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Polygala senega - L.
Common Name Senega Snake Root
Family Polygalaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous in large quantities, causing violent purging and vomiting[4, 21]. Reported to have caused anxiety, mental dullness and vertigo. May disturb vision. Avoid if hypersensitive to aspirin or or salicylates. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation. Can lower blood sugars so avoid if diabetes mellitus [301].
Habitats Rocky hills and woods on dry and mainly calcareous soils[4, 21, 43].
Range Eastern N. America - New Brunswick to Hudson Bay, south to North Carolina, Missouri and Arkansas.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Polygala senega Senega Snake Root

Polygala senega Senega Snake Root
Thomas G. Barnes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Barnes, T.G., and S.W. Francis. 2004. Wildflowers and ferns of Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky.
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of flower
Polygala senega is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 2. It is in flower in June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Polygala albida. Senega officinalis.

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses
None known
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Abortifacient;  Antidote;  Cathartic;  Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Expectorant;  Sialagogue;  

Seneca snake root was employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes, who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is still used in modern herbalism where it is valued mainly as an expectorant and stimulant to treat bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis and whooping cough[254].The root contains triterpenoid saponins, these promote the clearing of phlegm from the bronchial tubes. The root is antidote, cathartic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, sialagogue, stimulant[4, 21, 46, 165, 222, 238]. It was used by the North American Indians in the treatment of snake bites[4, 46] and has been found of use in the treatment of various respiratory problems including pleurisy and pneumonia[4, 257]. The root is harvested when the plant dies down in autumn and is dried for later use[4]. Use with caution[4, 21], excess doses cause diarrhoea and vomiting[238]. See also the notes above on toxicity. A tea made from the bark has been drunk in order to bring about a miscarriage[213]. The dried root is used as a stimulating expectorant - it is said to owe its medicinal value to the presence of saponins and in large doses is poisonous[213]. The root is harvested in the autumn[213]. The root has been used to treat snakebites, it is chewed and applied to the bite[213]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Polygala senega for cough/bronchitis (see [302] for critics of commission E).
Other Uses
None known
Cultivation details
Prefers a moderately fertile moisture-retentive well-drained soil, succeeding in full sun if the soil remains moist throughout the growing season, otherwise it is best in semi-shade[200]. Dislikes shade according to another report. The sub-species P. senega latifolia. Torr.&Gray. is cultivated as a medicinal plant in Japan[174].
Seed - sow spring or autumn in a cold frame[214]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division. Cuttings of young shoots in a frame in late spring[1].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants


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Readers comment
Debbie Cosgrove   Thu Nov 13 2008
do you know where i can buy seeds of polygala senega? or the plants. Debbie
Judy Flanigan   Tue Apr 14 2009
Gardens North (a mail-order seed company near Ottawa Ontario Canada) currently has seeds for Polygala senega. See link below.

Gardens North-Seeds for the World This company has seeds for many North American native plants.

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Subject : Polygala senega  

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