Snake Root

Polygala senega


Names: Senega Snake Root

Habitat: USA


Part Used: Rhizome.


  • Triterpenoid saponins based on the aglyuconespresenegenin,
    senegenin, hydroxysenegin, polygalacic acid and senegenic acid.
  • Phenolic acids; p-coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, p-methoxycinnamic.
  • Polygalitol, a sorbitol derivative
  • Miscellaneous; methyl salicylate, sterols, fats.

Actions: Expectorant, diaphoretic, sialogogue, emetic.

Indications: Snake Root comes to us from the Seneca nation
of Native Americans, who used it for a range of problems including
snake bites. It has excellent expectorant effects which may be
utilized in the treatment of bronchitic asthma, especially where
there is some difficulty with expectoration. It has a general power
of stimulating secretion, including saliva. It may be used as a
mouthwash and gargle in the treatment of pharyngitis and laryngitis.
If too much is taken it acts in a way that will irritate the lining
of the gut and cause vomiting.

A quote from Ellingwood will be highly suggestive of the
possibilities offered: ” The agent is indicated in typhoid
pneumonitis, capillary bronchitis, in aged and debilitated subjects,
chronic bronchitis with profuse secretion, in the declining stages
of pnuemonitis, bronchitis and croup, when the inflammatory condition
has passed off, chronic bronchitis with pain and soreness in the
chest and asthma. The agent is in use in the treatment of dropsy
from obstruction and glandular enlargement, also in rheumatism,
syphilis, squamous skin diseases and in amenorrhoea. In inflammation
of the eyelids and iritis it is beneficial. Snake Root has been
employed as a stimulating expectorant in chronic bronchitis, in
aged and debilitated subjects, where a stimulating medicine is
demanded and in the later stages of pneumonia and catarrhal inflammation.
In these cases, given in small doses, it improves secretion, removes
abnormal deposits and restores the strength. It is an energetic
stimulant to the mucous membranes of the air passages; and, when given
before the inflammation has subsided, aggravates the cough and
does harm. Given in small doses, it also acts as an alterative,
and may thus be given in dropsy from obstruction, in syphilis,
and in squamous skin diseases. In the treatment of chronic asthma
this is an efficient remedy.”

Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling
water onto 1/2 teaspoonful of the dried root and leave to infuse
for 5-l0 minutes. Drink one cup three times a day. Tincture: take
1-2 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

Explore Wellness in 2021