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Bethroot

Scientific Name(s): Trillium erectum L., Trillium grandiflorum (Michaux) Salisb.
Common Name(s): Bethroot, Birthroot, Cough root, Ground lily, Indian balm, Jewsharp, Purple trillium, Snake bite, Stinking Benjamin, Trillium, Trillium pendulum, Wake-robin

Clinical Overview

Use

Although there are no studies to support these uses, trillium has been used to stop postpartum bleeding and it also may play a role in the topical control of bleeding and relief from insect bites.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of trillium.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been determined.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects (emmenagogue and uterine stimulant). Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Although not yet clinically observed, trillium could have potential membrane-irritating effects and induce some cardiac activity.

Toxicology

Although the leaves of the plant have been considered to be edible by some, there remains the possibility of toxicity from the plant.

Botany

T. erectum is a low-growing perennial that reaches a height of 40 to 45 cm and is native to North America. It has 3 dark green diamond-shaped leaves, each about 18 cm long. From April to June it produces a solitary, odiferous, yellow to reddish-brown flower. The unpleasant smell is the reason for the name stinking Benjamin. T. erectum produces only 1 fruit per plant.Chevallier 1996, Duke 2003, Lapointe 1998

History

Various trillium species have been used by American Indians to treat gynecological conditions including irregular menstrual periods, menstrual pain, excessive vaginal discharge, and to aid childbirth (hence the name birthroot), as well as for diarrhea and as an expectorant. Topical preparations were used to relieve insect bites and skin irritations. T. erectum is a popular folk remedy for bleeding, snakebites, and skin irritations. The leaves have been used as a potherb or salad green.Chevallier 1996, USDA 2016

Chemistry

Review of the scientific literature reveals little data about the chemistry of this plant. Tertiary literature documents trillium species containing a fixed and volatile oil, a saponin (trillarin, which is a diglycoside of diosgenin), a glycoside resembling convallamarin, tannic acid, a resin, and considerable starch.Chevallier 1996, Hufford 1988, Spoerke 1980 Steroidal saponins have been identified, some of which may possess cytotoxic activity.Hayes 2009, Yokosuka 2008

Uses and Pharmacology

There is limited pharmacological data in the scientific literature on T. erectum. Review of tertiary literature suggests the medicinal component of the plant is the rhizome. Although trillium has been used for many years as an herbal means of controlling postpartum bleeding as well as other uterine bleeding problems, a clear mechanism for this systemic effect has not been identified.Duke 2003, Osol 1955 The plant may have astringent properties that account for its ability to limit topical bleeding and irritation. This action also was the basis for its historic use in diarrhea.Osol 1955, USDA 2016 No chemical basis has been identified for its traditional use as an expectorant. There is no evidence to support the use of trillium for the treatment of snoring.

The saponin glycosides have been shown to have antifungal activity.Hufford 1988 Steroidal saponins have been identified, some of which may possess cytotoxic activity.Hayes 2009, Yokosuka 2008

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of trillium for any condition.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to guide dosage of trillium.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Documented adverse effects (emmenagogue and uterine stimulant). Avoid use.USDA 2016, Lapointe 1998

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Although not yet clinically observed, trillium could have potential membrane-irritating effects and induce some cardiac activity.

Toxicology

Although the leaves of the plant have been considered to be edible, there remains the possibility of toxicity from the plant. The saponin could have potential membrane-irritating effects and the convallamarin-like glycoside could induce some cardiac activity, although neither of these events have been observed clinically.Spoerke 1980

References

Chevallier A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York, NY: DK Publishing Inc; 1996.
Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2003.
Hayes PY, Lehmann R, Penman K, Kitching W, De Voss JJ. Steroidal saponins from the roots of Trillium erectum (Beth root). Phytochemistry. 2009;70(1):105-113.19091359
Hufford CD, Liu SC, Clark AM. Antifungal activity of Trillium grandiflorum constituents. J Nat Prod. 1988;51:94-98.3373231
Lapointe L. Fruit development in trillium. Plant Physiol. 1998;117:183-188.9576787
Osol A, Farrar GE Jr, eds. The Dispensatory of the United States of America. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott; 1955.
Spoerke DG, Jr. Herbal Medications. Santa Barbara, CA: Woodbridge Press; 1980.
Trillium sp. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, December 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed December 2016.
Yokosuka A, Mimaki Y. Steroidal glycosides from the underground parts of Trillium erectum and their cytotoxic activity. Phytochemistry. 2008;69(15):2724-2730.18822438

Disclaimer

This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Further information

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