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Virginia Snakeroot

Click:1555  Time:2017-03-30 13:50:00

Virginia Snakeroot

Aristolochia serpentaria


Serpentary, birthwort

        The genus name Aristolochia is derived from the Greek aristos , meaning finest, and locheia, meaning delivery. The ancient Greek herbalists thought that plants belonging to this genus facilitated childbirth, hence the common name, birthwort. This particular species, however, was not employed during the final stages of pregnancy, although it was used to regulate the menstrual cycle.

        Virginia snakeroot's once considerable reputation was founded on the belief that it would cure rattlesnake and other poisonous bites and stings. It is not clear how this property came to be associated with the plant: some sources maintain that early Egyptian snake charmers employed the roots of a related species to paralyze the mouths of their snakes before performing dangerous tricks. Another possibility is that the unusual, low-growing, Sshaped flowers resemble snakes.Native American Indian tribes were the first to apply the chewed root to snake bites, after first sucking out the venom. Early American settlers took note of this practice and virginia snakeroot was introduced into European medicine from the mid-sixteenth century. The root continued to be regarded as one of the foremost cures for snake bites and mad dog bites as late as the mid-eighteenth century.

        Today, virginia snakeroot is not widely employed in herbal medicine. Small doses are said to stimulate the appetite and aid the digestion but large doeses can result in vomiting and intense griping pains. One of the active principles in the root is an alkaloid which, take min sufficient quantities, can result in severe internal damage, leading to coma and even death.

        HABITAT Native to North America from the eastern and  central USA southwards. Grows in shady woods in rich, well-drained soil.

        DESCRITION Perennial with erect, wavy stems to 60em(2ft) rising from a horizontal rhizome that sends out numerous slender roots. The foliage is rather sparse and composed of alternate, heart-shaped leaves that taper to a point. In early summer, dull purplishbrown, tubular flowers appear on a short scaly stalks from the base of the stem and may give off an unpleasant scent. The drooping flowers grow very low and may touch the ground.


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