Origin

This is another indigenous medicine; being the root or rhizome of Sanguinaria Canadensis, a small herbaceous perennial, growing in woods throughout the United States, and sending up a pretty delicate flower, among those which appear earliest in the spring.

Sensible Properties. The root when fresh is two or three inches long, abrupt at the end, often contorted, about as thick as the finger, fleshy, of a reddish-brown colour externally, of a brighter red within, and abounding in an orange-coloured juice, which escapes when it is cut. it shrinks in drying, and, as kept in the shops, is in pieces from one to three inches long, flattened, much wrinkled, often with abrupt offsets and radical fibres attached, externally reddish-brown, and internally of an orange-red colour, and spongy consistence. The powder is also reddish. The odour of the root is peculiar and somewhat narcotic, the taste bitterish, acrid, and durable. Water and alcohol extract its colour and medical properties.

Active Principle. The virtues of the root probably depend, principally at least, on a peculiar organic alkali, denominated sanguinarina, which was discovered by the late Dr. Dana, of New York. it is an acrid substance, and, though itself white, forms coloured salts with the acids, which, when dissolved in water, produce beautiful red solutions. it is said to be identical with chelerythrin, an alkaloid subsequently discovered by Probst in celandine. Two other alkaloids are said to have been extracted from bloodroot; but how far they possess the virtues of the root has not been determined. (See U. S. Dispensatory, 12th ed., p. 741.)

Effects on the System

Bloodroot 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, and now reduces the force of the circulation, and diminishes the frequency of the pulse. Dr. Eberle, in • his work on Therapeutics, states that he had found it to have this effect, usually, after having been continued in moderate doses for eight or ten days. in the full dose, it produces vomiting. in over-doses, it acts as a poison, causing burning in the stomach, excessive thirst, violent vomiting, faintness, vertigo, dimness of vision, and great prostration.

Therapeutic Application

The medicine may be employed for the ordinary purposes of the emetics, but, from its irritant properties, is inferior to ipecacuanha, and is less used, with this object, than as a nau-seant, expectorant, and alterative. it has, however, been recommended as an emetic in croup; and may be employed appropriately in all cases, in which, along with an indication for emesis, there is a state of system demanding rather supporting than exhausting measures. For its expectorant and alterative properties, it has been highly recommended in various pectoral affections, and especially in pneumonia, in the advanced stages or typhoid conditions of which, it is considered by some as a highly valuable remedy. it has been found useful also in bronchitis acute and chronic, in asthma, and pertussis. in rheumatism, too, it has been used with supposed advantage, and has been recommended as an alterative in disease of the liver. it should not, however, be used in any case, during high febrile excitement, nor in acute inflammatory affections, until after due reduction by depletory methods.

Administration

The dose of the powder, as an emetic, is from ten to twenty grains, which should be given suspended in water. it has been recommended to administer it preferably in the form of pill, in consequence of its irritating effects on the fauces when swallowed in the former state. But it might be questionable whether it would be best to bring it, in its concentrated state, in contact with the coats of the stomach, irritating as it seems to be to the mucous membranes. As a nauseating and stimulating expectorant, it may be given in the dose of from one to five grains. The medicine is sometimes administered in the form of infusion, made in the proportion of half an ounce to a pint, of which the emetic dose would be about a fluidounce.

The officinal Tincture of Bloodroot (Tinctura Sanguinaria, U. S.) contains the virtues of two troyounces of the root in a pint, and may be given as an emetic in the dose of two or three fluidrachms, but is much more used as an alterative and expectorant, for which purposes from twenty to sixty drops are given, every two or three hours, in acute cases, and three or four times' a day in the chronic.

A Vinegar of Bloodroot (Acetum Sanguinaria, U. S.) is directed in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, made with diluted acetic acid, either by percolation or maceration, and containing the virtues of four troyounces of the root in two pints of the vinegar. The dose as an emetic is three or four fluidrachms, as an expectorant from 15 to 30 minims. This vinegar has been used as a gargle in the sore-throat of scarlet fever, and as a local application to ringworm, and other cutaneous eruptions. A syrup of bloodroot may be made by mixing a pint of the vinegar with two troypounds of sugar, and dissolving with a gentle heat. The dose would be about double that of the vinegar.

Sanguinaria has been employed topically for various purposes. The powder mixed with camphor has been used as an errhine in coryza. it is said to have repeatedly caused the disappearance of soft polypi, by being occasionally snuffed up the nostrils. it has also been applied to fungous ulcers as an escharotic. An infusion in vinegar has been used with benefit in obstinate cutaneous eruptions, as a gargle in the sore-throat of scarlatina, and as a stimulant to ill-conditioned ulcers.