The Medicinal Plant Garden

of Birmingham-Southern College

  • Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Eryngium yuccifolium

Common Name

Rattlesnake Master, Button Snakeroot, Yuccaleaf Eryngo, and Button Eryngo

Related Species

Eryngium yuccifolium is in the family Apiaceae (Carrot Family). Other species include  E. leavenworthii, E. tenue, E. amethystinum, E. foetidum, E. postrtatum, and E. alpminum.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

Rattlesnake Master is a native perennial that grows best in wet or dry mesic prairie soil. Rattlesnake master ranges from Florida to Texas, north to New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas. The plant is native to the southern section of Minnesota, and is seen most frequently seen from mid-May and through the month of October (Trent, 1938).

Description

This plant is a perennial plant that grows to 2-5′ tall, and is only reproduced by seed. The stem of this plant is very stout and grow up to 5’ tall, and is unbranched. The leaves have a parallel venation and occur towards the bottom section of the stem. The leaves grow to be about 21/2’ long and about 21/2” in width, they also have teeth line pointers on the edges of the leaves. Towards the apex part of the stem, there is an inflorescent of prickle white balls of flowers. These flowers are about 1” across, and contain a bundle of small white flowers. Each small white flower is surrounded by pointy prickly bracts. A small flower consists of 5 white petals as well as a divided white pistil, and several white stamens with light brown anthers. These plants possess a strong central taproot that is very stable and long lived. (Johnson et al., 1986; Trent, 1938; Molano, 2001).

Portion of the Plant Used

The shoots and roots can be eaten and be cooked.  The root which is used for illness or to protect against snake bites. Illness include fevers coughs, and vomiting. (Ajilvsgi, 1984; Trent,1938).

Traditional Uses

Traditionally it was used by Native Americans to make rope and string (Ajilvsgi, 1984).  Rattlesnake Master was a popular herb in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Early American history reports that Indians chewed the root, blew it on their hands, and then handled rattlesnakes without any conscience. The root was more often used in bitter teas as an antidote venereal disease, snakebites, impotence, expelling worms, and to induce vomiting.

Research

The most popular medicinal part of these plants is their roots. Chewing the root can be used to help with appetite and increase saliva amounts. The roots after been chewed or powdered are applied to snakebites as an antidote. Mixing the root with a tea concoction is using in modern day as a remedy for helping with fevers, spasms, urinary issues, whooping coughs, and breathing problems. It also helps with liver problems and diseases involving the liver and prostate. Reports have also shown that this plant helps against erectile dysfunction and skin issues (Foster et al., 1990; Kress, 2011).

Side Effects, Interactions, and Contraindications

People who are allergic to the grass family Apiaceae are encouraged not to eat this plant, other side effects have not been successfully tested to make predictions (McIntosh,1986; Kress,2011).