Facts and Benefits of Red Trillium

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Facts and Benefits of Red Trillium

Red Trillium Quick Facts
Name: Red Trillium
Scientific Name: Trillium erectum
Origin East and north-east of North America
Colors Dark maroon
Shapes Broadly ovoid, 6-angled and about ½" long and contains several seeds.
Taste Pungent, Bitter and acrid
Health benefits Immune Booster, Respiratory Distress, Inflammation and Bruises and Cancer Prevention
Red trillium is a perennial flowering plant that is known by many different names across the globe. Some of the most common names given to it are American Ground Lily, Bethroot, Birthroot, Coughroot, Ground Lily, Indian Balm, Indian Shamrock, Jew’s-harp Plant, Milk Ipecac, Nodding Wakerobin, Pariswort, Red Trillium, Snakebite, Three-leaved Nightshade, Trillium, Wake Robin, purple trillium,  Beth root, Indian Balm and Stinking Benjamin. This last name arises due to the pungent rotten meat like smell of its flowers. This plant has large, thick stalks and three pointed leaves, above which red or white flowers grow. Scientifically it is given the name Trillium erectum. The plant is native to east and north-east of North America. The genus name refers to the fact nearly all parts of the plant comes in threes. It has 3 broad leaves on each stalk, 3 small green sepals and 3 large white sepals (petal-like structures) surrounding a group of yellow stamens.  It also has three-sectioned seedpods. When the flowers mature, they will produce red, brown or purple berries.

Plant Description

Red Trillium is a spring ephemeral, an herbaceous perennial plant that grows about 40 cm (16 in) in height with a spread of 30 cm (12 in). The plant is found growing in rich deciduous woodlands that are more or less mesic and wooded slopes. It prefers soil that is more or less moist and contains loam with decaying organic matter. Root are  oblique, globular, oblong or obconical, truncate below, terminated by a small bud surrounded by a sheath of scarious leaf bases annulated by leaf scars and fissured by stem scars. It is from 0.6 to 5 cm. in length, and from 0.6 to 3.5 cm. in width, more or less compressed laterally, rootlet scars in several concentric rows on the underside in the upper portions. Externally it is yellowish to reddish brown and internally of a pale yellow. Fracture is somewhat uneven with a more or less spongy appearance. Stem is light green to purplish green, terete, and glabrous.


Leaves are 3-8 inch long and similarly across; they are oval-rhombic in shape, smooth along their margins, and sessile (or nearly so). The upper leaf surface is medium green and glabrous, while the lower surface is more pale; both surfaces are glabrous. Primary veins of the leaves are parallel, while secondary veins form an interlacing network.

Flower & Fruit

Flowers are 2 inch across, consisting of 3 maroon petals (reddish purple), 3 light green to greenish maroon sepals, 6 stamens, and a dark maroon ovary with 3 small recurved stigmata. When the flower is open, both petals and sepals are widely spreading; they are about the same length and similar shape, although the sepals are narrower. The petals and sepals are lanceolate to ovate in shape and glabrous. The relatively small stamens have anthers and filaments that are about the same length; the anthers have light gray to yellowish pollen. The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, as they are pollinated by flies. Flowering normally takes place from May to June. Afterwards, the ovary matures into a dark maroon fruit that is broadly ovoid, 6-angled, and about ½ inch long. This fruit contains several seeds.

The leaves can be used in salads, and have a peculiar taste likened to a sunflower, or they can be cooked as a pot vegetable, like spinach or kale. The root, whether fresh or dry, can be boiled or powdered and the resulting mixture can be consumed to get a more concentrated form of the plant’s nutrients. The leaves or the root can be mixed into various topical concoctions as well, which can be applied directly to the skin for additional benefits.

Health Benefits of Red Trillium

Traditionally, the indigenous tribes of the America as well as the early European settlers in North America used trillium to enable the labor of child birth. Trillium was also used to cure other problems related to gynecology, including tender nipples, menstrual disorders as well as the uneasiness caused by menopause. Even to this day, trillium remains to be used for easing several of the symptoms mentioned above, in addition to hemorrhages related to uterine fibroids. Listed below are few of the health benefits of using red trillium include

1. Immune Booster

The plant consists of certain antiseptic qualities, which is useful when used as a topical solution. In that case, red trillium can be made into a paste, either through crushed leaves, or boiled/dried root, and then spread directly on an affected area. For a wound or abrasion, it can help to prevent any infection from developing. It similarly clears out our gastrointestinal system of dangerous parasites and bacteria that can make us ill. (1)

2. Respiratory Distress

Red trillium has long been used to deal with respiratory distress, specifically because it acts as an expectorant, helping to remove phlegm or mucus from the respiratory tracts. This can help to speed up the healing process of colds and also protect the immune system against the pathogens that often thrive in mucus. (2)

3. Inflammation and Bruises

When topically applied to an affected area, a paste or salve made with red trillion can quickly remove inflammation and improve the appearance of bruises. By stimulating blood flow to the area, it can induce more rapid healing, while removing the pain and severity of the wounds due to its various antioxidant and analgesic properties. (3)

4. Cancer Prevention

Although the research is new in this particular area, early results show that red trillion can have an effect on tumor growth and metastasis, making this an invaluable alternative remedy for people suffering from various forms of cancer. Be sure to discuss the possible use of red trillion with a doctor before combining this approach with any other formal treatments. (4)

5. Stomach Issues

One of the earliest uses of red trillion was to cure stomach upset and diarrhea. To this day, this remains a popular use of the herb, and while dysentery isn’t nearly as common as it was when this herb first came to popularity, those suffering from IBS and other gastrointestinal issues can still derive a lot of relief from this surprisingly powerful herb. (5)

6. Menstruation

This powerful herb is known to be an emenagogue, meaning that it stimulates menstruation. Red trillium can be a wonderful remedy for women who suffer from particularly painful menstrual cramps or symptoms to soothe the body and prevent spasms and cramps. (6)

7. Easing the Birthing Process

While this plant can be slightly dangerous for pregnant women early in their term, as it can induce menstruation, it is very effective for stimulating childbirth, which is why it has the secondary common name of “birthroot”. If you are struggling through an exceptionally painful labor, ret trillion can help to stimulate childbirth and ease the process by providing natural pain relief. (7)

Traditional uses and benefits of Red Trillium

  • Beth root was traditionally used by various native North American Indian tribes as a woman’s herb to aid childbirth, as a treatment for irregular menstrual periods, period pains and excessive vaginal discharge.
  • Modern research has shown that the root contains steroidal saponins, which have hormonal effects on the body.
  • Saponins found in Red Trillium are being used in gynaecological and obstetric medicine.
  • Root is antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, expectorant, tonic, uterine tonic.
  • It is used internally in the treatment of a wide range of women’s complaints including hemorrhage from the uterus, urinary tract and lungs, and also to curb excessive menstruation.
  • It has proved to be of value in stopping bleeding after parturition.
  • Externally, it is used to treat excessive vaginal discharge, ulcers (especially varicose), skin complaints, gangrene, insect bites and stings.
  • It is used as a wash for sore nipples.
  • Whole plant is used as a poultice for tumors, inflammations and ulcers.
  • Leaves, boiled in lard, are sometimes applied to ulcers and tumors.
  • Roots may be boiled in milk, when they are helpful in diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Rhizome and leaves of the plant is used medicinally.
  • It has the ability to balance hormones and is wonderful aphrodisiac herb for men with low libido.
  • It helps to protect the immune system.
  • It gives relief from respiratory problems and gastrointestinal issues.
  • It is expectorant in nature and is used to treat respiratory diseases.
  • It helps in removing Phlegm or mucus from the respiratory tract and speeds up the healing process of colds.
  • It protects the immune system against pathogens.
  • Herb is powerful emenagogue and helps to stimulates Menstruation.
  • It is useful to those suffering from menstrual cramps or symptoms.
  • It soothes the body and prevents spams.
  • Plant has antiseptic properties and helps to prevent the infections from spreading in wounds and infections.
  • It is effective for cancer and tumors. It is a good remedy for people suffering from various forms of cancer.
  • It cures upset stomach and diarrhea.
  • Native Americans used trillium internally to cure bowel disorders and applied it topically to ease headaches and to treat sunburns, boils and acne.
  • Raw root is grated and applied as a poultice to the eye in order to reduce swelling, or on aching rheumatic joints.
  • Leaves were boiled in lard and applied to ulcers as a poultice, and to prevent gangrene.
  • Decoction of the root bark can be used as drops in treating earache.
  • It is also used internally for treating an assortment of medical problems related to women, counting bleedings from the urinary tract, uterus and lungs.
  • It is also effective in controlling profuse menstrual flow.
  • Trillium has also proved to be very useful in stopping hemorrhages following child birth.
  • Herbal tea prepared from the roots and rhizome of trillium is also effective in treating tender nipples.
  • Entire herb is used in the form of a poultice for treating ulcers, tumors as well as inflammations.
  • It can be used as a topical antiseptic to effectively sterilize wounds and abrasions.

Ayurvedic Health benefits of Red Trillium

  • Insect Bites and Stings: Make a poultice of the leaves and apply on the affected area.
  • Menstrual Disorders: Grind equal amount of Goldenseal and wake Robin together. Take one tsp with lukewarm milk at night.

Culinary Uses

  • Young unfolding leaves are an excellent addition to the salad bowl, tasting somewhat like sunflower seeds.
  • Leaves can also be cooked as a potherb.

Other Facts

  • Trillium is pollinated by ants.
  • If the flowers and leaves are picked, the plant can die, as it won’t have enough energy to survive through the winter.
  • In some places, such as Michigan, Minnesota and New York, removing trillium from the wild is considered illegal.
  • Native American Indians used the roots for medicinal purposes and they also ate the leaves as vegetables.
  • Trillium is a favorite food for white-tailed deer.
  • In folklore, trillium symbolizes modest beauty.


  • Leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals and crystal raphide, and should not be consumed by humans.
  • Can cause nausea in high doses and promote labor and menstruation.
  • Local application can cause irritation.
  • Should not be used during pregnancy, as it can induce premature labor.
  • It may cause vomiting and Stomach irritation.
  • Some people with sensitive skin can develop a rash when topically using red trillium.
  • When taken in high doses it can stimulate menstruation or labor, or it may cause nausea or queasiness.














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