Seneca Snakeroot

Ojibway: Ginebigo-ojiibik
Latin: Polygala senega L.Seneca-Snakeroot-1

Common Names

  • Milkwort
  • Mountain flax
  • Rattlesnake root
Description

A perennial that has several stems arise from its crown, sometimes slightly tinged with red. Leaves are numerous, alternate, and linear-shaped. Dense spikes of white or pinkish flowers tinged with green terminate the stem. This plant produces seeds in capsules.

Flowers

2 cm (1/8 in.) long that grow in spikes that are
Leavesseveral inches long; April to July.

The leaves alternate on the stem are lance shaped or oblong lance shaped, thin in texture, 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in.) long, and stemless.

Height

Seneca-Snakeroot-2

15-60 cm (1/2 ft.-2 ft.) tall.

Habitat

Dry woods on limestone, rocky soils, and higher altitudes.

Range

New Brunswick and western New England to Minnesota and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and south along the Allegheny Mountains to North Carolina and west to Missouri.

Discussion

This plant has traditionally been used as a cure for snakebite. It was also used for earaches, toothaches, sore throats, croup and colds. Its main use today is as an expectorant in cough syrups, teas and lozenges, and as a gargle for sore throats. It has also been used in larger doses as an emetic and cathartic.