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Herbal Therapies Used by People Living With HIV: Sanguinaria

Part of A Practical Guide to Herbal Therapies for People Living With HIV

2004

Sanguinaria
Sanguinaria canadensis is commonly called bloodroot. It is a powerful medicinal herb used by Aboriginal healers in North America and was traditionally used to treat respiratory infections, primarily by the Iroquois and Cherokee peoples. It's now used by some Aboriginal healers and herbalists to treat Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and other lung infections, such as tuberculosis. These are serious infections that people living with HIV should not attempt to treat without the support of an experienced healer and without consulting a physician.

Sanguinaria is also added to toothpastes and mouthwashes to prevent a number of oral problems, including swollen gums (gingivitis) and plaque buildup that can lead to tooth decay. Gingivitis is common among HIV-positive people. Studies indicate that Sanguinaria is both effective and safe for combatting gingivitis, although some observers are still concerned that long-term use may increase the risk of oral leukoplakia (precancerous growths in the mouth that may result from constant irritation).

Sanguinaria is collected in the autumn, dried and prepared as a decoction or tincture. It is toxic if not carefully prepared by an experienced herbalist. The primary sign of overdose is vomiting, but diarrhea, headache and irritation of the mucous membranes may also occur. Aboriginal healers traditionally use bloodroot for short periods of time.

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This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 

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