One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Any of a number of North American plants reputed to contain an antidote to snake poison.
('Virginia snakeroot') a birthwort with long heart-shaped leaves and curved tubular flowers (Aristolochia serpentaria, family Aristolochiaceae)
('white snakeroot') a poisonous plant that causes milk sickness in livestock (Eupatorium rugosum, family Compositae)
- ‘Wood wrote that their poison could kill a man in an hour unless he treated the bite with snakeroot, moreover if the victim lived, the snake died.’
- ‘Interestingly, according to Vogel, Senega snakeroot was ‘the chief remedy for heart trouble among the Potawatomis and Meskwakis‘.’
- ‘Herbal medicine has contributed aspirin from willow bark, reserpine from snakeroot, taxol from the yew tree, but ‘natural’ is not automatically safe.’
2Any of a number of plants thought to resemble a snake in shape, in particular Indian snakeroot.See rauwolfia
- ‘According to legend, mentioned and discredited by Rudyard Kipling in his story ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi,’ mongooses eat Indian snakeroot before engaging in battle with cobras.’
- ‘The Natural Database rates valerian (with or without lemon balm) as possibly effective for insomnia; however, they have found insufficient evidence to recommend Indian snakeroot.’
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