SNAKE-ROOT. In most countries where snakes abound some root or herb is used by the natives as an antidote for the bites of venomous species, and many herbs have consequently received the name of snake-root. Botanically speaking, the name properly belongs to Ophiorrhiza Mungos, the Mungoose plant, a plant of the natural order Rubiaceae, used in the JE. Indies for the purpose above indicated. In medicine, however, the roots of Aristolochia Serpentaria, Polygala Senega and Cimicifuga racemosa were understood by this name, being distinguished as the Virginian, seneca and black snake-roots. The root of Aristolochia reticulata is known in the United States as Red river or Texan snake-root.
The roots or rhizome of Liatris spicata, Eryngium aquaticum and Eupatorium altissimum have all been used in N. America for snake-bites, the first two being known as button snake-root and the last as white snake-root. The rhizome of Asarum canadense passes under the name of Canadian snake-root. All of these contain acrid or aromatic principles which, when a warm decoction of the drug is taken, exercise a powerfully diaphoretic or, in some cases, diuretic action, to which any benefit that may be derived from their use must be attributed.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)