Life Root

life_root,Senecio_aureus

Packera aurea-Life Root

Family: Compositae or Asteraceae

Other names: Squaw Weed, Golden Senecio,Golden Groundsel,Golden Ragwort,ragwort, uncum root, waw weed, uncum, false valerian, cough weed, female regulator, cocash weed, ragweed, staggerwort,Senecio aureus, Packera aurea, Cacalia aurea, Cineraria balsamita, Senecio gracilis and St. James wort.

Habitat: Europe and N. America. Rich calcareous woods and bottoms and upland swamps. Damp thickets and prairies.

hazardsmallPossible liver damage due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Toxic if taken internally (legally restricted in some countries)

Life Root is a medicinal herb that is deserving of greater attention. This species was widely used by N. American Indians to treat various complaints of the female reproductive system, and also to ease childbirth. Whilst often stated to be completely safe to use, recent research has found that the plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that, in isolation, can cause liver damage and so this remedy can no longer be recommended for internal use. The roots and leaves are abortifacient, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, pectoral, stimulant and uterine tonic. It is used externally in the treatment of vaginal discharge.  Pharmacologists have not reported any uterine effects, but the plant does contain an essential oil (inuline) plus the alkaloids senecine and senecionine (which are poisonous to grazing animals).

Life_Root,Packera_aurea,Senecio_aureus
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Life Root:

Packera aurea; Life Root is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in).

It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from May to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

life_root,Packera_aureus_leaves_in_summer
By Jim Kingdon Kingdon (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cultivation of Life Root:

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in a sunny position in most moderately fertile well-drained soils. Prefers a damp to wet soil and also succeeds in partial shade. Succeeds in the wild garden though it is invasive. This species is cultivated in parts of Russia for use in the pharmaceutical industry. A polymorphic species, there are many named varieties.

Propagation of Life Root:

Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Only just cover the seed. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last

Collection: The plant is harvested before flowering  in the summer and the roots are harvested in the autumn, both are dried for later use.

Culinary uses of Life Root:

None known

Life_Root,Senecio_aureusMedicinal uses of Life Root:

Actions: Uterine tonic, diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, emmenagogue.

Part Used: Dried aerial parts. Never use the fresh plant.

Indications: As a uterine tonic Life Root may be used safely where restrengthening and aid are called for. It is especially useful in cases of menopausal disturbances of any kind. Where there is delayed or suppressed menstruation, Life Root may be used. For leucorrhoea it can be used as a douche. It also has a reputation as a general tonic for debilitated states and conditions such as tuberculosis.

King’s says that “Senecio is diuretic, pectoral, diaphoretic, tonic, and exerts a peculiar influence upon the reproductive organs, and particularly of the female, which has given to it, especially the S.gracilis, the name of Female regulator. This is one of our valuable remedies in the treatment of female diseases. It relieves irritation and strengthens functional activity. Ovarian or uterine atony, with impairment of function, increased mucous or mucopurulent secretions, or displacements of the womb and vaginal prolapse, are the chief guides to itsuse. It is very efficient in promoting the menstrual flow, and may be given alone, in infusion, or in combination, in amenorrhoea, not connected with some structural lesion. It will also be found valuable in dysmenorrhoeasterility, and chlorosis. In menorrhagia, combined with cinnamon and raspberry leaves, it has been found very serviceable, when administered during the intermenstrual period, as well as at the time of ovulation. Tenesmic and painful micturition of both sexes is often relieved by it. Senecio is of value in many genital disorders of the male, the indications being pelvic weight and full, tardy, or difficult urination and sensation of dragging in the testicles. Senecio aids digestion when tardy from congested or relaxed conditions of the gastric membranes. It is also useful in capillary hemorrhage, especially in hematuria and in albuminuria with bloody urine. Pulmonary hemorrhage has been checked by it. It has proved an excellent diuretic in gravel and other urinary affections, either alone or in combination with other diuretics, and is said to be a specific in strangury. In pulmonary and hepatic affections it has proved advantageous, and taken freely the decoction has effected cures of dysentery. This remedy produces its effects slowly in chronic disorders.”

Cook “The chief use made of it is as a nervine tonic in female weaknesses, and a mild yet reliable promoter of menstruation. For neuralgia and rheumatism of the womb, the achings and crampings incident to gestation, and mild cases of leucorrhea and prolapsus, it is of much value; also in uterine hysteria, and the feeble appetite and aching of the back suffered by so many females; possibly also acting on the kidneys. While it promotes menstruation in languid and partially atonic amenorrhea, it does so mostly by virtue of its efficient tonic action; and it is in no sense a forcing emmenagogue, but rather aids passive menorrhagia by giving tone to the uterus. Used as a warm infusion, it expedites parturition with great certainty in cases of uterine and nervous fatigue. The kidneys feel its influence moderately well, especially when they are involved with female difficulties. The lungs are strengthened by its use; and though it is extravagant to talk about its curing tubercular consumption, it is unquestionably good for old and debilitated coughs. Some physicians value it highly in sub-acute and chronic dysentery, preferring it even to hydrastis as a tonic for such difficulties. It is only by remembering its tonic and nervine qualities, that the true character of its action in these numerous cases can well be understood.”

Preparations & Dosage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: 1-4 ml of the tincture 3 times a day.

Combinations: For menopausal problems it may usefully be combined with St. John’s Wort, Oats or Pasque Flower.

Other uses of Life Root:

None known but if you use this herb please let us know!

Esoteric uses of Life Root:

None known but if you use this herb please let us know!

The Chemistry:

Constituents:

  • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids; florosenine, otosenine, floridanine
  • Eremophilane sesquiterpenes, such astrans-9-oxofuranoeremophilane-8 x-ethoxy- l0 x-H-eremophilane, caccalol.

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