Sanguinaria Canadensis. Blood-Root. Puccoon.

Botanical name: 

Table 02. Sanguinaria canadensis. Indian-paint. Red-root. Turmeric.

Sanguinaria Canadensis.
Lin. sp. pi. 723.
Amoen. acad. 4. 515.
Gronov. virg. 57. ed. nov. 80.
Cold, novebor. 126.
Corn. Canad. 212.
Schoepf. Mat. Med. Ame. p. 85.
Dill. elth. t. 252.
Ait. Hort. Kew. ed. 2d. vol. 3. p. 286.
Pers. Syn. Plant, vol. 2. p. 61.
Bot. Mag. 162.
Mich. fl. Boreali-Am. 1. p. 309.
Willd. sp. pl. Tom. 2. p. 1140.
Coxe. Am. Dispen. ed. 2d. p. 549.
Thatcher. Am. Dispen. ed. 2d. p. 331. ed. 1st. p. 201.
Pharm. Mass. Med. Soc. p. 29.
Downey's Inaug. Diss.
Barton's "Collections," &c. ed. 3. vol. i. p. 28, 55. Vol. ii. p. 39, 52.
Muhl. Cat. Pl. Am. Sep. p. 51.
Barton's Prod. fl. Philad. p. 57.


Gen. Plant. ed. Schreb. n. 878.

Sanguinaria Lin. Cal. 2-phyllus. Pet. 8. Caps, ovata, 1-locularis.
Nat. Syst. Juss. Papaveraceae — Classis XIII. Ordo II.

Sanguinaria L. * Beitharnosia, T. * Petala 8. Stigma capitatum, bisulcum persistens. Capsula ovata oblonga, apice attenuato, bivalvis valvis replo biscapo utrinque seminefero persistenti, appositis caducis. Folium unicum radicale; scapus 1-florus; succus luxmatodes. Gen. Plan, de Juss. ed. 1789. p. 236.
Nat. ord. Linnsei, Rhoedex.
Classis. Polyandria, Ordo. Monogynia, Lin. Syst.

Sanguinaria Canadensis: folio subreniformi sinuato-lobato, scapo unifloro. Willd. Sp. pi. 2. p. 1140 et Pur. ♃.
Var. β. stenopetala; S. petalis linearibus. Pur. fl. Am. Sep. 2. p. 366.

Synonyma, &c.

Sanguinaria. Hort. cliff. 202. Gron. virg. 57. Mill. Dict. n. 1. Giseck. ic. fasc. 1. n. 13.
S. minor, flore simplici. Dill, elth. 355. t. 252. f. 326.
Chelidonium majus Canadense acaulon. Corn. Canad. 212. Moris, hist. 2. p. 257. s. 3. t. 11. f. 1. Raj. hist. 1887.
Ranunculus Virginiensis albus. Park, theat. 327. Rai. suppl. 314.
β. Sanguinaria major, flore simplici. Dill. elth. 335. t. 252. f. 325.
γ, Sanguinaria major, flore pleno. Dill. elth. 335. t. 252. f. 326.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst.7. p. 185.
Canadisches Blutkraut. Willd. (German.)
Habitat in America Septentrionali.
Folium radicale tenerrime in sinu fovet, et amplectitur infantiam fioris, more Osmundae Lunariae et est folium unicum cucullatum et scapus uniflorus e singula gemma radicis bivalvi. Stamina meae vix habuere Antheras polliniferas; an dioica ? Lactescens succo fulvo CheUdonii. Willd. sp. pi. p. 1140.
Habitat in nemoribus Canadae et Floridae.
Pharm. Sanguinariae Radix et semina.
Qual. Succus saturate aureus, acris corrodens. Flavo tingit; Spirit. Vini colore rubro grato inficit.
Vis: emetica, purgans.
Usus: Rad. decoct, tenue Gonorrhoea; morsura serpentum; morbi biliosi; — Succ. veruccae. icterus, rad. pulv. ʒ i. in cerevisia. Shoep. Mat. Med.

Descriptio Uberior.

Planta pulcherrima. Radix praemorsa, fulva, magna et carnosa, succo fulvo exudans Chelidonii. Foliis radicalibus, sub floratione parvulis, subtus glaucis, sanguineo-venosis, circa scapum et florem convolutis. Post florationem folia sunt magna, cordata et profunde sinuato-labata, subtus glauca et fulvo-venosa. Scapo constanter uniflora. Florum petala alba vel roseo-striata, perquam varians numero et magnitudine; frequenter 8. calix evanescens sive caducus. Capsula longa in medio inflate, apice et basi attenuata. Semina plurima rotunda et acuminata. ♃. Florens Martio et Aprili.
Barton's Flora Philadelphia, M.S.

Sanguinaria canadensis is a plant peculiar to North America. Its systematic name, as well as its English and German appellations, are expressive of the peculiar reddish, or rather orange-coloured juice which pervades every part of it It is one of the most beautiful and delicate vegetables of our country. It is particularly interesting from its flowering at a season when there is little or no general verdure, and scarcely any thing in bloom, except trees, the inconspicuous florescence of which does not render them in general very attractive. It is also one of the most abundant plants of our states, growing plentifully from Canada to Florida.

The root of Puccoon is perennial, and of no definite size. It varies in thickness from a quarter, to a half, or sometimes three quarters of an inch in diameter; and in length, from two to four inches. It is generally about the size and length of a finger; fleshy, round, and abruptly terminated; being for the most part tolerably straight in the middle, with a curvature at each end. It is commonly of the shape represented in the plate, though not unfrequently, particularly in the new plant, shorter, and contorted or bent upwards. Occasionally a number of roots are connected together, principally by no closer attachment than that produced by a fasciculation of the numerous fibres originating from the main body. The external colour of the root is brownish, inclining to copper; but being cut, it appears of a red hue, and a bright orange-coloured juice is abundantly discharged. The end always has the appearance of having been cut off by a dull instrument, or broken in removing it from the ground. The scape, which is uniformly terminated by a single flower, proceeds from one end of the root, and rises perpendicularly to the height of six or eight inches. In the early part of the season, that is, about the last of March or first of April, it flowers much under this height; and not unfrequently the flowers are expanded at these periods, when the scape has just appeared above ground. The leaf-stalks, which are thicker than the scape, are long, and arise from the same part of the root. This has relation to a plant in the state of forwardness represented in the plate. In common, by the time the flower is expanded, the leaf-stalk is not more than half the length of the scape; and it then supports a small convoluted leaf, with its lower lobes embracing this part. Both the leaf- stalks and scape, which are encircled at their origin from the root, by a common sheath, are of an orange colour, deepest towards their junction with the caudex, and becoming paler near to the leaves and flowers, where it is blended with green. When broken or squeezed, they emit a coloured liquor, like that of the root, but paler. The stain made by this fluid on paper, is a faint yellow. When this plant first comes up, the young leaf is rolled round both scape and flower-bud; and not unfrequently, the flower is opened immediately over the convoluted leaf. The under side of this leaf is glaucous, the disk pale yellowish green, and on both sides the orange-coloured veins are very conspicuous. In favourable situations the plant has often one or two expanded leaves like that in the plate; and these are also of a pale green colour on their upper surface, and glaucous or bluish-white underneath, interspersed on either side with numerous orange-coloured veins. The whole plant becomes much increased in size after the flowering is passed about a month; frequently attaining at this period, the height of fifteen inches, but commonly not exceeding twelve. The leaves are then enlarged to twice or thrice the size of that in the plate, are heart-shaped, and deeply lobed. The number of lobes is mostly five or seven, and their edges have many small unequal indentations. On each lobe, one large fibre of a bright yellow colour may be seen, running from the leaf-stalk and sending off* many smaller ones. The flowers are white and spreading; and have two deciduous calix leaves. Michaux says there are three, which I believe is an error. The calix is so exceedingly fugacious, that it is common for them to fall off before the flower is expanded; hence they are rarely seen. The petals, which for the most part are pure white, are often tinged on their under side, and sometimes on their upper, with a delicate rose colour. The flower-bud is generally faint rose-coloured. The petals vary exceedingly both in size and number. I have in many flowers counted from seven to fourteen; the common number is about eight. The stamens are numerous, the anthers simple, and orange-coloured. The filaments are simple, shorter than the corolla, and of a yellow colour. The pistil is reddish green; the germ oblong and compressed. Style none. Stigma thick, two furrowed, with a stria the height of the stamens, and permanent. The capsule, or as Willdenow designates it, the siliqua, is oblong, swelling in the middle, acute at both ends, and two-valved. The seeds are numerous, round, and pointed.

The variety described by Mr. Pursh as having linear petals, I have never seen. Mr. Nuttall informed me, that it was also collected in Georgia by Mr. Lyon. The medicinal properties are in all probability the same, as the variety does not differ except in the flower. The tendency of Puccoon to multiply its petals in favourable situations, renders it likely that culture would readily produce a double variety; and indeed the variety marked v. Sanguinaria major flore pleno, by Dillenius, as quoted under the Synonyma, proves that such a change has been effected in it. As these double flowers are admired by the florists, the plant is worthy of being introduced in our gardens, where it thrives extremely well. Some roots planted in my garden in 1815, in very uncongenial soil, came up the succeeding year, and bloomed luxuriantly; the roots were again transplanted last Autumn, as well as last Spring, (1817,) and are yet alive.

Sanguinaria Canadensis inhabits a rich loose soil, on the declivities of hills, and the exposed borders of shady woods. Pursh says it generally delights in fertile soil. A large quantity of it grows on the side of a hill at the end of the Botanic-Garden of our University, where the soil is sandy and almost inclining to arid.

In auspicious seasons, Puccoon flowers in Pennsylvania in the last days of March; and even in the common weather of spring months, it may always be found in bloom about the first of April.

Dr. Thatcher has given the Indian name, as Puuson. After many enquiries I believe this to be incorrect, and a mere corruption of the true aboriginal name, Puccoon, as given at the head of this article.

Chemical Analysis.

From the chemical analysis of Puccoon made by Dr. Downey, it appears, that there is a gum, a resin, and a saponaceous or extractive matter in the root; and that the gum is in the greatest abundance. It results also from the same experiments, that the active principle of the plant resides chiefly in the gum and extractive matter, but especially in the former.

Medical Properties.

This plant is emetic and purgative in large doses; and in smaller quantities is stimulant, diaphoretic and expectorant; but it is here presented to physicians principally for its emetic power. It is a powerful medicine, and has produced dangerous effects when incautiously administered. Dr. Shoepf mentions the emetic and purgative virtue of the root. Fifteen or twenty grains of the pulverized root produce powerful emesis; but the medicine must be given in the form of pills, as the powder creates great irritation of the fauces. A decoction or extract will perhaps answer better. The root of this plant when exhibited as an emetic, has been found to dislodge worms from the stomach. [Barton's Collections, &c. part 2. p. 52. ] This hint of the anthelmintic property of this part may not, perhaps, be unworthy of notice, though other emetics have sometimes produced the same effect. Dr. Shoepf has also mentioned that a weak decoction of the root was used in gonorrhoea, against the bites of serpents, and in bilious diseases; that the juice was employed against warts; and, (on the authority of Colden), that the powder of the root in the dose of one drachm, was exhibited in jaundice. Dr. Dexter of Cambridge, Massachusetts, says, that in some trials he made with the plant, it proved efficacious as a stimulant and diaphoretic, in doses of one grain of the powdered root, or ten drops of the saturated tincture. [Dr. Thatcher's Disp. p. 202.] I have never used this plant with a view to its emetic effects, but from the experiments of Dr. Downey it would seem, that the dose recommended by Colden and Shoepf, is much too large. Neither have I much faith in the efficacy of this medicine in jaundice. If it has done good in this disease, it must have acted by its emetic power alone; and in all probability other emetics would do as well. Combined however with calomel, it is not improbable that it would be serviceable. Dr. Thatcher mentions the reputed efficacy of this root in removing jaundice, and says it is believed to be the chief ingredient in the quack medicine known by the name of Rawson's bitters. [New Am. Dispensatory, p. 202.] A spirituous tincture of the root is said to be frequently used in New England, in various diseases, as a tonic bitter. [Barton's Collections, &c.] This is the only form in which I have used the plant. I prepared some of the tincture from the recent roots, last spring. It is intensely bitter, approaching in its permanent impression on the tongue, to acerb. I have used this preparation of the plant in three cases, and with the manifest effect of increasing the appetite and tone of the stomach. It was used in the same way as wine bitters. I can readily believe that in this form it has done good, at least as a prophylactic, in those low marshy grounds of the southern states, where the inhabitants are said to use it to guard them against intermittents, and what the country people call "inward fevers." The dose of the saturated tincture of the root, is from 30 to 80 drops twice a day, increasing or decreasing the number as circumstances may require. [Thatcher's Dispensatory, p. 202.] I have found 2O drops thrice a day, a good average dose. A decoction of the root has been recommended in the treatment of old and indolent ulcers; and the powdered root applied a few times in some cases of ill-conditioned ulcers, with callous edges and an ichorous discharge, produced a healthy state of the sores. [Downey's Inaug. Diss. Phil. 1808.] I have also heard of the application of the powdered root to a fungous tumor within the nostril, with the effect of producing detumescence, and bringing away frequently, small pieces of the fungus, which in the first instance impeded the progress of air through the nostril, and was supposed to be a polypus. A decoction of Puccoon has been employed with very good effect in that form of sore-throat, called by Dr. Darwin peripneumonia trachealis. [Barton's Collections, part 2. p. 40.] The medicine proved emetic. From this case Dr. Barton believes that "it promises to be an useful medicine, particularly on the foundation of its emetic and expectorant effects, in cases of cynanche maligna, or ulcerous sore-throat, in cynanche trachealis, or hives, and other similar affections. Its properties," continues the Doctor, "seem to be considerably allied to those of Seneca snake- root, which has been so beneficially employed in the same cases." [Barton's Collections, &c. part 2. p. 40.] Dr. Israel Allen, of Sterling, and others, have had recourse to this medicine as a substitute for digitalis, in coughs and pneumonic complaints; and on some occasions it is said that it proved as efficacious as Fox-glove, when administered with the same care; and it was found less debilitating than this medicine. [Thatcher's Disp. p. 202.]

The leaves and the seeds of Puccoon, are, according to Dr. Barton and Dr. Downey, evidently deleterious. The latter produce effects similar to those brought on by the seeds of Stramonium, or thorn-apple. The experiments of the last-named gentleman were made with the unripe seeds, and he says they exerted "a very considerable influence over the pulse, and a stupifying narcotic quality." [Inaug. Diss.] They therefore may be considered as incitants; and in common with other articles of that class, they are said sometimes to act as diaphoretics and diuretics.

The best time to collect this plant for medical purposes is, when the seeds are ripe, which is about the beginning of May.

Oeconomical Use.

The juice of the root of Puccoon makes a fine dye of an orange colour, and is used by the country people for staining flannels and woollen cloths. The Indians paint themselves with it, and use it as a dye for their baskets and articles of ornament; hence one of its vulgar names, Indian-paint. From the experiments made by Dr. Downey, with a view to find a suitable mordant to fix this dye, it appears, that the colour of flannel and silk stained with the juice, could never be entirely washed out; that the sulphate of alumine, or alumine alone, and the murio-sulphate of tin, are tolerable good mordants for flannel, cotton, silk, and linen. Murio-sulphate of tin, was the only mordant that fixed the colour on cotton and linen. I have heard that this plant is employed as a dye in the woollen-cloth manufactory near Wilmington, Delaware. If success has been obtained in fixing the colour permanently, there can be no doubt that the dye obtained from Puccoon will become a highly important article in domestic manufactures.

It is said that in Maryland, the farriers give the root of Sanguinaria to horses, to induce sweating; and to promote the shedding of their old coats of hair.

Table II.

Fig. 1. Represents the Sanguinaria Canadensis of the natural and most common size, in the early part or middle of April. During the heat of the day, the petals are more horizontal than they can be well represented in a drawing; towards evening they converge; and at night they are wrapped up.
Fig. 2. The capsule or seed vessel, about half mature. As the plant, unless sought after with some care at the period of its inflorescence, will seldom be met with in flower, the capsule and large leaves of the advanced plant, may serve to identify it.

Vegetable Materia Medica of the U.S. or Medical Botany, 1817 (Vol. I), 1818 (Vol. II), was written by William P. C. Barton, M. D.