It grows to 60 cm tall, with one large, sheath-like basal multi-lobed leaf up to 30 cm across. The flowers are produced from March to May, with 8-12 delicate white petals and yellow reproductive parts that appear to be clasped by the leaf. The flower is short-lived, but the leaf continues to grow until mid-summer, when the plant becomes dormant.
Bloodroot is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called Myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.
Bloodroot is also known as Bloodwort, Red Puccoon Root, and sometimes Pauson. Bloodroot has also been known as Tetterwort in America, although that name is used in Britain to refer to Greater Celandine.
The genetics of flower development in Bloodroot have been studied. Specific differences were found compared with poppy species Papaver nudicuaule (Iceland Poppy) and P. californicum; and related species Ranunculus ficaria (Lesser Celandine) and R. bulbosus; and species Dicentra eximia .
The plant was used as a dye and for an herbal remedy by the native population. A break in the surface of the plant, especially the roots, reveals a reddish sap. Bloodroot stores sap in an underground rhizome. Caution: the sap is toxic; see below for further details.
Bloodroot produces benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, primarily the toxin sanguinarine. The alkaloids are transported to, and stored in, the rhyzome.
In comparing the biosynthesis of morphine and sanguinarine, the final intermediate in common is (S)-reticuline . Plants in families including Papaveraceae, Ranunculaceae, Colchicum, Chondodendron produce such benzylisoquinoline alkaloids.
Plant geneticists have identified and sequenced genes which produce the enzymes required for this production. One enzyme involved is CYP80B1 , which produces (S)-3'-hydroxy-N-methylcoclaurine from (S)-N-methylcoclaurine .
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.
In spite of supposed curative properties, and historical use by Native Americans as
On 13 Aug 2005, U.S. news media reported that Dan Raber (of Georgia, United States) came under felony investigation for dispensing bloodroot paste to women with breast cancer. It was reported that nine women developed disfiguring destruction of skin and underlying tissue. Reports also indicated that Lois March, M.D., who is a practicing physician in Cordele, Georgia, has also come under U.S. FDA investigation for her role in prescribing pain medication to Raber's disfigured customers while their use of bloodroot was ongoing 27 Aug 2005 reports: .
The United States FDA has approved the inclusion of sanguinarine in toothpastes as an antibacterial or anti-plaque agent . On 24 Nov 2003, the Colgate-Palmolive Company of Piscataway, New Jersey, United States commented by memorandum (see: file) to the United States Food and Drug Administration that then-proposed rules for levels of sanguinarine in mouthwash and dental wash products were lower than necessary. Professor George T. Gallagher also commented from his post at Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, see his memorandum of 23 June 2003.
Sangrovit is an animal food additive sold and distributed in Europe. Sangrovit is manufactured by Germany-based Phytobiotics. Sangrovit contains sanguinarine and chelerythrine. On 14 May 2003, Cat Holmes reported in the Georgia Faces that Jim Affolter and Selima Campbell, horticulturists at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, were meeting with Phytobiotics to relate their research into commercial cultivation of Bloodroot.
Other useful herb information: Garcinia Cambogia | Mullein | Mentha | Ephedra | Comfrey | Red Clover | Bentonite Clay
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