This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
Bloodroot is the rhizome of Sanguinaria canadensis, Linne (N.O. Papa-veraceoe), a herb with a perennial rhizome, widely distributed throughout Canada and the United States, growing freely in shady places on rich soils; the plant produces in early spring a single flower succeeded by one or two leaves 10 to 15 cm. high, and exudes, when cut, an orange-red juice. The rhizome is collected in the autumn and dried.
Bloodroot varies usually in length from 2 to 5 cm., and in thickness from 5 to 10 mm. It has a dark grey or dark reddish brown colour, and is generally plump, straight, or somewhat curved, and nearly cylindrical, but it is sometimes much shrivelled and shrunken, and then contains less starch, due probably to its having been gathered before the end of the period of active growth. It is bluntly conical at the apex, and shows only traces of a bud or aerial stem. From the lower surface numerous dark, thread-like, brittle, wiry roots spring, commonly more or less interlaced, but easily breaking off, leaving inconspicuous raised scars; in the commercial drug the roots are mostly detached. The rhizome bears also more or less distinct encircling leaf-scars, and sometimes short knob-like branches at right angles to it.
The rhizome breaks with a short fracture; the fractured surface is sometimes whitish and starchy, with numerous minute deep red dots (cells containing secretion), sometimes of a more or less uniform deep blood-red or nearly black colour, and then hard and resinous instead of starchy, a difference due to the escape of the deep red secretion from the cells in which it was originally contained into the surrounding tissue. The appearance of the section varies not only in different rhizomes, but even in different parts of the same rhizome. The fibro-vascular bundles are distributed in a circle near the bark, but they are so inconspicuous as to be with difficulty discernible even under a lens. The drug has little odour, but an unpleasant bitter and acrid taste.
The student should observe
(a) The cylindrical shape and comparative absence of roots,
(b) The colour of the transverse section; and should compare the drug with Hydrastis rhizome (see above).
Bloodroot contains several remarkable and interesting alkaloids, the chief of which are sanguinarine, chelerythrine, and protopine. It also contains β- and γ-homochelidonine, a red resin and abundance of starch. It is richest in alkaloid in the early summer.
Sanguinarine, C20H15NO4,½H1O (m.pt. 213°), forms colourless crystals, but yields with acids deep red crystalline salts. It is also found in small quantity in the root of the greater celandine (Chelidonium majus, Linne), of Glaucium luteum, Scopoli, etc.; it causes tetanus and excitement. This alkaloid should not be confused with the mixture of resinous substances known as sanguinarin, which is obtained in the same way as cimicifugin, podophyllin, and other so-called ' eclectic ' remedies.
Chelerythrine, C21H17N04 (m.pt. 203°), a colourless bitter alkaloid yielding bright yellow salts; it is a toxic alkaloid and is also found in Chelidonium majus, Glaucium luteum, etc.
Protopine, C20H19NO5 (m.pt. 207°), also found in opium, celandine, etc.
β- and γ-homochelidonine, two colourless closely related alkaloids.
Bloodroot in full doses depresses the action of the heart, and produces nausea and vomiting; in smaller doses it increases the appetite and improves digestion. It has been used in atonic dyspepsia, croup, bronchitis, and asthma. The powdered rhizome is a powerful irritant to the respiratory passages.
The horseradish, Cochlearia Armoracia, Linne. (N.O. Cruciferoe), is indigenous to eastern Europe, but is naturalised in several parts of Britain, and is cultivated in this country as well as in many others. It possesses a large perennial root, and produces stout, erect, flowering stems about 1 metre high.
The root, which is used in the fresh state only, attains a length of over half a metre and a thickness of 3 cm. or more. It is nearly cylindrical except at the crown, where it often divides into a few short branches, each of which is enlarged in its upper part and marked with closely approximated, semi-amplexicaul leaf-scars. It gives off but few slender, lateral roots, is pale yellowish or brownish white in,colour, and fleshy in consistence. The transverse section exhibits a thick bark and a distinct cambium, within which is a wood consisting principally of parenchymatous tissue, groups of vessels being visible as minute points, especially near the cambium.
The root is odourless until broken, bruised, or scraped, when a pungent mustard-like odour is evolved; the taste is also pungent.
The student should observe
(a) The pale yellowish colour and cylindrical shape,
(b) The pungent odour (when crushed) and taste.
Horseradish root contains sinigrin and myrosin, and yields, when crushed and distilled with water, about 0.05 per cent, of allyl isothiocyanate (compare p. 147).
Horseradish root has properties similar to those of black mustard seed, viz. stimulant and rubefacient.