Scholla: Shlangewarzel (High Proof Applejack) 7/31/1943

Shlangewarzel (High Proof Applejack) 7/31/1943

In a recent case tried before Judge H. Robert Mays in the criminal court of Berks County, a jury ruled that Leon S. Weissner, of Kempton, was not guilty of violating liquor laws by mixing legal liquor and the juices of a weed known as Schlangewarzel, or snake root. The case hinged upon the question whether or not the concoction was a medicine and a wise jury and judge, who knew their Pennsylvania Dutch folklore ruled that the mixture had medicinal properties for some persons.

Snakeroot, scientifically known as Aristolochia Serpentaria, was highly esteemed by the Indians as a medicinal herb. In their volume on “Plant Names and Plant Lore,” Unger and Prendle, have this to say about Schlangewarzel, known as (Geeli (yellow) and Gleeni (Small)) Schlangewarzel:

“The plant is not indigenous to Europe. The root is regarded as highly medicinal. It was usually put into brandy; used in colds, low fevers and like complaints. An aged person stated to us that he could cure anybody in the first stages of consumption with a bitters of brandy, snakeroot and the corn of an Indian turnip.

“Those who search for the plant suppose that the tip of the upper most part of the leaf points to the next plant.”

In addition to the yellow and small snake root there are other varieties. Medicinal properties are claimed for Low Snakeroot and Red Snakeroot. Three varieties known as Big, Tall and Black Snakeroot in the dialect, Black Cohosh in English and Cimicifuga Racemose in the Latin are used medicinally as “bitters” for rheumatism and as a medicine for cattle.

White Snakeroot, of the genus speitanthers, is known to residents of Tylersport, Penna.  Another variety of White Snake Root, of the genus Polygonatum is known in Sumneytown, Montgomery County. No medicinal uses have been claimed for the white variety.

Virginia Snakeroot. Source:
Virginia Snakeroot. Source:
Virginia Snakeroot flower. Source:
Virginia Snakeroot flower. Source:

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