Virginia snakeroot is one of the renowned medicinal herb in the snakeroot group. Snakeroots are basically the name given to some species of plants whose main usages are curing snakebites, hence the name. The herb has been known to be exceptionally potent as well as dangerously toxic. Even so, there’s no denying that there’s so much benefit that we can get from this medicine herb.
As explained in the introduction, virginia snakeroot gained its name owed to the fact that it’s been used mostly to treat snakebites. Having the scientific name of “Aristolochia serpentaria.” This plant has fibrous, hairy roots as well as arrow-shaped, thin and green leaves. Its main feature is its tubular, purple flower, which emit distinct scent to attract insects. Being a perrenial plant, it lives for more than two years. The plant is categorized as rare and some checking might be required before harvesting or digging one.
Intimidating in both names and forms, virginia snakeroot is definitely not the kind of plant mothers would tell their children about before bed. Even so, as long as not eaten in high amount (though it is highly advised not to eat it at all cost), the plant itself is fairly safe. In moderate amount, there are many health benefits which come with the herb. Therefore, in the following paragraphs we will discuss what good is virginia snakeroot for us.
Here are the health benefits of Virginia Snakeroot:
- Used as Cure for Snakebites
The perceived ability to treat snakebites is the main reason it’s got its both scientific and popular names. In fact, it still remains curious why only virginia snakeroot gained the species name of “serpentaria” which means “snake” while the family name, Aristolochia literally means “good for birth”. The only thing for sure is that Native Americans have been using the plant to treat snake bites by chewing the plant’s root and sucking out the snake’s venom from the wound, then applying the chewed root.
The deal with using virginia snakeroot for this purpose is that it doesn’t really have any scientific studies to back up on. Even worse, studies on the matters of toxinology are still rare compared to other much popular subjects such as medicine and nutritions. Therefore, it is highly advised to take this long-held notions with some grains of salt.
- Might Relieve Cold Symptoms
One of the most prominent and perceivable effects of virginia snakeroot is that it induces heavy perspiration upon consumption. Which means, it makes you sweat a lot. This is probably the reason why it’s mostly used for alternative diet drink, since heavy perspiration encourages people to drink more water to compensate for the lost liquid. This might also explains why the aristolochine compounds in the plant heavily affect the function of the kidney.
When viewed through the simple cause-and-effect relationship, consumption of virginia snakeroot might actually relieve cold symptoms. It is also a rather long held belief that to recover fast from cold, we should break some sweat. Unfortunately, however, there’s practically little to no study to back up this claim. Besides, there are much much safer alternatives to this plant if all we need is treatment for cold.
- Natural Appetite Booster
Feeling like gaining some weight? the solution might comes in the form of a snakeroot plant. In fact, one of the most known effects is to stimulate the secretion of gastric acid. Increases in gastric acid in turn will signal the entire body that it needs more stuffs to digest. This is why the noises our stomaches make are often taken as signals for “hunger”. The noises themselves are caused by the movement in the intestines which are partly caused by the secretion of gastric acid.
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- Treatment for Menstruation Problems
Snakeroot also has been used as an ingredient for traditional chinese medicine for a long time. One of its effect is to increase the flow of blood, which is in itself has many beneficial effects. This effect is considered to be particularly useful for women in their menstruation period, or rather who are having trouble with keeping their regular menstruation cycles.
However, as with the case of other uses of this plant, there is little to no research to actually figure out how the aristolochic acid works in increasing bloodflow. Some people believe that the acids contained in the plant work in rather similar ways to that of snake’s venom. One of the detrimental effects of snake’s venom is inducing excessive bloodflow by slowing down the process of blood coagulation.
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- Known as Natural Aphrodisiac
Since a long time ago, people have been using various chemicals, including toxins for their own benefits, whether for the improvement of health, treatment for diseases, or even to enhance their current condition. There’s almost no surprise then, when people of old have been prescribing snakeroot as ingredient for aphrodisiac, as the plant itself has been known as potent stimulants for various bodily functions. The increasing of bloodflow is believed to be the main cause of the heightened sexual drive which comes with the consumption of snakeroot.
- Stimulates Blood Circulations
Virginia snakeroot can also improve blood circulations, which might be useful for many purposes, as good blood circulations are considered to be prerequisite for good overall body health. It is believed that drinking dried snakeroot leaves as tea can help stimulating blood circulations, as the leaves contained flavonoids, which is common substances contained in tea leaves. It is just so happened that flavonoids have beneficial effects in cardiovascular function, including reducing blood pressure and reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
- Treatment for Convulsions
Convulsions can be caused by many things, which mainly involves involuntary contractions of muscles and associated mostly with brain disorders such as epilepsy and some toxins in the blood. While there’s practically nobody who knows how it works, virginia snakeroot has been used as treatment for convulsions. Perhaps the effect can be explained by how aristolochic acids affect bloodflow, which consquently might induce the secretion of the toxins in blood through perspiration or urination. Then again, many researches still need to be conducted in this area.
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- Might Help Cure Rabies
Next benefits of virgina snakeroot is treating rabies. Rabies is a diseases caused by virus, which causes inflammations in the brain of humans and other mammals. People have been using virginia snakeroot for the purpose of curing this disease for a long time now.
However, there is practically no evidences whatsoever as to how effective the disease-curing benefits in the plant there is. Judging from the apparent properties of the plant, the anti-inflammatory effect might be the main factor in reducing the inflammations in the brain.
- May Treat Some Skin Problems
Some common skin problems are caused by inflammations, such as eczema and rashes. To treat those skin diseases, both chemical and traditional medications have been prescribed. One of the ingredients in the traditional method is virginia snakeroot. As virginia snakeroot has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the flavonoids contents, it might be used as treatment for those skin diseases.
- Improving Digestion Process
One of the few researches on aristolochic acids has suggested that the acids can stimulate the gastrointernal tracts, consequently speeding up the digestion process and even toning the digestive systems in our bodies. It also might be the reason why this plant was popular back then as an ingredient for traditional diet supplements as well as diet tea.
So, those are the benefits of virginia snakeroot for medicinal purposes. Undoubtedly, the plant has many curative benefits which people can make use of, ranging from boosting appetite, stimulating bloodflow in menstruation and even as aphrodisiac and other stimulants. However, it is also should be noted that most of the chemical compounds contained in the plant are in fact, toxic. Therefore, do consult some experts and even some phytotherapists should you need more detailed explanation regarding virginia snakeroot (you certainly should).
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Cautions of Virnia Snakeroot
As far as substances go, Aristolochia serpentaria contains borneol, essential oil, and serpentarin (aristolochin). There are also some substances such as aristolactone, aristolochine, gums, resins, tannins and starch. All the aristolochic acids contained in the plant naturally have nephrotoxic as well as mutagenic properties, which means they are toxic to the kidneys and might cause kidney failures and urothelial cancers.
Considering many risks of poisoning which is inherent in virginia snakeroot, many cautions are strongly recommended to be taken. First, women who are pregnant or lactating should never consume this herb, as they might risk passing on the toxins to the infants. Second, most of the usages of virginia snakeroot are either unproven or backed by little to no studies, therefore use with extreme cautions. Lastly, since the plant itself is considered “threatened” because of its increasing rarity, always consult the authorities before deciding to harvest.
Alright, hopefully this article can give you some detailed as well as balanced information regarding both the benefits and the dangers of virginia snakeroot. It is highly important to know the risks that come with certain herbs, as their usages are mostly traditional ones, therefore haven’t fully been confirmed objectively. Thank you for reading, please be cautious and stay healthy.
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