Blue Cohosh

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Caulophyllum thalictroides (L.) Michx. Family Berberidaceae (barberries)

COMMON NAME(S): Blue cohosh, squaw root, papoose root, blue ginseng, yellow ginseng

Blue Cohosh , is an herb derived from the rhizome and roots of a small North American perennial. Blue Cohosh is also referred to by names such as 'Papoose Root' or 'Squaw Root', reflecting the use of this herb by Native American women who brewed a bitter tea from Blue Cohosh to relieve menstrual cramps and ease the pains associated with childbirth.


Blue cohosh was used by American Indians; the name "cohosh" comes from the Algonquin name of the plant. It was used by Menomini, Meskawi, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi tribes for menstrual cramps, to suppress profuse menstruation, and to induce contractions in labor. It was widely used in 19th century Eclectic medicine as an emmenagogue, parturient, and antispasmodic. It continues to be used for regulating the menstrual cycle and for inducing uterine contractions.

Botany :-

Blue cohosh is an early spring perennial herb whose yellowish green flowers mature into bitter, bright blue seeds. It is found throughout woodlands of the eastern and midwestern US, especially in the Allegheny Mountains. The matted, knotty rootstock, collected in the autumn, is used for medicinal purposes. The root of an Asian species, C. robustum Maxim., has also been used medicinally.

Uses of Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh has been used to induce uterine contractions. It is widely advertised on the Internet but is dangerous (see Toxicology).

Side Effects of Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh root is a dangerous product. Its toxicity appears to outweigh any medical benefit.


Blue cohosh is generally taken as a tincture and should be limited to no more than 1-2 ml taken three times per day. The whole herb (300-1,000 mg per day) is sometimes used. Blue cohosh is generally used in combination with other herbs.


Blue cohosh berries are poisonous to children when consumed raw although the roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute. The root can cause contact dermatitis.The alkaloid anagyrine is a teratogen in ruminants,causing "crooked calf syndrome." Another quinolizidine alkaloid in the plant, N-methylcytisine, was teratogenic in a rat embryo culture.The skeletal malformations seen in calves have been postulated to be caused by the action of the quinolizidine alkaloids on muscarinic and nicotinic receptors of the fetus, preventing normal fetal movements required for proper skeletal development.

A case was reported in which a newborn human infant, whose mother was administered blue cohosh to promote uterine contractions, was diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction associated with CHF and shock. The infant eventually recovered after being critically ill for several weeks.The FDA Special Nutritionals Adverse Event Monitoring System notes fetal toxicity cases of stroke and aplastic anemia following ingestion by the mother.

Caution : Only small doses are advisable during the first trimester of pregnancy, and it is probably best not to take it at all until labour has commenced. Blue cohosh can be irritating to mucous membranes and may cause contact dermatitis. Children have been poisoned by the berries.

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