Upright perennial growing to 3 ft (1 m). Has lance-shaped leaves and clusters of yellow daisy-type flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to eastern North America, life root is found in marshes, and on damp ground and riverbanks. The aerial parts are gathered in summer.
Life root contains a volatile oil, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (including senecine, senecionine, and otosenine), tannins, and resin. In isolation, the pyrrolizidine alkaloids are highly toxic to the liver.
History & Folklore
The North American Catawba people used life root to treat gynecological problems in general, and to relieve labor pains in particular.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Until recently, life root was employed in Anglo-American herbalism much as it was in earlier times—as a means to induce menstrual periods and to bring relief to menopausal complaints. Today, the plant is recommended only for external use, as a douche for excessive vaginal discharge.
Ragwort (S. jacobaea) has traditionally been used as a poultice or lotion to relieve rheumatic aches and pains.
Do not take life root internally. The plant is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.