Herb: Yellowroot

Latin name: Xanthorhiza simplicissima

Synonyms: Xanthorhiza apiifolia, Zanthorrhiza apifolia

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Medicinal use of Yellowroot:

The root is astringent and a blood tonic. A tea made from the roots is used to treat mouth ulcers, stomach ulcers, colds, jaundice etc. An infusion of the roots has also been used to treat piles, though the report does not specify if it is used internally or externally. Some caution is advised in the use of this plant, see the notes above on toxicity. The root contains the alkaloid "berberine" which is used for its tonic properties and for digestive disorders. Berberine is anti-inflammatory, astringent, haemostatic, antispasmodic, immuno-stimulant, uterine tonic and antimicrobial. It stimulates the secretion of bile and bilirubin and may be helpful in correcting high tyramine levels in people with liver cirrhosis.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Damp woods, thickets and the banks of streams.

Other uses of Yellowroot:

A yellow dye is obtained from the root. The entire plant can be crushed to yield a yellow dye. A good ground cover for damp semi-shaded positions. Plants should be spaced about 1.2 metres apart each way.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Sow stored seed in a cold frame in late winter. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in the autumn or late winter.

Cultivation of Yellowroot:

Damp woods, thickets and the banks of streams.

Known hazards of Xanthorhiza simplicissima:

The root, when taken in high doses, is potentially toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.