- American Wormroot
- Indian Pink
- Maryland Pink
- Worm Grass
The pinkroot is a perpetually growing herb that is distinct for its ornamental flowers. The plant usually grows up to a height of one to two feet and has a number of four-sided smooth and purple colored stems each of which end with a single sided barb containing four to twelve decorative flowers. The leaves of the herb are without stalks or stems and grow alternatively and opposite to each other on the main stem. Normally, the pinkroot leaves are slightly oval shaped with pointed tips and grow two to four inches long. On the other hand, the pinkroot flowers are extremely showy and blossom during the May-July period. These flowers are funnel or tube shaped in appearance and grows up to two inches long. The pinkroot flowers comprise two blazing hemispheres – red in the exterior and bright yellow inside.
The striking pinkroot was once found in abundance in the southern regions of the United States, but their numbers dropped steadily and the herb virtually became an extinct species there around 1830. It is believed that over harvesting of the herb in these areas led to the dwindling of their numbers rapidly. In ancient time, native Indians in North America had discovered this beautiful plant and found that its root was highly effective in treating the worms in the intestines, especially roundworms. As the word regarding pinkroot’s remedial worth got around, the American as well as European pharmacists were quick to take up the issue. And as the requirement for the pinkroot increases, collecting and selling the herb became an importance source of income for many, particularly the Creeks and Cherokees – native North American people.
Although the pinkroot proved to be highly effectual in curing intestinal worms, the popularity of the herb began to wane in the early part of the 20th century as the physicians were apprehensive about the infrequent side affects of the medication. Doctors found that people who were administered the herb or its extracts often complained of dizziness, swift heartbeat, diffused or unclear vision and even convulsions or violent shaking of the body or the limbs owing to acute muscle contractions. In addition, the doctors were also confronted with the issue of adulteration of the herb supply. It was found that whenever the supplies were unable to meet the requirements, a section of unscrupulous traders mixed useless plants that were similar in appearance to the pinkroot to make money illegally. Hence, the once valuable herb virtually became redundant by 1920.
Long ago, the pinkroot herb grew in Maryland (in the northern parts of the United States), but it now grows only in the wild in the Deep South of North America. However, owing to the noted adverse side affects of the herb it is no longer in use and is hardly collected by anyone.
Although the pinkroot is reported to have several remedial uses, presently herbal practitioners use the herb primarily to throw out worms, especially tapeworms and roundworms, from the intestines. In fact, herbalists also recommend the use of pinkroot along with other herbs like senna and fennel with a view to make certain the removal of both the worms and the root too. It may be mentioned here that the root of the pinkroot herb is said to be potentially noxious if it is absorbed by the stomach.
It may be mentioned here that the natives of America have been using the pinkroot to cure several ailments much before Columbus discovered America. Chemical analysis of the pinkroot has shown that it comprises proved medical elements like spigeline, lignin, tannin, albumin and myricin. Latest researches conducted on pinkroot have shown that some of these ingredients have properties that may be used to treat HIV, cancer and coronary ailments. The other remedial properties of pinkroot consist of anti-bacterial, anti-diarrheic, antioxidant, anthelmintic and laxative. The herb is accepted most for its anthelmintic properties and is considered to be a very powerful medication for tapeworm and roundworm. Normally, the pinkroot is considered to be a protected and effective medicine provided it is administered in the right dosage and always pursued by a saline aperient like magnesium sulphate.
However, if the administration of the drug is not followed by any saline aperient, it may often lead to horrid and grave side effects. If taken in large doses, the pinkroot is said to produce narcotic effects that may cause enhanced heart action, giddiness, lightheadedness or vertigo, unclear or diffused vision, muscular spasms, convulsions and even prove to be fatal.
It is interesting to note that the Cherokee and other native North Indian tribes used the pinkroot as a sacrament or ceremonial herb to help induce visions as well as predict the future. At the same time, the herb was also used as venom during some suicidal rituals.
Other medical uses
Habitat and cultivation
Pinkroot is a perennial herb that grows and thrives well in arid rich soil that is usually found in cleared forests or along the borders. The herb is indigenous to southeastern parts of North America, especially in the luxuriant forests extending from New Jersey to Florida and west to Texas to Wisconsin in the southern provinces. Owing to the profound harvesting of this decorative plant, pinkroot remains to be seen for a brief period. Pinkroot has the ability to thrive in almost all luxuriant soils and grows well in partially shadowy places. The herb can be propagated by transplanting root cuttings in soils that are fertile as well as well drained. The pinkroot plant bears pointed leaves without stems. They grow alternately and opposite to each other on the stalks. The ostentatious flowers of the pinkroot are tube-like in appearance and have a bright scarlet red color on the exterior. Inside, the flowers open into a vivid yellow five pointed star. The flowers blossom between May and July on top of an ordinary straight stalk that varies in height from six inches to two feet. The roots of the pinkroot are tubular and knotty and have a brownish exterior. Normally, these rhizomes are attached with numerous slender, long and wiry rootlets or sub-roots that bear scratch of the stems during the initial years. Internally, the rhizomes are whitish in color and possess dark brown pith. Normally, the rootstock of the plant is collected or harvested after the flowers have faded or vanished. Although the root yields best results when it is used fresh, it may even be harvested during the autumn and dehydrated for future use as an herb.
The pinkroot herb encloses alkaloids (primarily spigeline), a volatile oil, tannin (a plant chemical used in tanning) and resin. It may be noted here that spigeline not only causes irritation, but also induces a vomiting tendency in the stomach.
The pinkroot also holds a bitter and pungent substance that is soluble in water as well as alcohol, but not soluble in ether (an organic amalgam related to the hydrocarbon group). The herb also encloses little quantity of wax, fat, mucilage (a thick water-based blend), albumen, myricin, a viscid (a thick and sticky substance), saccharine material, lignin (a composite polymer found in plant cell walls), sodium salts, potassium and calcium. It may be mentioned here that the effects of the venomous alkaloid spigeline present in pinkroot is similar to those of nicotine, coniine and lobeline.