Medicinal benefits of Bowman’s Root

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Bowman's Root Quick Facts
Name: Bowman's Root
Scientific Name: Gillenia trifoliata
Origin Native to eastern North America from Ontario to Georgia
Bowman’s Root is a perennial flowering plant in the rose family and is inherent to eastern United States and Canada and spans from Southern Ontario to Georgia. It could be found west to Kentucky, Arkansas and Lousiana.

This indigenous shrub can be found scattered in North America: Canada to Florida, on the eastern side of the Alleghenies. Does well in open hilly woods, in light gravelly soil.

The root is quite thick with thin bark and many fissured rootlets, of bitter taste. The several erect, slender and smooth stems are 2–3 ft. high, and of a reddish or brownish colour. The leaves are alternate. Flowers are of white and pinkish colour, and can be seen in May. Matured fruit of two-valved, one-celled capsule, seeds are oblong, brown and bitter. The plant blooms with five petaled white flowers on wiry red stems from late spring to early summer.


The plant is found from Canada to Florida in rich woods, light, gravelly soils and in moist and shady situation. The flower blooms from May to August.

Facts About Bowman’s Root

Name Bowman’s Root
Scientific Name Gillenia trifoliata
Native Native to eastern North America from Ontario to Georgia
Common/English Name Indian Physic, Bowman’s root, American ipecac
Name in Other Languages English: Bowman’s root, Bowman’s-root, Mountain Indian-physic;
Swedish: Gillenia;
French: Gillénie trifoliée
Plant Growth Habit Erect herbaceous perennial
Plant Size 100 cm (39 in) tall by 60 cm (24 in) wide
Leaf Alternate, trifoliate, subsessile
Medicinal parts The bark of the root
Flowering Season Spring to summer
Flower White, 5-petaled, star-shaped

Plant description

The herb is rhizomatous and perennial with semi-woody branches and 3-palmate leaves which blooms in midsummer with star shaped white or pale pink flowers. It is inherent to open woods with moist acidic to neutral soils and its native range is South East Canada to North Central and East USA from Ontario to Georgia. . Root is a medicinal part and is collected in autumn. It is nearly odorless and has nauseous and amorous taste. Roots are larger, tuberculated and rootlets resent on annulated appearance. It may be distinguished by drab colored and branching stems, its greater size, large, clasping, ovate-cordate, gashed, leafy and serrated stipules. Lower leaves are reddish brown color at the tips. Stipules are leafy, ovate and doubly incised and clasping. Flowers are fewer, smaller on slender peduncles hanging in loose panicles.

Medicinal uses

  • North American Indians use it for treating amenorrhoea, dropsy, rheumatism, costiveness, dropsy, worms, dyspepsia, intermittent fever and worms.
  • Use it internally in small doses for treating colds, constipation, diarrhea, asthma and bronchial complaints.
  • Use the roots externally for rheumatism.
  • For bee and other stings, use the cold root infusion or chew the roots.
  • Use it as a wash for treating swellings and bee stings.
  • Use the plant poultice for treating leg swellings.
  • The plant is used for treating toothaches.


As an emetic, 20–35 grains of the powder, as often as required; as a tonic, 2–4 grains. As a diaphoretic, 6 grains in cold water, and repeated at intervals of 2–3 hr.

Side effects

Over doses of the infusion causes severe vomiting and purging.






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