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What is Bloodroot?

Bloodroot is an early spring wildflower that grows in woodlands of the eastern United States and Canada. The stout rhizome oozes with a bright red latex when cut, giving the plant its common name. The root and rhizome are collected in the fall for medicinal use.

Scientific Name(s)

Sanguinaria canadensis L.

Common Name(s)

Bloodroot also is known as bloodwort, red pucoon, redroot, coon root, paucon, sweet slumber, tetterwort, snakebite, Indian paint, and black paste.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Bloodroot was used by eastern American Indian tribes as a red dye and in the treatment of ulcers, skin conditions, and as a blood purifier as well as for treating ulcers and skin conditions. All of these medicinal uses derive from the appearance of the blood-red latex exuded from the fresh root. The juice also was used for coughs and sore throats, with the bitter taste masked by placing the juice on a lump of maple sugar that was then sucked. Higher oral doses were observed to expel phlegm and cause vomiting. The root entered 19th century medicine as a caustic topical treatment for skin cancers, polyps, and warts. Bloodroot has been marketed in toothpastes and mouthwashes for the prevention of gum disease and plaque, but studies have found it inferior to drugs such as doxycycline and chlorhexidine, with concerns about its toxicity.

What is the recommended dosage?

Clinical studies are lacking to provide dosage guidelines.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Use of bloodroot as a caustic agent in the form of a salve or paste has led to localized tissue damage and disfiguring scarring in a number of case reports.


Based on epidemiological studies, there is a correlation between the use of sanguinarine-containing toothpastes and oral leukoplakia (a possible early sign of mouth cancer).


1. Bloodroot. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; October 2010.

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