Black Snakeroot

Sanicula marilandica or Sanicula europaea

Herbs gallery - Black Snakeroot

Common names

  • American Sanicle
  • Black Sanicle
  • Black Snakeroot
  • Sanicle

Black snakeroot (botanical name S. marilandica) is a recurrent or perennially growing herb that has a fat rhizome. This herb has nearly leafless flower stalks that grow straight up to a height of anything between 1 foot and 4 feet. The basal leaves of black snakeroot appear on elongated stalks and they have five lobes whose shape varies from elliptical to oval.

The leaves are irregularly jagged or toothed. The herb bears clusters of blooms during the period between June and July. Each of these clusters comprises 12 to 25 greenish-white flowers, which develop into fruits coated with hooked hairs or bristles.

When the early European settlers in North America prepared a poultice from the crushed roots of black snakeroot (S. marilandica) with a view to draw snakebite poison from the body, they were actually increasing the already long list of the remedial properties of the herb as well as its European cousin sanicle or S. europaea, which was believed to be a panacea or universal remedy.

For instance, herbalists in England employed sanicle to cure a wide range of conditions, including internal hemorrhage, tumors, chronic cough, stomach ulcers, bowel pains, kidney problems, 'laxes of the belly', varicose veins and even the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. In addition, it was claimed that black snakeroot was equally effective for curing hemorrhoids, chapped hands and dysentery.

The renowned English herbalist of the 16th century, John Gerard held mixing black snakeroot in any vulnerary potion or wound drinks in high esteem. According to Gerard, this mixing completely and safely cured all the internal wounds and external injuries effectively.

Native Indians in North America also developed several therapeutic uses of black snakeroot on their own. Especially they employed the herb to cure sore throat, skin complaints, fever, St. Anthony's fire (also known as erysipelas - an excruciating contagion of the skin caused by streptococcus bacteria) and St. Vitus' dance (a form of chorea that is accompanied by jerky and involuntary movements of the body).

Parts used

Aerial parts.


As black snakeroot (S. marilandica) has a very old reputation for healing wounds as well as curing internal hemorrhages, this is a theoretically important herb. However, black snakeroot is not much in use in modern herbal medicine. It may be noted that black snakeroot may be employed to cure hemorrhages inside the stomach or intestines, nosebleeds and even the coughing up of blood.

Besides, this herb is also used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, congestive problems and bronchial disorders and even tender throats. Traditionally, this herb is deemed to be detoxifying and has also been taken orally for treating skin problems.

In addition, this herb may be applied externally in the form of a poultice or a salve for healing wounds, chilblains (inflammation of hands and feet owing to exposure to cold), burns, inflamed skin and hemorrhoids.

In addition, black snakeroot (S. marilandica) is also reputed for its effectiveness in treating blood disorders. Practitioners of herbal medicine recommend the use of black snakeroot combined with other herbs to cure blood disorders.

When used internally, this herb is an excellent remedy for chronic coughs, chest and lung problems as well as catarrhal afflictions, blood spitting, bronchial inflammation as well as all disorders related to the pulmonary organs. Black snakeroot is highly reputed as an alternative medication and is effective in curing diarrhea, dysentery, leucorrhea and other such conditions.

Black snakeroot is also known to cleanse the system of sinister secretions effectively and helps to keep the blood in a healthy and superior condition. This herb is also used in the form of a gargle to cure sore throat, tonsillar abscess (quinsy) and whenever any individual requires an astringent gargle.

According to the eminent English botanist, herbalist and physician Nicholas Culpepper, black snakeroot is effective for treating ailments related to throat and lungs. He has also advocated employing the herb in the form of a gargle made from the decoction of the herb's leaves and roots in water added with a little amount of honey to sweeten the astringent flavour of the herb.

When a decoction or infusion prepared with black snakeroot leaves and roots is applied externally to children's scald head as well as all other incidences of rashes, the medication works wonderfully. In France and Germany people extensively use black snakeroot to treat excessive bleeding from the bowels, lungs as well as other internal organs. In addition, the fresh juice obtained from the herb is given in a dosage of a tablespoonful to curb dysentery.

Black snakeroot (S. marilandica) is familiar for possessing purgative, expectorant and healing properties. It is also a potent natural medication for soothing the nervous system as well as perking up one's metabolism.

Owing to the healing properties of black snakeroot, it is applied topically to cure inflammations and sores in the mouth as well as employed in the form of a mouthwash for tender throats. In addition, this herb is also applied to cure hemorrhoids, lessen menstrual bleedings and heal ulcers. This herbal medication is also extensively taken internally in powdered form to cure fevers and chorea. Black snakeroot is also highly useful for cleansing the organs as well as healing wounds.

Habitat and cultivation

Black snakeroot is found growing in the wild in most regions of Europe as well as the western and central regions of Asia. In effect, you can find black snakeroot growing in the forested regions, especially in moist and shady areas. This herb is harvested during the summer.

Usually, the herb black snakeroot is harvested from the wild or naturally growing specimens. This species thrives well in damp soil and in shady places, particularly in rich soils.

Primarily, black snakeroot is propagated by means of root division during any time between the period of September and March. However, the best time to undertake root division of black snakeroot is autumn. The root divisions need to be planted 8 inches to 9 inches from each other to promote proper growth.


Chemical analysis of black snakeroot has revealed that this herb encloses a maximum of 13 per cent saponins, a volatile oil, allantoin, mucilage, chlorogenic acid and rosmarinic acid, tannins, and vitamin C. It may be noted that allantoin augments the pace of healing harmed tissues. At the same time, rosmarinic acid is said to possess anti-inflammatory attributes.

Usual dosage

Medicinally, black snakeroot is used in the form of an infusion and a tincture.

Infusion: To prepare the infusion from black snakeroot, steep one teaspoonful of the herb's rootstock in water. Take one cup (250 ml) of the infusion every day.

Tincture: The tincture prepared from black snakeroot should be taken in the dosage of 15 drops to 30 drops daily.

Side effects and cautions

As of date, there is no available information regarding the safety level of the herb's use.


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