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Constituents – King’s American Dispensatory give the constituents of the rhizome as consisting of tannin, gum, resins, and 12% ash.
There seems to be no immediately available modern analysis, but a site www.biodiversity.uno.edu suggests that prenanthes, being an asteraceae, is probably cynogenic, with compounds derived from phenylalanines. It also suggests the presence of kaempferil, quercetin, ursolic acid and inulin.
Even USDA and Duke’s Database have no analysis of Nabalus.
Toxicology and Pharmacology – There are no reports of toxic reactions to Nabalus.
Quercetin is a Flavonol Bioflavonoid, and a potent antioxidant, demonstrating significant anti-tumour activity, in animals, against breast, brain, colon, ovarian cancers and squamous cell carcinoma.
It represses Rhinoviruses, inhibits the production and release of histamine by basophiles.
Nabalus has a history of use in dysentery, and such action would inhibit that.
Kaempferol minimises inflammation, and is also an anti-oxidant.
Inulin facilitates the growth of bifidobacteria in the human digestive tract, but is not digestible by humans.
Ursolic acid is also an antioxidant, alleviating oedema, and strengthening capillaries.
Much of the above helps to explain the name Cancer Root.
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS . No analysis of this species has been made to determine specific principle. An analysis of the root of P . alba - too nearly allied to this species - by Neri. B. Williams, (Thesis, Am . Jour . Phar ., 1886 , 117 .) showed the presence of resin tannin extractive, gum, and waxy matters. (Millspaugh's Medicinal Plants)
The root, leaves, and juice of the plant are employed. According to N. B. Williams (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1887,1). 117), the rhizome contains tannin, gum, resins, etc., and the leaves 12 per cent of ash. (Kings Dispensatory)
The plant is said to be an antidote for snake bites.