Classif. Nat. Order of Papaveracea. Polyandria monogynia L.
Genus SANGUINARIA. Calyx two leaves deciduous. Corolla with seven to fourteen petals. Many stamina. Pistil oblong, stigma sessile bilobed. Capsule one celled, bivalve, seeds arillate.
Sp. Sanguinaria canadensis. L. Radical leaves cordate, sinuate, multilobe, obtuse, scapes uniflore, petals oblong, obtuse.
Description. Root perennial, horizontal, fleshy and thick, knobby, with some fibres, brownish red outside, pale within, emitting a bright orange juice; end truncate or obtuse, many buds sending off leaves and scapes. Leaves erect, on long channelled petioles, cordate or subreniform, very smooth, sinuated into many rounded repand lobes, obtuse as well as the sinusses: color glaucous, almost white beneath, and reticulated by veins. Scapes erect, terete unfolded by the young leaves, one terminal flower. Calyx with two ovate, obtuse, and concave folioles, falling as soon as the corolla expands. Corolla spreading, commonly with eight white petals, oblong obtuse, four alternate internal ones, a little shorter. Stamens many and short, anthers oblong, yellow. Pistil oblong, compressed. No style, stigma thick sessile, nearly bilobe. Capsule oblong, both ends acute, two valves. Seeds many, round, red, base with
History. This genus named from its bloody root, has only one species known, with several varieties: 1. Parviflora. 2. Cespitosa. 3. Reniformis. 4. Repens. 5. Multipetala, with double petals. 6. Stenopetala, with a narrow linear acute petals. Is it a new species? It is a vernal plant, blossoming in April and May, found in woods from Canada to Louisiana, Florida, and Missouri. It is handsome, but inodorous. When the plant is in blossom, the leaves are small; they continue to grow larger afterwards.
Properties. The root is the officinal part: it is one of the most valuable medical articles of our country, and already begins to be introduced into general practice. It is an acrid narcotic, emetic, deobstruent, diaphoretic, expectorant, vermifuge, escharotic, and at the same time stimulant, tonic. The chemical analysis has detected in it chinconin, a resin, an acrid gum resin, gallic acid, fecula, extractive and a peculiar bitter alkali called Sanguinarine, by Dana, which is of an orange color, and forms colored salts with acids. Alcohol dissolves the color of the root better than water; paper and cloth dipt in these solutions are dyed of a salmon color. The Indians used the red juice to paint themselves, and dye or stain skins, baskets, &c. It has not yet been much used in dyeing, although it stains wool of a fine orange color; the mordants are alumine and muriosulphate of tin, for silk, cotton, &c. The taste of this root is acrid and bitter, burning the mouth and throat: in powdering the dried root, the nose and throat are effected. A large dose, from eight to twenty grains, is dangerous, causing heartburns, nausea, faintness, vertigo, dimness, and emesis. In small doses of two to four grains, it produces nausea without vomiting, and accelerates the circulation, while in minute doses of less than a grain, it acts like a tonic, and lessens the frequency of the pulse like Digitalis. The best way to use it is in tincture, diluted in wine or other vehicles. Ten drops of it acts as stimulant, diaphoretic, and deobstruent. When used as an emetic, it expels the worms from the stomach. It is, however, a violent and dangerous emetic; milder ones are to be preferred. Schoepf mentions that a decoction of the root was used in gonorrhoea, bites of serpents, jaundice, and in bilious diseases; these properties are doubtful. The juice being acrid and corrosive, was used for warts. Thatcher says it is the base of Rawsorn's bitters, a remedy for jaundice. From thirty to eighty drops of the tincture in wine, twice a day, is a good prophylacted for intermittents, marshy fevers, and inward fevers. It is very bitter, increases the appetite and tone of the stomach. But it is beneficial in many other diseases of the liver and lungs, typhoid pneumonia, hooping cough, torpor of the liver, hydrothorax, croup, amenorrhea, asthma, peripneumonia trachealis, incipient consumption, ulcerous sorethroat, cynanche trachealis, dysentery, inflammatory rheumatism, and externally in ulcers, polypus of the nose, fleshy excresenses, and fungous tumors.
Few medical plants unite so many useful properties; but it requires to be administered with skilful hands, and may become dangerous in empirical hands. Dr. Tully has investigated them very carefully: he says that it unites all the beneficial effects of Squills, Seneka root, Digitalis, Guayacum, and Ammoniacum, without their bad effects. In moderate doses, it excites the sanguiferous and lymphatic systems. Snuffed in the nose it excites sneezing. Applied externally to ulcers or diseased skin, it promotes absorption and changes action. In severe and protracted cynanche, pneumonia, pertusis, phthisis, &c. when the inflammatory symptoms are party subdued, it acts as a tonic, expectorant, diaphoretic, and sedative, lessening the pulse from 112 to 80. Tully considers it as inestimable in these diseases, because it invigorates and strengthens the powers of the system, instead of weakening them.
Externally, it is certainly a valuable escharotic; either in powder or as a wash, it has cured ill conditioned ulcers, with callous edges and ischorous discharges. It removes fungous tumors and excresences, nay, even soft polypus, by being used like snuff, and producing detumescence. A host of physicians have recommended this root, and none appears so well deserving of peculiar attention. Many rely entirely upon it to cure the croup, and give from ten to twelve grains of the powder so as to produce emesis. It has cured acute rheumatism, combined with gout: although it must become dangerous in active inflammation, because it is always somewhat stimulant. In confirmed phthisis, it is only a palliative. It must not be given to pregnant women, since it is known to act on the uterus powerfully, and even cause abortion; whence its use in amenorrhea. It may be used in powder, electuary, pills, syrup, extract, decoction, wine tincture, and common tincture; but the doses must be regulated by the cases: it loses much of its strength by keeping, after powdering or preparing in any way; but the dry roots keep very well.
Although the roots alone are commonly used, the leaves have some of the same properties, and are powerful, nay, deleterious stimulants. The farriers use them in diseases of horses, to make them sweat, shed their coat, &c. The seeds are violent narcotics, similar to those of Stramonium, producing fever, delirium, diluted pupil, &c. They have been used as incitants, diaphoretics, and diuretics, but are dangerous and deleterious. They are seldom collected, although the roots are commonly collected in summer, when they are ripe.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.