Red root is an herbal preparation made from the root of the Ceanothus americanus plant.
Popular among herbalists and natural medicine practitioners today, people have used red root for hundreds of years in traditional medicine.
Despite red root’s long history, very few scientific studies have analyzed its ability to treat various health conditions.
This article examines the history, purported benefits, and dosage recommendations for red root.
Ceanothus americanus is a white flowering shrub with a long, reddish root. The plant is native to eastern North America (1).
It’s commonly called New Jersey tea because during the Revolutionary War, American colonists used the leaves of the plant as a substitute for tea (1).
Red root has a long history of use in traditional Native American medicine. People brewed the root as a tea and used it to treat colds, fever, pneumonia, digestive problems, toothaches, and urinary tract infections in women (2).
Today, herbalists and homeopathic practitioners often use red root in their practices.
Anecdotal sources report making a tincture that contains highly diluted extracts from the leaves and root bark of the plant. Herbalists and homeopathic practitioners purportedly use this to treat respiratory illnesses, stimulate the lymphatic system, and support the spleen (3).
However, no scientific evidence supports these uses, and scientists need to do more high quality research on the effects of red root in humans.
People use the flowering shrub Ceanothus americanus to make an herbal homeopathic tincture called red root. Historically, people have used it in traditional Native American medicine.
The leaves and roots of the red root plant are bitter and astringent. Those properties are due to natural plant compounds called alkaloids and tannins (1,
Anecdotal sources have proposed these compounds may account for red root’s medicinal effects, though no scientific evidence supports these claims.
Tannins are a type of polyphenol antioxidant. They help protect cells and DNA from oxidative damage (
Lab and animal studies suggest tannins may protect your heart and blood vessels, as well as reduce your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They can also prevent the growth of some types of bacteria and other microbes (
Alkaloids in herbs and plants also have various effects on health. Lab tests show they can prevent the growth and spread of bacteria and viruses (
Research on red root
Herbal supplement companies often market red root for liver, spleen, and immune support. However, limited research or scientific evidence supports those or any other health benefits.
One small study tested the effects of taking red root in a small group of people with thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that often requires blood transfusions and can cause an enlarged spleen or liver (
When researchers gave red root to 38 people along with standard medication, they did have improved blood test results, a longer time between blood transfusions, and a reduction in spleen size compared with when they took standard medication alone (
However, other herbs were used in combination with red root, so it’s unclear which herbs were responsible for these effects.
Most other research on this herb comes from test-tube studies.
For example, researchers tested the effects of red root on a type of bacteria typically found in your mouth. Some of the natural compounds in red root inhibited the growth of four types of oral pathogens (
Another test-tube study found compounds in red root that show promise for lowering blood pressure. However, the researchers noted more research was needed (
Red root is a source of compounds called tannins and alkaloids, which have potential health benefits. Some people use it in homeopathic therapy, but very little research is available to support red root’s benefits.
As with other herbs, people who are pregnant or nursing should not use red root as a precaution.
Additionally, some research suggests that compounds in red root can affect blood clotting. Thus, you shouldn’t take it if you have a blood clotting disorder or are taking blood thinning medication (10).
If you use red root as the product label directs, you’ll likely take a very low dose. This may be why there are no reported interactions or adverse effects of red root in otherwise healthy people (3).
Still, because so little scientific research on red root exists, it’s unclear whether it can cause harm if you use it long-term or at high doses.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal supplements like red root for purity, quality, or effectiveness. Though it comes from a natural source, red root has the potential to interact with other herbs, medications, or health conditions (
If you’d like to try taking red root, it’s best to ask your healthcare professional about it first, especially if you have any health conditions or take other medications.
There are also concerns about homeopathic treatments in general. Even though people have practiced homeopathy for over 200 years, very few studies support its effectiveness (
Homeopathy is a therapeutic treatment based on the belief that “like cures like.” Practitioners give people very small, highly diluted amounts of substances that cause symptoms similar to those the people are experiencing. The intent is that it’ll stimulate their body to heal itself (
A large analysis of studies on the effectiveness of homeopathy found no evidence to suggest it works better than taking a placebo (
If you have a health condition and rely on homeopathic or herbal treatments instead of medical treatment, you may risk harming yourself.
No harmful effects of taking red root have been reported, but there’s no proof it does any good either. People who are pregnant or nursing, as well as anyone who takes blood thinning medication, should not use red root.
If you decide to try red root, follow the directions on the label of the product you’re using, as they can vary by product.
A typical dose for a tincture might be 1–5 drops in water, 1–3 times a day (3).
An herbalist or homeopathic practitioner may recommend a different dose or use red root in combination with other herbs or substances. However, there are no science-backed dosage recommendations.
If you want to take red root for a health condition, it’s essential to talk with your healthcare professional first. In fact, taking it may not be helpful and could delay an effective treatment.
Red root dosage recommendations can vary depending on the product and how it’s manufactured. If you’re considering trying this for a health condition, discuss it with your healthcare professional first.
Red root is an herbal preparation with a long history of use in traditional medicine.
Today it’s popular among homeopathic practitioners, who recommend it for many uses, especially to support the health of the spleen and respiratory and lymphatic systems.
Some compounds in the plant may provide antioxidant and antimicrobial health benefits.
However, there’s little evidence to suggest that red root provides any more benefit than a placebo, especially if you take it at the very low doses homeopathic practitioners recommend.
There’s also no evidence that it’s harmful to most people. Nevertheless, talk with your healthcare provider before taking red root, as there’s always a chance herbal remedies can interact with other medications or affect a health condition.
Finally, people who are pregnant or nursing, or anyone who takes blood thinning medicine, should not use red root as a precaution.