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SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Polygala senega L. Family: Polygalaceae (Milkworts)
COMMON NAME(S): Seneca snakeroot, rattlesnake root, milkwort, mountain flax
Senega root was one of the new remedies introduced into medicine after the discovery of America where the Seneca Indians valued it as a cure for rattlesnake bite. Although this usage was probably based purely on the "Doctrine of Signatures," senega subsequently enjoyed great popularity as a nauseant expectorant and was a common ingredient in syrups and similar preparations for coughs and colds .
HistorySenega root was used by eastern Native American tribes. Snakeroot refers to the purported use in snakebite. However, the early European observers gave little credence to this use. The Europeans and colonists used senega root as an emetic, cathartic, diuretic, and diaphroetic in a variety of pulmonary diseases (eg, pneumonia, asthma, pertussis) and also in gout and rheumatism.It was also used as an expectorant cough remedy.
Botany :- Senega root is an uncommon perennial herb about 30 cm high that grows throughout eastern North America. The leaves are small, alternate, and narrowly tapered to a point at the apex. Numerous pinkish-white or greenish-white flowers are crowded on a terminal spike. The root is twisted and has an irregular, knotty crown with a distinctive ridge. The variety P. senega var. latifolia Torr. & Gray has been distinguished, but occurs throughout the same habitat and differs from P. senega only in the size of leaves and flowers and in having a slightly later flowering period. The related species P. tenuifolia Willd., P. reinii Franch., P. glomerata Lour.,and P. japonica Houtt. are used in Asia for similar purposes.
Uses of Senega Root
Senega has been used as an antitussive.
Native Americans have long used senega root for rheumatism, colds, inflammation, and bleeding wounds.
In North American and European herbal medicine, senega root is used as an expectorant to treat bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, and whooping cough . The root has a stimulant action on the bronchial mucous membranes, promoting the coughing up of mucus from the chest and thereby easing wheezing.
Side Effects of Senega Root
High doses of powdered senega root or tincture are emetogenic and irritating to the GI tract.
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1/2 - 1 teaspoonful of the dried root and let infuse for 10 - 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
High doses of powdered senega root (more than 1 g) or tincture were reported as emeteogenic and irritating to the GI tract. Senega root is contraindicated in pregnancy and patients with peptic ulcer disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
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