The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Plant Profile: Red Root

Botanical Name:
Ceanothus fendleri and Ceanothus. spp.
Many species are used and most herbalists use their local species.

Ceanothus fendleri is common in the ponderosa forest around Flagstaff and in northern Arizona. This species has a low bush, ground cover growth habit. It grows about 2′ in height and 2′-5′ in diameter.


Common Names:
Red Root, New Jersey Tea

Southwest Habitat:
There are many species. C. fendleri is commonly found in the ponderosa forest between 6-8,000’, usually on slopes.

Energy & Tastes:
Astringent, slightly warming (unusual for an alterative), dry, sometimes aromatic

Ceanothenic acid has been identified as one of the chemical compounds supporting its lymph moving ability. This is only present in fresh roots.

Preferred Method of Preparation:
Tincture of the fresh root. Fresh is important in this case. Use only the reddish part of the root. This red part is clearly evident when wildcrafting. The redder the tincture color, the better.

The roots are hard when freshly harvested and become rock hard as they dry. Prune, cut or chop into the smallest pieces you can, then try a good quality blender. Cheaper machines may not be up to the task. The general idea is to get the pieces as small as possible so the alcohol can extract efficiently.

Herbal Actions:
Lymph tonic

Therapeutic Uses:
A superb herb for moving lymph, breaking stagnation. Rarely used alone.
A useful addition to formulas for sore throats, swollen tonsils, colds and flu and anytime the lymph nodes are swollen and stagnant.
In recent years as Lyme Disease has become more common and people are looking for herbal help, many find this plant an important part of a larger protocol.

Herbal Combos:
Fresh red root tincture is often combined with fresh ocotillo bark tincture for a broad lymph tonic. This combination can be added to many immune formulas.

Safety Issues & Contraindications:
Ceanothus is considered a very safe herb when used in the traditional way.

The Plant Profiles are brief materia medica summaries of plants encountered during plant walks or introduced during class on our longer programs. They are presented here to help students organize plant info on an ongoing basis. Although the Profiles are not meant to be comprehensive, they are offered here to the public in the hope that others find these pages useful.


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