Collinsonia Root: A Remedy Rooted in American History

Collinsonia root (Collinsonia canadensis) is a unique plant that goes by many names: stone root, heal-all, knob-root, horse-balm, and many others. It is native to North America and grows in wooded areas from Canada to Florida. Today, Collinsonia is wild-harvested from public forests and cultivated under forest canopy. Named after the English botanist (and friend of Benjamin Franklin) Peter Collins, collinsonia root was first used for medicinal purposes in the 1800s by the Shakers and Eclectic physicians, physicians known for their medicinal use of botanicals native to North America.

As the name suggests, the root of the Collinsonia plant is the part most often utilized, but the leaves also have medicinal value. Collinsonia leaves are traditionally used as a poultice for sprains, burns, bruises, ulcers, and other wounds, as it may improve capillary function and support speedy healing.

1Historically, collinsonia root has had many different therapeutic uses, specifically for irritations of mucus membranes, to support the venous system, and to treat hemorrhoids. In fact, physicians most familiar with collinsonia root and its uses said that collinsonia is indicated in ailments that are characterized by “congestion, irritation, and a sense of constriction.”

While large scale studies to better understand the therapeutic effects of collinsonia root are lacking, the herb is still utilized today for many of the same conditions as it has been in the past, and its uses still align with its original reputation as a remedy for conditions characterized by congestion, irritation, and a sense of constriction.

Circulatory Support
Collinsonia root is used to support various circulatory conditions and is believed to help support the integrity of veins and capillaries, which is why it is sometimes used as a remedy for varicose veins. It has also been historically used as a tonic to support the vasculature of the heart and cardiovascular system. Today, it’s most commonly used in the treatment of hemorrhoids, a condition of vascular irritation of the rectal area with a general sense of “constriction” or pain in the lower abdomen. Hemorrhoids are also considered a sign of portal system congestion, as well as a venous and capillary weakness, and so Collinsonia has become an important remedy in its treatment.

Respiratory System
Since Collinsonia is regarded as a tonic for mucosa, it has been used for any irritation of the mouth and throat, including laryngitis, pharyngitis, and even bronchitis. One of collinsonia root’s earliest uses was for a specific type of laryngitis referred to as “minister’s sore throat.” This condition was described as resulting from the “prolonged and excessive use of the voice in a strained or unnatural key.”

Digestion Support
Collinsonia has been touted as a remedy for a wide variety of digestive issues, in addition to being a specific remedy for hemorrhoids. It was used to support the tone and mucosa of the digestive tract and to improve appetite, digestion, and assimilation of nutrients. It has also been used for diarrhea, constipation, and flatulence.

Collinsonia is a truly unique medicinal herb, as it gained popularity only in North America and has been used for such a wide variety of maladies unified by a narrow set of descriptors. Its reputation as a tried-and-true remedy for ailments characterized by “congestion, irritation, and a sense of constriction” make it relevant in many different conditions that still exist today, namely those that are related to venous weaknesses.

Consider collinsonia root for: 

  • Hemorrhoids
  • Varicose veins
  • Complaints of chronic constipation resulting in lower abdominal “pressure” or feelings of incomplete evacuation

References:
H.T. Webster MD, John W. Fyfe MD, J.M. Scudder MD, F.J. Locke MD, H.W. Felter MD. A treatise on Collinsonia candensis. Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists Inc. 1904.
HW Felter MD, JU Lloyd MD. King’s American Dispensatory, 1898. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/collinsonia.html Accessed October 26, 2018.

W Cook MD. The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/cook/COLLINSONIA_CANADENSIS.htm Accessed October 26, 2018.

Albrecht, Matthew & McCarthy, Brian. (2006). Seed germination and dormancy in the medicinal woodland herbs Collinsonia canadensis L. (Lamiaceae) and Dioscorea villosa L. (Dioscoreaceae). Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants. 201. 24–31. 10.1016/j.flora.2005.04.001.

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