- Family Rhamnaceae
- Ceanothus americanus
- Red Root, Wild Snowball, Jersey Tea, Mountain-sweet, Walpole Tea
- None listed.
Native to eastern North America, this deciduous shrub grows to about five feet with downy, oval, pale green leaves and clusters of white flowers, although they may also be pink, lilac, or purple in colour. The stems have many sharp thorny projections which causes injury during harvest. The plant is sometimes used for breeding garden hybrids and can vary in appearance from area to area. In California, it grows as a small tree, while, in Colorado, it appears as a scruffy, semi-thorny ground cover, spreading over a fairly good-sized area. The only things that is reliably similar between the species are the unique tiny, triangular seed pods. When ripe, they are a brilliant burgundy red.
The roots can go four feet underground, with a thickness of two or three inches in diameter. The exterior bark of the root is a dark to black colour, but the inner bark is a bright red, a colour that extends through the white woody root as a pink tinge after a freeze. The more brilliant the red, the more potent the herb. The root is extremely tough when it dries and should be cut into very small pieces with snips while still fresh. The root is best collected in the fall or early spring when it has been subjected to a good frost and when the colour is most pronounced. In spite of its large variation in appearance, all species are usable as long as the root bark and inner pith are reddish-purple or brown-red in colour.
Interestingly, the name for this plant is the same in several Native American languages, including the Mesquakie, Potawatomi, Menomini, and Ojibwa. “Kikuki manito” means spotted snake spirit, indicating that it was valued as a highly potent medicine, valued for treating bowel problems and for curing snakebites.
Used extensively by Native Americans, the root and root bark were employed in the treatment of fevers and such mucous membrane congestions as sore throats and colds, as well in as treating headaches, joint and muscle pain, fevers, coughs, laryngitis, and pneumonia.
The Choctaws in Louisiana made an extract taken to treat lung hemorrages.
The Cherokee used a lotion made from the root to treat skin cancer.
According to one report, the Seminole used redroot as a hallucinogen to influence speech and awareness.
During the Revolutionary War, the leaves were brewed as a tea substitute.
Although never officially listed in the US Pharmacopoeia, it was used by some physicians as an astringent, stimulating tonic, and expectorant.
- blood coagulant
- lymphatic stimulant
- a coagulant
- Root, root bark, leaves
- The plant appears to encourage blood coagulation.
The root has a long history of effectiveness against stubborn or fetid ulcerations of the skin and mucous membranes, strep throat, general throat, and upper respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma, coughs, malaria and diphtheria, as well as diarrhea and dysentery.
It is also considered to be a mild sedative and is used to lower blood pressure.
Homeopathic uses include treating an enlarged spleen.
The herb is primarily for the lymphatic system (lymph nodes, tonsils, appendix, and spleen) and has shown a special affinity for clearing out dead cellular tissue. The accumulation of these dead cells harbours harmful organisms, which ultimately is the cause of illness. By removing these waste products, the body is better able to fight incoming pathogens and thereby resist disease and speed the recovery process. When combined with echinacea, the root has the ability to increase dramatically the effectiveness of echinacea.
It is reported that red root increases T-cell count and is a useful adjunct for immune system disorders including AIDS.
A related species, C. thrysiflorus (California lilac), has historically been successful in the treatment of malignant diphtheria.
The Mexican species, C. azurea, is used to treat fevers.