Warming, slightly spicy red root, Ceanothus americanus, is an outstanding lymphatic herb for those with chronic lymph complaints.
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)
Therapeutic Actions: alterative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, astringent, expectorant, lymphatic, nervine, tonic
My first experience with the Ceanothus species was with the beautiful blue California “lilac” (Ceanothus thrysiflorus). I worked at a winery that had an impressive hedge of the plant which was a favorite of the estate’s resident honey bee population. Some days the air would practically vibrate with the hum of the worker bees collecting pollen from the delicately fragrant blossoms. I was even a witness (and photographer) to the capturing of a wild swarm on these bushes.
When I delved deeper into my herbal studies, I wasn’t really surprised to find that sister botanical Ceanothus americanus, otherwise known as red root, had profound medicinal properties. Known chiefly for its action on the lymphatic system, red root is an invaluable herb for this little-understood system.
A little unsure of what about the function and organs of the lymphatic system? Check out this great post from Live Science. I am decidedly not in the mood to write an Anatomy & Physiology essay – I did plenty in college. 😉
Red Root Medicinal Benefit
Red Root is called for with instances of stagnancy, sometimes associated with lax, atonic tissue. It is particularly useful when lymph nodes are chronically swollen and congested, such as that which might linger after a prolonged illness. It is also an herb that herbalists reach for when lymphedema is being experienced. It is an excellent herb for complaints of heavy limbs and a sense of weight, fullness, and pressure in the pelvic area as it is thought to “pull” interstitial fluids from surrounding tissue and move it along, so-to-speak. Similarly, it is noted to promote good blood flow, healthy coagulation, and ameliorate “sticky” blood. iT It is traditionally used by herbalist for women’s reproductive health, with clients report a reduction in cystic and fibrous conditions with its extended use. It is considered to promote better digestion and assimilation of fat from the diet, encourage a healthy immune system, and relieve that chronic sense of always being “about to come down with something”. In support of Red Root’s apparent action on the lymphatic system, a 2010 study of 38 thalassemic (an inhereited blood disorder causing malformation of red blood cell resulting in anemia) patients, homeopathic ceanothus appears to improve spleen function, reduce spleenomegaly, and increase the intervals between blood transfusions.
Red Root Identification
Red Root and all its Ceanothus siblings are relatively showy shrubs with bright, somewhat shiny green foliage, and white to pale lilac blossoms in spring and early summer. The USDA plant map indicates that it is typically found east of the Rocky Mountain range, but although related species found west of the range may have interchangeable medicinal use. It is the pinkish to red root that is collect and has the greatest medicinal value. It is suggested by herbalist Kiva Rose to quickly process the roots into small bits using sharp and hardy snippers as the root hardens as it dries making delayed processing extremely difficult.
Red Root Safety & Dosage
Red root is contraindicated for those with blood clotting disorders or who are on anticoagulant medication. It is otherwise widely regarded as safe. If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription medication, please consult your physician before using this or any other herb. An appropriate adult dose is approximately 1ml of tincture up to three times daily. Cold infusion and decoction are also suggested methods of administration. Due to the slight drying nature of the herb, one should consume adequate fluids while using red root.
I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.
Red Root Tincture
Red root is an herb that is ideally suited to chronic, lingering conditions. It is particularly effective for those with a sense of coldness and dampness due to its subtle warming energetic. As such, it is not the right herbs for hot, inflamed, acute conditions.
A tincture of the dried root can be prepared in a 1:5 ratio and used long term to support lymphatic health.
Interested in learning more about common medicinal plants? Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!
Red Root Tincture
- 1 part red root (Ceanothus) granules dried
- 5 parts 100 proof alcohol
- Combine the alcohol and red root in a jar with a tight fighting lid. Infuse for at least six weeks, shaking jar daily.
- When infusion is complete, strain through several layers of cheesecloth or muslin and pour into amber dropper bottles.
Baneriee, A., Chakrabarty, S., Karmakar, S., Chakrabarty, A., Biswas, S., Hague, S., . . . Khuda-Bukhsh, A. (2010). Can homeopathy bring additional benefits to thalassemic patients on hydroxyurea therapy? Encouraging results of a preliminary study. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,129-136. doi:10.1093/ecam/nem161
Wise, L., & Laughlin-Tommaso, S. (2013). Uterine Fibroid. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/uterine-fibroid Excerpt from the book Women & Health, published by Academic Press (2013)
Wood, M. (2016). Earthwise herbal repertory: traditional western herbalism. North Atlantic Books.