Other names: Spreading Jacob’s Ladder, Creeping Jacob’s Ladder, False Jacob’s Ladder, American Greek Valerian, Blue Bells, Stairway to Heaven, and Sweatroot
Abscess root, otherwise known as False Jacobs Ladder, Blue Bells or by several other names is a pretty plant with light blue flowers that can usually be found naturally in fertile moist soil in temperate climates. In addition to being attractive in their own right, their roots have traditionally been used as a medicinal herb in a variety of cases such as to treat inflammation, as an antimicrobial agent, to mitigate fever, to eject snake venom, and deal with the effects of childbirth, among other things. The way the roots are traditionally prepared for consumption is via an alcohol based tincture and the dosage is in the range of 1 to 2 fluid oz. However, there have been few scientific studies done to back up these uses and I have found no reasoning for those dosages. The two books that deal directly with the medical uses of this plant are both close to, or well over, a century old. There is circumstantial evidence, however, that the plant can act as an insecticide and anti-pathogenic agent as they have been found in the nests of European Starlings, presumably for those uses to ward off disease. There is also the potential that the root can be used topically to treat various skin diseases. Finally, there may be some evidence that abscess root can be used as an astringent when there is congestion in order to loosen phlegm. Given the name, my guess is that this is true, however the safety of the plant is far from clear.
Basically the conclusion I have drawn from the scant literature is that there is not enough evidence to warrant the medical use of this plant, but there is enough evidence to say that there may be the potential for more research.
On a side note, it has been reported that the plant emits the odor of a skunk when kept in a space that does not have ventilation.
Braun, E. (1956). VARIATION IN POLEMONIUM REPTANS. Rhodora, 58(689), 103-116. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23306444
Khan, B. A., Menaa, F., Reich, A., Caldeira, E., & Bakhsh, S. (2016). Potential phytotherapy of atopic dermatitis, acne, psoriasis, vitiligo. http://nopr.niscair.res.in/handle/123456789/35228
Clark, L., & Mason, J. R. (1985). Use of nest material as insecticidal and anti-pathogenic agents by the European Starling. Oecologia (Berlin), 67(2), 169-176.
Pinney, V. (2004). U.S. Patent Application No. 10/579,842.
Cook, W. (1869). The physiomedical dispensatory. Cincinnati, OH: Self-published.