Blood Root. Nat. Ord. Papaveraceae. Linn. Syst. Polyandria Monogynia. Hab. Canada and Northern States of America.
Med. Prop. and Action. The root is an acrid emetic with narcotic, properties. It is a local irritant of considerable power, producing inflammation when kept in contact with the skin, exciting violent irritation when snuffed up the nostrils, and operating like a caustic upon fungous surfaces. Taken internally, in moderate doses it excites the stomach, increases somewhat the frequency of the pulse, and stimulates the secretions, especially that of the lungs, and, as some suppose, the hepatic also. More largely taken, it occasions nausea, reduces the force of the circulation and the frequency of the pulse. Eberle* considers its sedative influence on the heart and arteries to be quite as certain as that of Digitalis, if not more so; but this was rarely observable until the medicine had been regularly continued for periods varying from live to ten days. In a full dose it produces vomiting. In overdoses it acts as a poison, causing burning in the stomach, excessive thirst, violent vomiting, faintness, vertigo, dimness of vision, and great prostration (Wood). Emmenagogue properties are also assigned to it. Its activity appears to depend upon a peculiar principle, Sanguinarine. The seeds and leaves are said to partake of the qualities of the root.
The dose of the powdered root as an emetic is gr. x. - xx. suspended in water; combined with Ipecacuanha, it is said to be a prompt and easy emetic for children and old persons. As a nauseant and stimulating expectorant, the dose is gr. j. - v.; as a diaphoretic and sedative, gr. j. every one or two hours. A compound Powder (Rad. Sang. Pulv. ij., Opii Pulv. j, Potass. Sulph. 3 ij. j., M.) is recommended by Dr. Gibb as the least irritating of all the preparations of Sanguinaria. Externally, it is used in the form of ointment (gr. lx. ad Ung. oz. j.). Many other formulAe are furnished by Dr. Gibb in his excellent paper on this plant.
It is contra-indicated in all states of high general excitement, or in active local inflammations; in these states it cannot but prove injurious, for whatever may be its ulterior effects, it is always actively stimulant in its primary operation. (Dr. Francis.§)
In Diseases of the Lungs, it appears to exercise a marked influence. In Typhoid Pneumonia, according to Dr. Ives,|| when respiration is very difficult, the extremities livid, and the pulse full, soft, and compressible, it does more to obviate these symptoms and remove the disease than any other remedy. In such cases, he observes, the dose must be large in proportion to the violence of the disease, and be often repeated until it excites vomiting or relieves the symptoms. He likewise reports very favourably of its effects in Phthisis, Hooping-Cough, Influenza, &c. In Protracted Catarrhal Affections assuming the character of incipient Phthisis, the regular employment of small doses of this root in tincture has, in the practice of Eberle,¶ not unfrequently afforded complete relief. He regards it as undoubtedly one of the most valuable agents we possess in this class. of cases; but in order to obtain its full effects, it requires to be persevered in for two or more weeks.
* Therapeutics, ii. p. 96. Therapeutics, ii. p. 440. X British Med. Journ., Feb. 4 and 11, 1860.
§ New York Med. Phys. Journ., vol. i. || Bigelow, Amer. Med. Bot, i. p. 81. ¶ Therapeutics, ii. p. 97.
Dr. Francis* relates a case of severe Chronic Pneumonia in which it proved of essential benefit. In Asthma and Hydro-thorax, it has also been used with the best effects.