Sanguinaria canadensis: Traditional medicine, phytochemical composition, biological activities and current uses

Andrew Croaker*, Graham J. King, John H. Pyne, Shailendra Anoopkumar-Dukie, Lei Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)
345 Downloads (Pure)


Sanguinaria canadensis, also known as bloodroot, is a traditional medicine used by Native Americans to treat a diverse range of clinical conditions. The plants rhizome contains several alkaloids that individually target multiple molecular processes. These bioactive compounds, mechanistically correlate with the plant’s history of ethnobotanical use. Despite their identification over 50 years ago, the alkaloids of S. canadensis have not been developed into successful therapeutic agents. Instead, they have been associated with clinical toxicities ranging from mouthwash induced leukoplakia to cancer salve necrosis and treatment failure. This review explores the historical use of S. canadensis, the molecular actions of the benzophenanthridine and protopin alkaloids it contains, and explores natural alkaloid variation as a possible rationale for the inconsistent efficacy and toxicities encountered by S. canadensis therapies. Current veterinary and medicinal uses of the plant are studied with an assessment of obstacles to the pharmaceutical development of S. canadensis alkaloid based therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1414
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016
Externally publishedYes


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