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Toxic parts

This species contains many alkaloids and is poisonous in large doses[1][2][3][4]. This herb should not be used by women when they are pregnant or lactating[4]. The sap, fresh or dried, can cause intense irritation to the mucous membranes[5].

Edible uses

There are no edible uses listed for Sanguinaria canadensis.

Material uses

A red dye is obtained from the sap of the root[1][3][6][7][8]. It was used as a face paint by the North American Indians[9][10]. Caution is advised, see notes on toxicity[5]. The crushed root has been applied to the body as an insect repellent[10]. Caution is advised, see notes on toxicity[5].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Blood root was a traditional remedy of the native North American Indians who used it to treat fevers and rheumatism, to induce vomiting and as an element in divination[11]. In modern herbalism it is chiefly employed as an expectorant, promoting coughing and the clearing of mucus from the respiratory tract[11].

The root is locally anaesthetic, cathartic, emetic, emmenagogue, expectorant, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative, stimulant, tonic[1][2][3][4]. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchial, respiratory tract and throat infections, and poor peripheral circulation[12]. Use with caution and preferably only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner[12]. The root is toxic[2][4][13], containing a number of opium-like alkaloids that are also found in other members of this family[10][12]. An excessive dose depresses the central nervous system, causes nausea and vomiting, and may prove fatal[12]. This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant or lactating women[12]. Externally, the root is used in the treatment of skin diseases, warts, nasal polyps, benign skin tumours, sore throats and chilblains[12]. An infusion of the root or the sap of the fresh root is used[14]. The root can be harvested in the autumn, dried and stored for later use. It should not be allowed to become damp since it will then deteriorate[1][10]. Sanguinarine, which is obtained from the root, is used as a dental plaque inhibitor[12].

The root is used to make a homeopathic remedy that is used to treat migraine[12].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - can be sown in the spring or late summer in an outdoor seedbed. We would advise sowing in pots in a cold frame, preferably as soon as the seed is ripe, otherwise in late winter[K]. Stratification can improve germination rates. The seed produces a root after the first stratification but then requires a warm period and another cold one before a shoot is produced. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on for at least their first winter in pots. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late summer as they die down.

Division in August after the leaves die down[15], or in early spring[16]. The plant has brittle roots and so should be handled carefully[12].

Cuttings of half-ripe shoots in late spring in a frame.

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Sanguinaria canadensis. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Prefers a sandy soil but it is not fussy so long as the ground is not water-logged[15]. Requires a leafy soil in a cool position in the shade of deciduous trees[16][17]. Thrives in sun or shade according to another report[15]. Plants grow freely in Britain if they are given a suitable site, and have even succeeded in an open position in a dry gravelly soil[1]. Tolerates a pH range from 5 to 7, or perhaps a bit higher[9].

Dormant plants are hardy to at least -20°c[17]. A very ornamental plant[15], but the flowers are very short-lived[17]. It can succeed in grass[15]. Plants are generally free of disease[9]. Polymorphic[15].

There is at least one named form with double flowers[17].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Sanguinaria canadensis. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Sanguinaria canadensis.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Sanguinaria canadensis
Imported References
Edible uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type

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    "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.

    "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki., "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. "image:Bloodroot.jpg|248px" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.


    1. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    2. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    3. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    4. ? Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    5. ? Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden. ()
    6. ? 6.06.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Saunders. C. F. Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the United States and Canada. Dover Publications ISBN 0-486-23310-3 (1976-00-00)
    8. ? 8.08.1 Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    9. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    10. ? Weiner. M. A. Earth Medicine, Earth Food. Ballantine Books ISBN 0-449-90589-6 (1980-00-00)
    11. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    12. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    13. ? 13.013.1 Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    14. ? 14.014.1 Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-2624-6 (1993-00-00)
    15. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)
    16. ? 16.016.1 Sanders. T. W. Popular Hardy Perennials. Collingridge (1926-00-00)
    17. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30936-9 (1991-00-00)
    18. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)

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