DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR JEREMY BURGESS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A section through an undergound rhizome of Sanguinaria canadensis, the Bloodroot. S canadensis is native to moist woodland in eastern North America. Like many members of the Papaveraceae, it produces alkaloids with possible medical uses. Bloodroot has a long history of medical use by Native Americans, including as an emetic. The principle active ingredient of the root sap is sanguinarine. This toxic compound affects the action of enzymes involved in membrane transport in animals. Preparations containing bloodoot are widely available for home use to treat skin lesions and skin cancers. This is despite their tendency to produce large skin lesions often requiring surgical intervention, and their listing by the USFDA as "fake cancer treatments that should be avoided". Recent studies suggest that sanguinarine may have specific anti-cancer properties under in vitro laboratory conditions.
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