The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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Virginia Snakeroot

Scientific Names

Virginia Snakeroot

  • Aristolochia serpentaria L.
  • Aristolociaceae
  • Birthwort family

Common Names

  • Birthwort
  • Pelican flower
  • Red river snakeroot
  • Sangree root
  • Sangrel
  • Serpentaria
  • Snakeweed
  • Texas snakeroot
  • Thick birthwort

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Parts Usually Used

Root
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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Virginia snakeroot is a delicate perennial plant; its fibrous, horizontal rootstock produces many thin roots, as well as a wavy stem that reaches 1-3 feet in height. The alternate thin, green leaves are ovate and cordate, tapering gradually to a point at the apex; strongly arrow-shaped. A few solitary purple flowers, calabash-pipelike, with an S-shaped calyx inflated at both ends, bloom on short, scaly branches near the bottom of the plant, often under the litter, during June and July.
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Where Found

Grows in rich, dry woods of the eastern United States. Connecticut to Florida; Texas to Missouri, Ohio. Too rare to harvest.
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Medicinal Properties

Anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, bitter tonic, nervine, stimulant
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Uses

Small doses will stir a poor appetite, and promote proper digestion, but large doses will cause vomiting, diarrhea , vertigo, and other unpleasant effects. In proper doses it is said to stimulate blood circulation, reduce fever, stomachache, smallpox, scarlet fever, pneumonia, croup, flatulence, suppressed menses. The tea gargled for sore throats. At one time, this herb was perhaps the most highly valued of snakebite remedies, various other species of its genus also being used in different parts of the world for the same purpose. Native Americans treated snakebite by cutting into the bite and sucking out the poisonous venom, then applying the chewed root of the plant to the wound.
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Formulas or Dosages

Infusion: steep 1 tsp. dried rootstock and roots in 1 cup boiling water. Take 1 tbsp. 3 to 6 times per day.

Tincture: a dose is from 1 to 20 drops, taken in cold water. Use with caution.
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Warning

Virginia snakeroot contains an alkaloid which, in pure form, can paralyze the respiratory system. Use only small doses of the plant; and with medical supervision if possible. Too rare to harvest.
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Bibliography

Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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