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Blue Cohosh

  • Caulophyllum thalictroides L.
  • Berberidaceae
  • Barberry family

Common Names

herbsBlue cohush
herbsBlue ginseng
herbsPapoose root
herbsSquaw root
herbsYellow ginseng

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Blue cohosh is a hardy perennial plant 3 feet in height; the round, simple, erect stem grows from a knotty rootstock and bears a large, sessile, tri-pinnate leaf whose leaflets are oval, petioled, and irregularly lobed. Smooth-stemmed, stem and leaves covered with bluish film. The 6-petaled, yellow-green flowers are borne in a raceme or panicle. April to June before leaves expand. The fruit is a pea-sized, dark blue berry on a fleshy stalk. Blooms in May or June and the berries ripen in August.

Where Found

Found in eastern North America, near running streams, around swamps, and in other moist places. South Carolina to Arkansas, North Dakota to Canada.

Medicinal Properties

Stimulant, sedative, sudorific (produces sweat), tonic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, parturient, emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow), anthelmintic (destroys intestinal worms), demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, oxytocic (stimulates uterine contractions).

Biochemical Information

Calcium, coulosaponin, gum, inositol, iron, leontin, magnesium, methylcystine, phosphoric acid, phosphorus, potassium, salts, silicon, starch, and vitamins B3, B5, B9, and E.

Legends, Myths and Stories

Cohosh is a name given the plant by the Algonquins.

Roots are collected in the fall, when their chemical constituents are richest.

The aborigines found in this herb their most valuable parturient; an infusion of the root taken as a tea, for a week or two preceding confinement, renders delivery rapid and comparatively painless. They also used the root as a remedy for rheumatism, dropsy, uterine inflammation, and colic. These uses have been proven reliable by all methods of practice since.


A bitter, mildly toxic herb for menstrual disorders, painful menses, stimulates menstrual flow, cramps, fever, edema, blood tonic, leukorrhea, rheumatism, gout, nervous disorders, gonorrhea, ovarian neuralgia, vaginitis, dropsy, hysteria, palpitations of the heart, colic, and diabetes. Elevates blood pressure and stimulates uterine contractions of childbirth and stimulates the small intestine, and enhances symptoms of hyperglycemia. Good for hiccough, whooping cough, spasms, and epilepsy.

Formulas or Dosages

Blue cohosh should be used with medical supervision.

Infusion: use 1 oz. rootstock with 1 pint boiling water; steep for 1/2 hour. Take 2 tbsp. every 2 to 3 hours, in hot water.

Tincture: take 5-10 drops at a time.

Nutrient Content

Potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, silicon, and phosphorus. These minerals help to alkalinize the blood and urine.


Blue cohosh should not be used during pregnancy until the last 2 to 3 weeks before confinement; it is a uterine stimulant.

Blue cohosh should be taken for only one week at a time, one to three capsules daily. It can be very irritating to mucous surfaces and can cause dermatitis on contact. Children have been poisoned by the berries.

Do no take blue cohosh if high blood pressure is present. This herb raises blood pressure. Blue cohosh should be used with medical supervision.

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