Collinsonia root is a strong smelling herb that has been used in traditional American medicine for thousands of years.
Also known as stone root, collinsonia root was traditionally used for urinary and reproductive issues, symptomatic hemorrhoids, and as a diuretic.
This article will look at the health benefits of collinsonia root, its safety, and its history.
Table of Contents
What is Collinsonia Root?
Collinsonia root is the pungent rhizome of the richweed plant. This plant is known for its disagreeable odor.
The scientific name for stone root is Collinsonia canadensis. Collinsonia root is an ancient herb that was and is frequently used by indigenous North Americans.
In traditional medicine, collinsonia root works to support urinary complications and act as a diuretic. Traditional accounts also suggest that collinsonia root can help to soothe the vocal cords. It is said that the leaves can be taken to induce vomiting.
Modern accounts show that collinsonia root supports the “mucosa” of the throat, gastrointestinal tract, and genitourinary tract. These benefits are attributed to the active constituents present in stone root, including saponins and flavonoids.
Collinsonia root was mainly used in the ancient medical systems of North America. The rhizomes were used for internal issues, while the leaves were used as a poultice for bruises, wounds, external ulcers, and burns.
While there is very little scientific evidence surrounding collinsonia root, numerous traditional accounts summarize the many purported benefits of collinsonia root.
Health Benefits of Collinsonia Root:
Traditional medicine systems and modern herbalists have observed a variety of collinsonia root benefits. Below are the top expert accounts from traditional and professional herbalists that describe the health benefits of collinsonia root and its active constituents.
1. May Support the Urinary System
Traditional evidence shows that collinsonia root may have promising supportive effects on the genitourinary system.
The genitourinary system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, and is responsible for filtering blood and secreting toxic waste through urine. In order to remove these toxic byproducts, all organs need to be functioning optimally.
Traditional accounts mention that the Native American Iroquois tribe used collinsonia root in individuals with kidney issues. This could result from stone root’s action as a diuretic, which works to increase urine flow in order to remove excess water from the body. Further, these accounts suggest that modern herbalists may use stone root to treat urinary tract pain.
AHG registered herbalist, David Hoffmann, mentions Collinsonia canadensis as a natural remedy for “the treatment and prevention of stone and gravel [kidney stones] in the urinary system and gallbladder.” He continues by saying that collinsonia root is also beneficial for kidney stone relief.
Revered herbalist Maud Grieve, mentions in her herbal text A Modern Herbal that stone root is helpful for “catarrh of the bladder [inflammation of the bladder], gravel [kidney stones], and…complaints of urinary organs.” She writes that a decoction of the fresh root is the best herbal remedy to soothe these issues.
19th-century physicians, Dr. Felter and Dr. Lloyd, write in their medical text the King’s American Dispensatory that the use of Collinsonia canadensis is “not without beneficial results in toning the renal organs and allaying irritation consequent upon the presence of gravel.” This suggests that collinsonia root helps reduce irritation in the kidneys.
Summary:Herbalists state that collinsonia root may work to support the genitourinary system, however, human clinical research is required to confirm this finding.
2. May Prevent Hemorrhoids
Respected herbalists and traditional accounts claim that collinsonia root may help reduce and eliminate hemorrhoids.
Hemorrhoids are the enlargement and inflammation of rectal veins. They can occur internally or externally and often cause pain, discomfort, and occasional bleeding.
In his herbal text Medical Herbalism, herbalist David Hoffmann describes collinsonia root as an herb historically used for hemorrhoids and “pain in the rectum.”
The American Botanical Council recommends using collinsonia root for reducing inflammation associated with symptomatic hemorrhoids. They suggest that the active anti-inflammatory compounds found in Collinsonia canadensis, like flavonoids and saponins, may be responsible for soothing hemorrhoids.
Herbalist M. Grieve describes that stone root is supportive when there are “complaints of the rectum.” Eclectic physicians, Dr. Felter and Dr. Lloyd, mention that collinsonia root is “useful…in hemorrhoids where there is rectal irritation.” They go on to describe Collinsonia canadensis as one of the main herbs for a “hemorrhoidal and constipated state due to vascular engorgement [inflammed veins] of the pelvic viscera [organs in the pelvic region].”
Summary:Herbalists say that collinsonia root may benefit hemorrhoids by reducing pain and inflammation. Clinical studies are needed for verification.
3. May Support Larynx Issues
Traditional evidence shows that collinsonia root may benefit upper respiratory tract problems by supporting particular ailments of the larynx.
The larynx is made of cartilage and is part of the respiratory tract. It protects the lower respiratory tract from breathing in food while eating and contains the vocal cords, otherwise known as the vocal box.
Research suggests that the active constituents present in stone root may be responsible for the mucosa-soothing properties of this herb. Mucosa is the mucous membrane that lines organs while protecting and lubricating them.
Maude Grieve writes that there is mucilage in the roots, which may be responsible for the soothing action stone root has on the mucosa. Mucilage is a thick, gooey, and cooling substance present in some herbs.
In the King’s American Dispensatory, Felter and Lloyd write that this herb historically helped treat “laryngitis known as ‘minister’s sore throat.’” They suggest that collinsonia root is “equally valuable in other forms of chronic laryngitis, pharyngitis, and in some cases of chronic bronchitis, and tracheitis.”
Summary:Herbalists mention that collinsonia root may protect the larynx from a variety of disorders, but additional research is needed for confirmation of this finding.
4. Other Benefits
Other purported health benefits of collinsonia root include:
- May Prevent Cancer Growth: Although there is very limited evidence regarding this herb, one lab-based study observing more than twenty herbs found that collinsonia root may prevent the growth of cancer cells without causing toxicity to other healthy cells.
- May Improve Wound-Healing: Herbalist M. Grieve writes that the external application of stone root leaves (as a poultice) may work as an effective herbal remedy for bruises, sores, wounds, and cuts. A review of stone root found that the aerial parts may “improve capillary function, which aids in the healing of skin wounds.”
Summary:Collinsonia root has been tied to a wide variety of health benefits. Human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
Collinsonia Root Safety:
Safety Class: 1
Interaction Class: A
The Botanical Safety Handbook puts collinsonia root in the safety class of 1, meaning it can be safely used when appropriately consumed.
It has an interaction class of “A” which suggests that no clinically relevant adverse reactions are expected to occur.
In general, this herb is well-tolerated and safe for most individuals.
Collinsonia root is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
While stone root is considered safe, it is important to only purchase and administer cultivated sources as this plant is on the United Plant Saver’s “at-risk” list.
Pregnancy & Lactation:
The Botanical Safety Handbook also indicates that “stone root was used to stop threatened abortions and to treat hemorrhoids in pregnant women”; however, there are no trials on the safety of using collinsonia root while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Standard dosing for stone root is as follows:
Infusion (tea): Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1-2 teaspoons of dried root and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes in a cup. Drink 1 cup 3x per/day.
Tincture (1:5): 1 to 2 ml, 3x/day.
Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 to 4 ml, 3x/day.
The British Herbal Pharmacopeia suggests using 1-4g of the dried root daily.
Collinsonia root is on the United Plant Saver’s “at-risk” list and is considered highly impacted by human activities.
Since the entire plant needs to be uprooted to gather the medicinal rhizomes, wild harvesting often causes plant death. For this reason, it’s particularly vulnerable to over-harvesting.
In some states, this plant is listed as “endangered.”
Naming & Taxonomy:
Stone root’s scientific name is Collinsonia canadensis, which refers to the English merchant and botanist, Peter Collinson, who “introduced many American trees, shrubs, and plants into English gardens.” Although Collinson has been credited as the “discoverer” of the plant, indigenous North Americans recognized and used collinsonia root for hundreds of years prior to this discovery.
While plants in the same family as the stone root species have been naturalized around the globe, Collinsonia canadensis is the species most recognized for its medicinal properties.
Collinsonia root is considered a perennial plant and is in the Lamiaceae family (i.e. the mint family, which includes herbs such as rosemary, lemon balm, and tulsi holy basil). The common name “stone root” stems from the rhizome’s characteristic hardness. Traditional accounts mention the root’s heaviness and the difficulty of chopping it into smaller pieces.
Stone root is a traditional herb historically used by Native Americans. Collinsonia canadensis is a perennial herb native to the Eastern side of Canada and the United States. This herb has the characteristic square stem of plants in the mint family and loves shady, damp, heavily-wooded forests. It flowers from July to September and can grow to be 1-4 feet in height.
It is mostly found in mountainous regions where the soil is dense and rich.
Traditional accounts mention that the flowers have a gentle lemon and balsamic scent, and the crushed plant and “roots” have a “rather disagreeable,” pungent smell. The ground-up rhizome has a strong, spicy flavor.
Common names of stone root include Horseweed, Richweed, Richleaf, Knob-Root, Knobweed, Horsebalm, Hardback, Heal-all, Oxbalm, Knot-Root, Baume de Cheval, Guérit-tout.
Other plants in the Collinsonia species include:
- Collinsonia anisata
- Collinsonia punctata
- Collinsonia tuberosa
- Collinsonia verticillata
- Collinsonia serotina
History & Traditional Use:
The history of Collinsonia canadensis is deeply rooted in traditional Native American medicine. Various accounts mention the herb historically used as a medicinal staple for the Cherokee and Iroquois Native American tribes.
It was used as a treatment for headaches, blood and kidney issues, and as a general cure-all by the Iroquois. The Cherokee use it for swollen breasts, to induce vomiting (the aerial parts), and as a deodorant.
In the King’s American Dispensatory, both doctors mention that some of the Eclectic physicians’ first uses of collinsonia root was to treat “minister’s sore throat.” This affliction is now known as laryngitis and gives clues to stone root’s affinity for mucosa conditions of the throat.
There are no modern scientific accounts of stone root use; however, modern registered herbalists recommend collinsonia root to support the urinary system and as a strong diuretic when needed.
Collinsonia root is a versatile plant that has been used for millennia in Native American medicine. Cultivated stone root is still available for medicinal use, but wild stone root should be respectfully left alone due to its “at-risk” status.
Using a collinsonia root extract or infusion is recommended.
If you are considering stone root for medicinal use, look for cultivated rhizome/root and avoid using the aerial parts of the plant internally.
As always, it is highly recommended you speak with your primary healthcare provider before making any changes to your daily routine.
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