- Family Berberidaceae
- Caulophyllum thalictroides
- Papoose Root, Squawroot, Blueberry Root, Beechdrops, Blue Ginseng, Yellow Ginseng
- Do not take during the first three months of pregnancy because of its estrogenic effects.
- It may cause contact dermatitis and may irritate mucous membranes.
- Do not use if there is a history of heart problems.
- Although historically it was used to promote uterine contractions during labour, it should not be used for this purpose as it can be very dangerous if the practitioner is not familiar with the dosage.
The herb grows wild in much of eastern North America from Manitoba to Alabama, preferring woodland valleys, north-facing slopes, and damp banks. It is a perennial, growing to about three feet with large three-lobed leaves, striking purple-blue flowers and deep blue berries. It is gathered mainly from the wild, but it can be cultivated.
Cohosh is an Algonquin name, and the herb is a traditional Native American remedy used by various tribes to facilitate childbirth, and hence its common name of “squawroot”. The same name was given to black cohosh, which was used for entirely different female problems.
Blue cohosh was used by the Cherokee to promote childbirth and to relieve uterine inflammations during menstruation. The Menominee made a root decoction to minimize heavy bleeding during menstruation, while the Chippewa used it as a contraceptive. Both thought it was effective in treating lung problems and indigestion. The Iroquois used it to treat rheumatism, gallstones, and fever, as well as for a general tonic. The Omaha found it effective in battling fever, while the Cherokee used it to treat “fits and hysterics” and toothaches.
European settlers learned of the herb’s value from the Native peoples and was included in the US Pharmacopoeia until 1905.
- promotes menstrual flow
- promotes sweating
- uterine tonic
- alkaloids (caulophylline, laburnine, magnoflorine)
- steroidal saponins (caulosapogenin)
- vitamins and minerals (especially iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin)
A related Russian species, C. robustum, is thought to have similar properties as the blue cohosh, but it also has fungicidal constituents.
Blue cohosh is still considered to be a “woman’s herb” used to treat a range of gynecological conditions although it is also useful for arthritis.
During labor, it is helpful in improving contractions. It is also used to rectify delayed or irregular menstruation and to alleviate heavy bleeding and pain during menstruation.
In English and American medicine, the herb has been used since the beginning of the 20th century for worm infestation, dehydration, menstrual ailments, and to stimulate contractions.