Herb: Black Snakeroot

Latin name: Sanicula canadensis

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Black Snakeroot:

The powdered root is used as a heart remedy, to stimulate menses and as an abortifacient. The leaves, which contain the cell proliferant and healing agent allantoin, are used as a poultice for bruises and inflammation.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Dry woods and openings. Woods and thickets in Texas.

Propagation of Black Snakeroot:

Seed - we have no information for this species but the following notes are for the related S. europaea. Stratification improves the germination rate. If possible sow the seed in the autumn, sow stored seed as early in the year as possible. It is best to sow the seed in situ in a woodland soil under trees If seed is in short supply it is probably wise to sow it in pots of woodland soil in a shady place in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry woods and openings. Woods and thickets in Texas.

Known hazards of Sanicula canadensis:

Although no mention has been seen for this species, the leaves of at least two other members of the genus contain saponins. Although toxic, saponins are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm, they are also destroyed by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.