11 Benefits of Using Red Root

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Red Root is a pretty shrub bearing clusters of white, pink, cream and purple flowers, that grows wild in several regions of North America – it’s abundant in the west, but also thrives in the midwest and in parts of the north-east. The plant is named for its deep crimson root, and has also been called New Jersey Tea. During the American Revolution when tea was scarce, Red Root was used as a tea substitute because its leaves taste very similar to black tea.

Other common names for the plant include Redshank, Mountain Lilac, Buckbrush, Snow Brush, and Desert Buckthorn. Its botanical name is Ceanothus americanus.

The leaves have been used medicinally, but the main healing properties of this plant come from its root and it’s this part of the plant that herbalists use today.

Red Root is mentioned in the 1898 edition of King’s American Dispensatory, but it has been overlooked by the majority of other herbal texts from that era. At the time the leaves were used in remedies but without very great effects. By the mid 1900’s Red Root had become more popular due to the new found uses for its medicinal root.

Many of the beneficial uses of Red Root were learned from the Native Americans. The Chippewa used Red Root for digestive troubles including constipation and bloating, lung problems and shortness of breath.

The Cherokee also used the root as a digestive tonic, and the Iroquois made a strong decoction from the astringent leaves to stop diarrhea. They used the root to improve blood flow and to treat colds.

Red Root was also widely used among Native Americans as a wash that prompted wound healing and for healing the sores that developed when they were afflicted with venereal disease.

The Root system of Red Root is extensive, and it’s often the first plant to regrow when wildfires have scorched the earth. Theses hardy roots can reach up to 8 inches in diameter.

Renowned herbalist Michael Moore has called Red Root one of our great unsung plant medicines.

As an aid to the lymphatic system and the spleen, Red Root combats the inflammation present in this system which leads to prolonged infections. When the inflammation is addressed the lymphatic system – an important part of the immune system – can function properly.

When the immune system responds to infection, it sends out white blood cells via the lymphatic system to kill the invading bacteria or viruses. These dead microbes are removed via the lymph fluid circulating throughout the lymphatic system. When any part of the lymphatic system is stressed or inflamed, this removal process is slowed down and dead cellular material accumulates, blocking up lymph nodes and preventing the smooth flow of infection fighting white blood cells. By supporting the healthy function of the lymphatic system Red Root can speed up the healing process

Like all herbal medicines Red Root should be used with care. Just because something is a herbal preparation it doesn’t make it a cure-all, or mean that it will necessarily help the condition that you are using it for. If you walked into a pharmacy, you wouldn’t start opening random boxes and swallowing unknown pills. Herbal medicines are drugs and they can help certain conditions, worsen others and sometimes cause unwanted side effects.

Red Root has a thinning action on the blood so if you are already taking blood thinners you should not use Red Root. This herb can also lower blood pressure. If you already have low blood pressure, avoid its use, if you are on medication for hypertension, avoid Red Root. You should also stop taking Red Root 2 weeks prior to any surgery and avoid its use for 2 weeks afterwards.

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid the use of Red Root because not enough is known about this herb’s effects on the unborn or young child.

If you are taking any prescription medicines, you should consult with your doctor or a naturopathic physician to find out if you can safely use this herbal medicine.

A safe use for Red Root assuming that you don’t have the conditions just mentioned is for the treatment of colds. Ret Root is also a valuable aid in clearing up the root causes of some chronic conditions, like acne, sinus troubles, pelvic pain, long term infections, frequent headaches,  hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

This herbs vital actions are described as Lymphatic Alterative, Astringent, Expectorant, Hypotensive, Relaxant, Nervine and Sedative.

Red Root is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic.

Trained herbalists are able to use Red Root to treat Fibrocystic breast disease, mastitis, lymphadenitis, tonsillitis, mononucleosis, splenitis, hepatitis, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, tonsillitis, strep infections, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, rheumatism and complications from HIV.

Stephen Buhner recommends Red Root as a component of his Lyme Disease treatment protocol.

Red Root is available as a tea, a tincture and in capsules.

How To Take Red Root

How To Take Red Root

Red root can be prepared and taken as a tea. Use half to one teaspoon of powdered Red Root in 8oz of water. Simmer in a covered pan for 15 minutes, then strain. Drink up to 6 cups each day.

A strong decoction can be prepared with 1 ounce of Red Root in 16 oz of water. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Take one tablespoon of the decoction 3 or 4 times a day.

As a tincture 30 – 90 drops can be taken up to 4 times a day.

Capsules of the double-ought size can be taken at the rate of 10 – 30 a day to support the body through an episode of infection or disease.

1. Use Red Root As A Mouthwash

Use Red Root As A Mouthwash

Because of its astringent (constricting, drying) properties Red Root can be used as an effective mouthwash to combat the bacteria present in gingivitis. Red Root can be helpful from the first stages of gum bleeding that appear while brushing the teeth, to the later stages involving deep pockets and tooth loss. Research confirms this herbal medicines ability to combat the microbes involved in gingivitis.

Researchers affiliated with the Dows Institute For Dental Research, investigated ceanothus americanus for its effects on gingivitis. They found that the Ceanothic acid and ceanothetric acid demonstrated growth inhibitory effects against Streptococcus mutans, Actinomyces viscosus, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Prevotella intermedia bacteria.

Red Root also has been used traditionally to prevent the build up dental plaque, which is itself a major contributor to gum disease.

Because of its antibacterial properties, Red Root can be used as general mouthwash to combat bad breath.

There are few standard doses for Red Root against specific conditions, only general use guidelines. For a specific treatment protocol you should consult a herbalist. You could try using a small amount of the tincture diluted in water and see if that brings about any improvements after a week or so. If it doesn’t, increase the number of drops that you are using, but don’t go over the daily recommended limit.

2. To Alleviate Respiratory Complaints

To Alleviate Respiratory Complaints

Red Root has strong expectorant properties and has been traditionally used by the Native Americans to heal respiratory ailments such as whooping cough, asthma, cough and bronchitis.

Taken as a tea Red Root thins mucus which allows it to be expelled more easily from the respiratory tracts.

As an antispasmodic Red Root can calm the muscle spasms involved in chronic coughs. While a cough is part of the body’s healing response allowing irritants and mucus to be removed from the body, it can become chronic and non productive.

Chronic coughs can sometimes indicate a more serious condition like heart disease, but often the cause is an over sensitivity in the throat brought on by the original irritant (allergen, bacteria etc,) which is now long gone.

By calming the inflammation causing the sensitivity and by reducing the severity of the cough, Red Root allows the over sensitive tissues to return to normal.

3. Support The Digestive System With Red Root

Support The Digestive System With Red Root

Red root has a long history as a digestive aid and as a treatment for digestive disorders. Taken as a tea or a tincture Red Root can relieve diarrhea, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, gas and bloating. Its antispasmodic properties allow the muscles of the digestive tract to function smoothly, and that smooth function eliminates many of the more common digestive complaints. Its astringent and antibacterial properties are helpful when facing diarrhea.

4. Use Red Root For General Detoxification Purposes

Use Red Root For General Detoxification Purposes

You can use Red Root as a regular detoxification aid. Modern lifestyles and diets expose us to many pollutants and chemicals that have an adverse effect on the body. The lymphatic system can become overloaded trying to remove these elements from the body, so supporting this system is crucial. When the lymphatic system is struggling to function well, you are more prone to succumb to infections.

Another important organ that is essential for detoxification is the liver, and Red Root is able to support the healthy functioning of the liver.

Use Red Root Tea for a mild detox and use the decoction or tincture when you need more help.

5. Cleanse Oily Skin And Combat Acne With Red Root

Cleanse Oily Skin And Combat Acne With Red Root

Red Root is an astringent and an antibacterial which makes it helpful to use on oily skin prone to spots or acne.

Brew a tea with Red Root and allow it to cool, then dip a cotton ball into the tea and wipe the astringent over your skin. Since you only need a small amount of this astringent each day, you could brew tea to drink and then leave a small amount in the bottom of your cup to use as a skin cleanser. This way Red Root can help to support your body on the inside and on the outside.

6. Red Root Provides Lymphatic System Support

Red Root Provides Lymphatic System Support

The most important use of Red Root is as a support for the spleen and the rest of the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a major part of the immune system and its smooth functioning is vital to good health and to ensure fast recovery from infections.

Lymph nodes all over the body store infection killing white blood cells and route them to where they are needed. If the lymphatic system is sluggish or inflamed these white blood cells can’t do their job properly.

Often when you are sick, you will be confronted with swollen lymph nodes which are tender and painful. This accumulation of lymph fluid is a sign that your lymph system is under pressure and could use some support. But the best thing to do is to take a proactive approach and support your lymphatic system every day, before illness manifests.

A simple cup of Red Root tea gives you an easy way to provide that support.

By enabling this important part of your immune system to function well you will be able to prevent many infections from taking hold, as your immune system will swiftly mobilize and destroy the pathogens before they can make you sick.

A sluggish, lymphatic system can cause issues like general fatigue, muscle soreness, aches and pains throughout the body, shortness of breath and sleep disorders.

7. Ease A Headache With Red Root

Ease A Headache With Red Root

Red Root has relaxant, nervine and sedative properties, which all help to ease painful headaches. Its relaxant properties relieve the tension that is at the root of many headaches and its nervine qualities soothe the nerves that are firing off pain signals.  As a sedative a strong dose of Red Root tincture can help you to relax and fall asleep, and sleep often offers a cure to a headache as it allows a tense body and mind to relax.

When headaches are the result of a cold or sinus infection, Red Root will offer extra help because it can relieve the congestion causing the pain and also work directly on the pain in the meantime.

If you suffer from frequent headaches, a daily serving of Red Root Tea, tincture or capsules may prove very helpful in reducing the amount of headaches that you suffer from.

8. Red Root Can Shrink Hemorrhoids

Red Root Can Shrink Hemorrhoids

Herbs with astringent properties are an effective treatment for hemorrhoids. Most commercial preparation use one astringent or another. For example, Tucks Medicated Pads use witch hazel as their astringent.

Most commercial astringents and preparations can only be used topically, they can’t help internal hemorrhoids. Red Root can be used to soothe and heal both internal and external hemorrhoids.

Drink Red Root tea each day or use the decoction, tincture or capsules, for internal healing, and use the cooled tea to apply to external hemorrhoids several times a day, to stop bleeding and reduce pain and swelling. Simply soak a cotton ball in the astringent liquid and gently press against the hemorrhoids.

Red Root also helps the smooth functioning of the digestive system, which helps to prevent the  constipation which is a major cause of hemorrhoids.

9. Use Red Root To Stop Nosebleeds

Use Red Root To Stop Nosebleeds

Red Root is a traditional remedy to stop nosebleeds. Its astringent properties constrict the ruptured capillary and slow down bleeding which allows the blood to clot and seal the break.

You can use an astringent in a couple of ways to deal with a nosebleed.

Soak a cotton ball in the astringent liquid – cooled tea, decoction or tincture – and gently push the saturated cotton ball into the nasal cavity. Don’t push the cotton ball too far in.

The other way to apply Red Root, or any other herbal astringent powder, is to take a small pinch of very fine powder and inhale it into the nose a little way. You aren’t trying to snort it, so don’t use a strong inhalation, you only want to draw the powder into the nasal passage.

10. Red Root To Treat A Sore Throat

Red Root To Treat A Sore Throat

Red Root can combat the bacteria responsible for a sore throat or tonsillitis and reduce the painful inflammation present.

In addition to drinking several cups of tea each day or using the tincture or capsules for overall immune system support, you can gargle with Red Root to put its healing properties directly in contact with the area that needs to be healed.

The gargle can be made with cooled tea, or with a tablespoon of decoction added to a small glass of water. A strong tincture dilution would also be a very effective remedy for a sore throat. Gargle several times a day until the infection has cleared.

11. An Addition To The Lyme Disease Protocol

An Addition To The Lyme Disease Protocol

Red Root is used as part of a broader Lyme Disease protocol. Red Roots inclusion in the treatment offers detoxification support to the lymphatic system which is overloaded when dealing with Lyme Disease.

For more information on the full Lyme Disease protocol look for Stephen Buhner’s book Healing Lyme: Natural Healing of Lyme Borreliosis and the Coinfections Chlamydia and Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis, 2nd Edition.

When it comes to Lyme Disease, Stephen Buhner is considered to be the leading expert in herbal treatments.

Red Root can be purchased at some health food stores and is easy to obtain online. Expect to pay in the region of $10 per ounce for Red Root tincture. Most tinctures contain between 1,000 to 1,300 drops per ounce, depending on the level of viscosity.

Capsules cost about $10 for 100, and make an affordable way to provide a daily dose of immune system support.

Red Root tea costs about $35 per pound and will make up to 180 cups of tea per pound.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.