Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is usually found in rich woodland areas where the soil is deep and moist, such as in the bottom of hollows, especially along streams. It is a small perennial plant 6 to 8 inches tall. The flowers bloom mid-March-early April, and appear a little ahead of the leaves. They are white, daisy-like blooms around 2 inches across with 8 to 10 petals. When they appear later, the leaves are uniquely shaped, having a deep cleft where it attaches to the stem and a rounded lobed edge. If you dig just under the soil at the base of the plant you should find reddish colored roots that when broken will bleed a very red juice, hence the name.
Bloodroot is considered toxic and should not be consumed. However, the plant was extensively used by Native Americans and early pioneers for a number of medicinal purposes. Indians made a tea to treat rheumatism, bronchitis, lung ailments, laryngitis, and fevers. They also used the root to treat warts and as a decorative skin stain. Pioneers used the plant as a cloth dye by combining it with oak bark. The superstitious would carry a piece of bloodroot as a charm to ward off evil spirits, and it has been used as an ingredient in a love charm.
Study of Bloodroot has shown that it does indeed have medicinal benefits, containing antiseptic, anesthetic, and anti-cancer qualities. Commercially it is used as a plaque-inhibiting agent in toothpaste, mouthwash and rinses. There is a market for the root and it is dug and sold locally to herb dealers.