Scientific Names of Balsamroot:

Balsamorhiza sagittata (Pursh) Nutt [Fam. Asteraceae]


Dry or crushed root of Balsamorhiza sagittata.

Traditional Usage:

– Antibacterial
– Antifungal
– Antiviral
– Bites
– Bronchitis
– Colds
– Expectorant
– Flu
– Immune System
– Infections
– Skin Problems
– Swelling
– Tuberculosis


Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata (Pursh) Nutt [Fam. Asteraceae], also known as Spring Sunflower, is a leafy perennial that grows up to 80 cm high and is found in the sunny, dry regions of the southern interior of British Columbia, the Rockies, California, and South Dakota. Aboriginal peoples have long enjoyed this plant as both a food and medicine. Balsamroot may be eaten raw or cooked, and all parts of the plant are edible including the large taproots, root crowns, young shoots, young leafstalks, leaves, the flower budstalks and the seeds. It is the large taproots that can grow to the size of one’s forearm (and are difficult to dig), that contain the medicinal properties. Balsamroot is believed to boost the immune system and treat infections like bronchitis and colds. Externally it has been used for bites and other skin irritations. Balsamroot is in the same plant family as Echinacea (Compositae) and is considered by some traditional First Nations healers to be more powerful than Echinacea for helping people to overcome colds and flu. The root extracts have been tested and found to have strong activity against a wide spectrum of pathogenic bacteria and fungi including Mycobacterium tuberculosis; hence it has documented anti-tuberculosis activity. A study at the University of British Columbia revealed Balsamorhiza sagittata to be at the top of among fifteen methanolic plant extracts to exhibit antifungal activity against all of nine fungal species tested. The roots contain inulin as the major carbohydrate stored in the root. Inulin is made up of complex carbohydrates known as fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS). Based on scientific studies, inulin increases mineral absorption during digestion, boosts beneficial bifidobacteria within the digestive tract and eliminates pathogens. Inulin also stimulates the immune system, suppresses abnormal cells, is beneficial for kidney health, improves blood sugar control and reduces serum cholesterol.

Active Ingredients:

Balsamroot contains: Up to fifty percent of balsamroot is made up of complex carbohydrates known as fructo-oligo-saccharides (FOS), including, largely, inulin (and fructose after cooking). The root also contains a clear-yellowish resin with bitter constituents. Studies done at the University of British Columbia isolated an antibacterial compound from Balsamorhiza sagittata, which was identified as 7,10-epithio-7,9-tridecadiene-3,5,11-triyne-1,2-diol.

Suggested Amount:

Balsamroot can be eaten liberally as a food or can be taken medicinally as a tincture in a similar way to Echinacea – used daily during the cold and flu season or at first signs of a cold. Balsamroot can also be used as a safe tonic herb to be taken daily throughout the year, in a similar way to burdock root. Balsamroot tincture is recommended with the dosage of 5ml taken three to five times throughout the day, or, depending upon the concentration of root in the tincture, taken with a dosage corresponding to at least 1g of dried root taken several times per day. The root taken as an herbal tea is recommended with the dosage of a cup of freshly prepared infusion taken several times throughout the day between meals. Based on the related plant, Echinacea, German authorities recommend using 1g of dried, finely chopped or coarsely powdered root per cup of tea. It is recommended that hot water (ca. 150ml) be poured over the powdered root and infused for ten minutes first and then passed through a tea strainer.

Drug Interactions:    

None known.


None known.

Side Effects:     

None known.


Matsuura H, Saxena G, Farmer SW, Hancock RE, Towers GH., 1996. An antibacterial thiophene from Balsamorhiza sagittata. Planta Med. 1996 Feb; 62(1): 65-6.

MuCutcheon et al. 1997. Anti-Mycobacterial screening of British Columbian Medicinal Plants. International Journal of Pharmacognosy. 35(2): 77-83.

MuCutcheon AR, Ellis SM, Hancock RE, Towers GH. 1994. Antifungal Screening of Medicinal Plants of British Columbian Native Peoples. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 44: 157-169.

MuCutcheon et al. 1992. Antifungal Screening of Medicinal Plants of British Columbian Native Peoples. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 37: 213-223.

Turner N, and Kuhnlein H. 1991. Traditional plant foods of Canadian indigenous peoples. Nutrition, botany and use. In Food and Nutrition in History and Anthropology Vol. 8. Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, pp. 127-132.