Pink Root (Spigelia marilandica)
Pink Root Identification: A rhizomatous clump-forming perennial; grows between one and two feet high, with about a one-foot spread. Pinkroot is an herb with a simple erect stem from 6 inches to 1-1/2 feet high. Pink Root Flowers
The pointed leaves are supple, sometimes glossy dark green; stemless, from 2 to 4 inches long, and one-half to 2 inches wide. The rather showy flowers are produced from May to June in a 1-sided terminal spike. They are tube-shaped, narrowed below, and slightly contracted toward the top, where they terminate in five lanceshaped lobes. The outside and inside of the tube are bright scarlet and the lobes yellow.
Rootstock: The rootstock is small, from 1 to 2 inches in length and about one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness. It is somewhat crooked or bent, dark brown, with a roughened appearance of the upper surface caused by cup shaped scars, the remains of former annual stems. The lower surface and the sides have numerous long, finely branched, lighter colored roots, which are rather brittle. Pinkroot has a pleasant, aromatic odor, and the taste is described as sweetish, bitter and pungent.
Other Names: Pinkroot spigelia, American wormroot, Carolina pink, Carolina pinkroot, Indian pink, Maryland pinkroot, perennial wormgrass, pinkroot, snakeroot, star bloom, unstilla, wormgrass.
Family: Loganiaceae (Logania family)
Flowers: May – June.
Habitat: This plant is found in rich woods from New Jersey to Florida and west to Texas and Wisconsin, but occurs principally in the Southern States. It is fast disappearing, however, from its native habitat.
Parts Used: Root.
Harvest: Rootstock after flowering in early fall.
History: Once abundant throughout the southern United States, Pink Root was reported scarce as early as 1830 and came close to extinction in that region later in the century because of over harvesting. In earlier times, American Indians had discovered that the plant’s root was a remarkable cure for intestinal worms, especially roundworms, and this use was rapidly taken up not only by American pharmacists but by European medical people too. As demand for the root grew, the gathering and sale of Pink Root became an important source of income, particularly to the Creeks and Cherokees. Effective as pinkroot was, its popularity declined in the early decades of the 20th century, when doctors became alarmed at its occasional side effects, which included dizziness, rapid heartbeat, dimmed vision, and convulsions. There was also the problem of adulteration: when supplies began to fall short, greedy traders often stretched their stock with similar-looking but worthless plant materials. By the 1920’s, the once-prized remedy had fallen into disuse.
Constituents: Spigeline (bitter principle), fixed oil, volatile oil, resin, wax, tannin, salts.
Medicinal Properties: Vermifuge, anthelmintic, and cathartic.
Uses: In Appalachia, a tea made form the leaves is used to aid digestion. Native Americans harvested and prepared the fibrous yellow roots of the plant as an anthelmintic (a substance that causes the expulsion or destruction of intestinal worms) centuries before the arrival of Europeans.
The plant has also been used to treat endocardial problems and even as a cough remedy. Its active constituent is the alkaloid spigeline. As with many plant chemicals employed in the healing arts, spigeline can be highly toxic, even fatal, if consumed in large doses.
Warning! Side effects include increased heart action, vertigo, convulsions, and possibly death.
Preparation and Dosages: ROOT: Strong Decoction, 2 to 4 ounces morning and evening for three or four days, followed by Senna Pods or a moderate saline purgative.