Bitterroot has many common names: dogbane, milkweed, catchfly, flytrap, honey bloom, mountain helm, and wallflower.


Bitterroot is found in the Atlantic and Pacific coastal states. It grows in dry, sandy soils and around the forest edges, on roadsides and fields.


Bitterroot grows up to 100 centimeters in height. Leaves are opposite, spreading or drooping and glabrous above. Stems are erect and diffusely branched, hairless, and lack a central axis.

Part used

The medicinal part is derived from the root.


Traditional Uses and Benefits

Bitterroot acts on the heart, urinary and respiratory systems, and uterus. It was widely employed by the native North American Indians who used it to treat a wide variety of complaints, including headaches, convulsions, earache, heart palpitations, colds, insanity, and dizziness.

The root is cardiotonic, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, and expectorant. It has a powerful action in slowing the pulse and has a powerful effect on the vaso-motor system. It is an irritant to the mucous membranes.

Fresh root juice can be used in the treatment of syphilis and warts. The root decoction can be used once a week to prevent conception.

The green fruits decoction can be used for the treatment of heart, kidney problems, and dropsy.

Dosage and Precautions

For an infusion, take one teaspoon of dried bitter root rhizome in 500 mL boiling water. Cool it down and use 2-3 teaspoons six times per day.

In the form of a tincture, use 5-10 drops before the meal.

Warning! It is poisonous to livestock. Not to be used without a medical purpose. The root contains cymarin, a cardioactive glycoside that is toxic to ruminants. Bitterroot fruit decoction may irritate the intestines and cause unpleasant side-effects.



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