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Black Root - Some Benefits on Usage of Black Root

Taxonomic Class

Scrophulariaceae

Common Trade Names

None known.

Common Forms

Available as dried root or tincture.

Source

Black root is made from the dried rhizome and roots of Veronicastrum virginicum, which grows in Canada and the United States.

Chemical Components

Tannic acid, verosterol (a volatile oil), cinnamic and paramethoxycinnamic acids, gum, resin, mannite, and d-mannitol have been isolated from black root. Early studies yielded a substance called leptandrin, which was thought to be the active component . No recent data support this.

Actions

Black root has a bitter, nauseating taste and irritates GI mucosa, primarily because of the herb's tannin content . Tannic acid has astringent properties that act locally on GI mucosa. Tannic acid also forms insoluble complexes with alkaloids, glycosides, and certain heavy metal ions.

Black root also has antisecretory and anti ulcerative effects in the GI tract as a result of an inhibitory action on the gastric enzyme system.

Mannite and d-mannitol are considered osmotic diuretics and work by increasing the transport of sodium and water out of the loop of Henle. Some data also suggest that cinnamic acid exerts some choleretic effect. In animal studies, cinnamic acid injections increased bile acid flow by 50% . Other animal studies confirmed this effect .

Reported Uses

Black root is claimed to be useful as a cathartic and an emetic. Because of its purported biliary action within the GI tract, it has been claimed to be beneficial in relieving jaundice and other symptoms related to hepatic or biliary congestion. Human trials are lacking.

Dosage

Black root possesses cathartic and emetic properties at 15 to 40 grains (1 to 2.6 g); the usual reported dose is 1 g. Tea may be made by mixing

1 to 2 tsp of dried black root in cold water, boiling this solution, and then simmering it for 10 minutes. The dosage of this solution is typically 1 cup t.i.d. The tincture has been administered in doses of 1 to 2 ml t.i.d.

Adverse Reactions

  • CNS: drowsiness, headache.

  • GI: abdominal pain or cramps, changes in stool color or odor, nausea, vomiting.

  • Hepatic: hepatotoxicity.

Interactions

None reported.

Contraindications And Precautions

Black root is contraindicated in pregnant or breast-feeding patients; effects are unknown. Avoid large amounts of black root, especially in patients with existing hepatic disease, because of the potential toxic effects of tannic acid on the liver.

Special Considerations

  • Alkaloids such as atropine and scopolamine, glycosides such as digoxin, and products that contain iron may form insoluble complexes with tannins. Advise the patient to avoid taking black root along with these drugs.

  • Alert Hepatotoxicity after ingestion of large amounts of dried tea

  • leaves (in the range of one1/2 lb of tea every 3 to 4 days) has been reported

  • Alert Caution the patient to discontinue using this herb if abnormal increases in hepatic transaminase levels occur.

  • Inform the patient that few scientific data exist to support therapeutic uses for this plant in humans.

  • Monitor liver function test results.

  • Instruct the patient to immediately report symptoms of hepatic dysfunction, such as fever, jaundice, and right upper quadrant pain. The patient should have periodic assessment of serum liver enzyme levels.

  • Advise women to avoid using black root during pregnancy or when breast-feeding.

Points of Interest

Settlers gathered knowledge of black root from Native Americans. The Delaware referred to the plant as quitel; the Missouri and Osage called ithini .

Early American doctors used black root as a cure for bilious fevers

Commentary

Little information is available about black root's therapeutic uses or efficacy. No human trials have supported therapeutic claims for this herb. The lack of clinical trials limits the usefulness of anecdotal or historical data.

   

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