Friday, January 27, 2012

Poisons Post: Bloodroot & Belladonna


Scientific Name: Sanguinaria canadensis
Folk/Common Names: Snakebite, Sweet Slumber
Toxin Type: Alkaloid (sanguinarine)
Toxicity Level: It has the capacity to destroy living animal cells, which can cause massive dis-figuration and huge scab growth. It can be pretty bad if taken internally.
Where is the Poison: The whole plant (but especially in the root, which is said to 'bleed' when cut)

Symptoms: Essentially since Bloodroot is part of the poppy family ingesting it is like mixing Morphine and Opium and then eating it. You can guess the results. Numbness, acting like an insane person hopped up on shit, then potentially accidental coma and death by respiratory failure.

Interesting Fact: Bloodroot has reportedly been used in many instances to treat skin and other cancers--it has the unique properly to only "eat" bad cells on the surface of skin. However the process is extremely painful and dangerous if not handled properly. It also results in disfigurement.

Bloodroot extract has also been used in many dental hygiene products, as a dental aid. Its safety is still disputed.

Folk Info: Bloodroot was used extensively as a dye for clothing, especially in the Native nations. It was also used successfully in treating dental and respiratory problems in those same places. (interesting that too much can kill your lungs, isn't it?)

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?
I would honestly be worried more if it was ingested rather than got on you. But it's still painful when absorbed into the skin.

Scientific Name: Atropa Belladonna
Folk/Common Names: Deadly Nightshade, Devil's Herb, Black Cherry
Toxin Type: Tropane Alkaloids (Atropine & Hyoscycamine)
Toxicity Level: Ranks as one of the most toxic plants in the world
Where is the Poison: The entire plant, the root is the worst, but even a few berries can be enough to cause death.

Symptoms: Dry Mouth, tingling, blurred vision and dilation of the pupils, extreme delirium (usually not considered a 'high' in that it's not usually a pleasant experience), loss of balance and faculties, headaches, heart problems, and death.

Interesting Fact: I think you all know this herb was made quasi-famous for its supposedly inclusion in Flying Ointment made by witches to 'travel' to their rites. I find this plausible since the recipes I've seen include a near-toxic dose of hallucinogenic plants, so yes, you will see some shit, definitely.

Folk Info: Got its name due to its use to dilate the pupils of females to increase attractiveness.

BOTTOM LINE: Should you be worried?
It's extremely unpredictable to use and highly toxic. I personally wouldn't touch it.

More info on poisons/citation websites:

A Modern Herbal: Poison Directory

Poison Control Centers of America Plant Page

Disclaimer: Info is not evaluated by the FDA, yadda yadda, and please don't eat poison or handle it without some sort of training or a good herbalist (although both would be best!). Thanks.



  1. wow ! really interesting ! I find these so fascinating .

  2. Thank you for sharing! Always love learning more about plants!

  3. Growing up my Grandparent's woods at their farm - had many bloodroots growing. The state forestry came and dug up some for a state park. The flower is so pretty and delicate.

  4. @Rox Yes! That's why I do them :)

    @Faeries no problem :)

    @Homelight Aren't bloodroot flowers just beautiful? So tiny. Poisons often have such lovely flowers.