- Aristolochia serpentaria L.
- Birthwort family
Parts Usually Used
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.
Grows in rich, dry woods of the eastern United States. Connecticut
to Florida; Texas to Missouri, Ohio. Too rare to harvest.
Anodyne, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, bitter tonic, nervine, stimulant
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.
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.
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.