. cold water, add 1 tbs. alum as mordant. Be sure to wear gloves when handling bloodroot

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

Bloodroot is contraindicated for use during pregnancy. Sanguinarine used to be commonly used in dental washes, however there has been a strong link between precancerous sores in the mouth and use of sanguinarine. Additionally, it is no longer used to treat skin conditions because it has a skin-eating effect that leaves behind major defects.

References Cited:

1. USDA, NCRS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 ( ). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

2. Reed, Daniel. Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States. ( ).
3. “Bloodroot”. ( ). Drugsite Trust, North Shore, Auckland, New Zealand.
4. Predny M, Chamberlain J. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): An Annotated Bibliography. 2005. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of  Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station.
5. Jackson D, Bergeron K. “Bloodroot”. ( ). AltNature Herbals Store, Tennessee Ridge, TN 37178 USA.

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