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Botanical names:
Sanguinaria canadensis

Parts Used & Where Grown

Bloodroot grows primarily in North America and in India. The rhizomes and root of the plant contain an orange-red latex.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
1 Star
Refer to label instructions
Bloodroot has a long history of use for relieving coughs

The mucilage of slippery elm gives it a soothing effect for coughs. Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. There is a long tradition of using wild cherry syrups to treat coughs. Other traditional remedies to relieve coughs include , catnip, comfrey (the above-ground parts, not the root), horehound, elecampane, mullein, lobelia, hyssop, licorice, mallow, (Malvia sylvestris),red clover, ivy leaf, pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium),onion, (Allium cepa), and plantain (Plantago lanceolata, P. major). None of these has been investigated in human trials, so their true efficacy for relieving coughs is unknown.

1 Star
800 IU daily
Volatile oils made from bloodroot have antibacterial properties and may be effective in mouthwash or toothpaste form.

The potent effects of some commercial mouthwashes may be due to the inclusion of thymol (from thyme) and eukalyptol (from eucalyptus)—volatile oils that have proven activity against bacteria. One report showed bacterial counts plummet in as little as 30 seconds following a mouthrinse with the commercial mouthwash Listerine™, which contains thymol and eukalyptol. Thymol alone has been shown in research to inhibit the growth of bacteria found in the mouth. Because of their antibacterial properties, other volatile oils made from tea tree, clove, caraway, peppermint, and sage, as well as the herbs myrrh and , might be considered in a mouthwash or toothpaste. Due to potential allergic reactions and potential side effects if some of these oils are swallowed, it is best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before pursuing self-treatment with volatile oils that are not in approved over-the-counter products for halitosis.

1 Star
Poison Oak/Ivy
Refer to label instructions
Chickweed has been used historically to treat skin inflammations such as poison oak and poison ivy.
A great many plants have been used historically to treat skin inflammations like poison oak and poison ivy dermatitis. Examples include calendula (Calendula officinalis), blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis), Virginia snakeroot (Aristolachia serpentaria), holy basil (Ocimum tenuifolium), and chickweed (Stellaria media). None of these remedies has been subjected to controlled clinical studies to determine if they are safe and effective for this use. Cooling essential oils, such as peppermint and menthol, have also been used topically to relieve burning pain and itch. Such oils should not be applied full-strength, but should rather be diluted (for example in lotion or gel) to avoid further skin irritation.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

Native Americans employed bloodroot extensively in ritual and medicine. The dye was used as a body paint.1Sore throats, cough, rheumatic pains, and various types of cancer were all treated with bloodroot.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Sanguinaria canadensis

How It Works

Alkaloids—principally sanguinarine—constitute the primary active compounds in bloodroot. These are sometimes used in toothpaste and other oral hygiene products because they inhibit the growth of oral bacteria.2, 3 Not all trials have found sanguinaria-containing dental products helpful for gum disease, however.4

How to Use It

Sanguinarine-containing toothpastes and mouth rinses should be used according to manufacturer’s directions. Bloodroot tincture is sometimes included in cough-relieving formulas, and 10 drops or less may be taken three times per day.5 However, bloodroot is rarely used alone for this purpose.


Botanical names:
Sanguinaria canadensis

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Sanguinaria canadensis

Side Effects

Although previous studies have suggested the long-term use of dental products containing sanguinarine is safe,6 a recent report suggests that use of dental preparations containing blood root may be associated with leukoplakia—a condition characterized by white spots or patches in the mouth that is thought to be precancerous.7 Only small amounts of bloodroot should be taken internally, since amounts as small as 1 ml (approximately 20–30 drops) of tincture or 1 gram (approximately 1/30th ounce) can cause nausea and vomiting.8, 9

Long-term use or overdose of bloodroot can also cause stomach pain, diarrhea, visual changes, paralysis, fainting, and collapse.10 Long-term oral intake of sanguinarine-contaminated cooking oils has been linked in India to glaucoma, edema, heart disease, miscarriage, and diarrhea.11 The sanguinarine in these cases came from plants other than bloodroot. Nevertheless, bloodroot should not be used long term. The plant is unsafe for use in children and should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.

Recently the practice of applying ointments containing bloodroot, such as the so-called “black salve,” has been promoted for treatment of skin and other types of cancer.12 These ointments have never been tested in clinical studies, so their efficacy for treating cancer is unknown. They can cause severe pain, burns, and damage to healthy skin. It is imperative to seek professional diagnosis and treatment for all forms of cancer.


1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 424-5.

2. Dzink JL, Socransky SS. Comparative in vitro activity of sanguinarine against oral microbial isolates. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1985;27(4):663-5.

3. Hannah JJ, Johnson JD, Kuftinec MM. Long-term clinical evaluation of toothpaste and oral rinse containing sanguinaria extract in controlling plaque, gingival inflammation, and sulcular bleeding during orthodontic treatment. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 1989;96:199-207.

4. Mauriello SM, Bader JD. Six-month effects of a sanguinarine dentifrice on plaque and gingivitis. J Periodontol 1988;59(4):238-43.

5. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. West Yorks, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

6. Frankos VH, Brusick DJ, Johnson EM, et al. Safety of Sanguinaria extract as used in commercial toothpaste and oral rinse products. J Can Dent Assoc 1990;56(suppl 7):41-7.

7. Eversole LR, Eversole GM, Kopick J. Sanguinaria-associated oral leukoplakia. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 2000;89:455-64.

8. British Herbal Medicine Association Scientific Committee. British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. West Yorks, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

9. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds). American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997.

10. Felter HW, Lloyd JU. King's American Dispensatory 18th ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1898, reprinted 1983.

11. Hakim SA. Sanguinarine—a carcinogenic contaminant in Indian edible oils. Indian J Cancer 1968;5:183-97.

12. Naiman I. Cancer Salves: A Botanical Approach to Treatment. Santa Fe: Seventh Ray Press, 1999.

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How It Works

PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities because they do not comply with, nor are they condoned by, the ethics policies of our organization.