BUTTON SNAKE ROOT
BUTTON SNAKE ROOT
Botanical Description: This plant is an indigenous perennial herb, with a single stem from 1 to 5 feet in height. The root is tuberous. Its leaves are from 1 to 2 feet long, by ½ an inch to 1 ½ inches wide, broadly linear, parallel veined, taper pointed, grass-like, ciliate and armed with remote soft spines. The bracts are tipped with spines, those of the involucels being entire and shorter than the heads. The flowers, which are white or pale and inconspicious, are disposed in ovate globose heads, which are pedunculate, and from ½ to 1 inch in diameter. The calyx is 5-parted and permanent; the styles slender; the petals connivent, oblong, and emarginate, with a long, in flexed point. The fruit is scaly, top-shaped, and bipartile.
Reflection: Button snake root is indigenous to the peat moss bog environment in the south from Virginia to Texas. It generally found along the edges on the incline leading to the bog or along the edges of the ditches. In Kings it is reported abundant on the prairie lands such as in Texas. I haven’t had the opportunity to see it in that locale but I have found it most abundant in the Costal areas of Miss in Piney woods areas and especially in peaty soil. It is not a plant that is striking with its color, but the unusual shape of the plant with its spike sputnik looking flower heads makes it easily discernible for even those slightly familiar with its growth. It is amazing that we can see plants for so long and never stop to wonder what is their unique purpose. Button Snake root looks very common in some ways but once you are familiar with it, it becomes very attractive. The eryngium aquaticum has a pretty purplish tint to it flowering tops as does the integrifolium.
(Button snake flowers)
The Yuccifolium is quite a bit larger than the others and when not blooming could be mistaken for a very young Yucca plant. The root is the part used and will be a great deal stronger than the other parts. It is not a large root and has a good many rootlets coming off the main root. The root is usually from one to three inches long and sometimes the young plants may have only small ball shaped tubers. They are soft and somewhat whitish inside. Very earthy in their odor.
Medicinal Uses: Button snake root is one of those herbs which has a very substantial reputation, but has slipped out of use because somehow or other it is not commercially available. Sort of a connoisseur herb. It is very effective in its use so the decrease in popularity is definitely not due to ineffectiveness. The main use is in urinary complaints especially where there is burning painful urination. Although all conditions such as gravel, stricture, etc would be indications also, although it is famous for its use in burning urination. It lessens erectile power so it would be useful in nocturnal emissions. It could be combined with willow blossoms in this regard. Button snake root is indicated by pain in the testes. Again the combination would be good with willow blossoms and I would try this combination also in pain in the ovaries. It would be useful in the inability to pass urine called dysuria. Whenever there is uneasy or painful sensations in the urinary tract button snake root should be used.
In women’s disorders, it is of much value when the condition occurs where there is burning pain on urination. It is very useful in spasmodic stricture and could be combined with Gelsemium in this regard.
Personal Reflections: The first use of button snake root was in a very dramatic case of urinary tract infection. The lady of 60 complained that she was very much distraught with pain in the urinary tract and was just before going the antibiotic route. I said of course she could do that but in the past she had not found that to be satisfactory so she agreed to try the button snake root along with the normal application of Echinacea to build the immune system. Within two days she was completely better and became an enthusiastic fan of button snake root. She actually became an herbalist in her own right due to the undeniable efficacy of button snake root in her condition of painful urination.
I combine Button snake root with Gravel root, horsetail ,Sourwood, and Squaw vine for the general tonic effect on the kidneys and bladder. Gravel root, hydrangea, and button snake root for removal of stones.
In bronchial conditions, it is useful especially when there is a free and abundant discharge of mucous. This is the referral in Kings. It would be something like Saw palmetto in is use for respiratory complaints from our experience. It fills a need in because of the limited number of herbs which are effective in lung disorders
I can remember once harvesting Button snake root in a remote region about a 100 yards from a creek. The area was very removed from anywhere and practically no one ever went there except maybe an occasional hunter. You could be there for a long time and never see another human. The trees gradually decreased from the creek bottom and the area became a grassy somewhat wt area with scattered pine trees. The ideal situation for Button snake root. It was late afternoon in the fall and I had been out for sometime before finally finding this nice stand of Button snake root. It wasn’t thick but scattered over a large area. As I scouted for one patch after another, the serenity of the area gradually began to have its effect on my psyche. The wind blowing through the trees and the absence of any other sounds made me began to reflect on the fact that this is the same atmosphere one would have experienced since time immemorial harvesting herbs in the forest. The wonderful gifts of Mother Earth. Suddenly I began to actually feel the eternity of my endeavor and felt happiness in my heart that I was able to understand how those before me found this same peace in harvesting herbs for the benefit of others.