Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) other names: Actée à Grappes Bleu, Blue Ginseng, Caulophylle, Caulophylle Faux-Pigamon, Caulophyllum, Caulophyllum thalictroides, Cohosh Azul, Cohosh Bleu, Graines à Chapelet, Léontice Faux-Pigamon, Papoose Root, Cohosh Azul, Squaw Root, Yellow Ginseng.

Blue cohosh is a plant. “Cohosh” is from the Algonquin Indian word meaning "rough," and it refers to the appearance of the roots. The root is used to make medicine.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) fruits

The blue cohosh, also known as squaw root or papoose root, is amongst the oldest medicinal plants native to America. This herb comprises underground or concealed parts, which include the roots and rhizomes of Caulophyllum thalictroides - a perennially growing herb that has a purple color when young. Blue cohosh possesses a smooth stem growing up to a height of anything between one and three feet and at the terminals has a pyramid shaped cluster of yellowish green blossoms. When the herb becomes mature, it has a strange bluish green hue and produces deep blue fruits. Therefore, it is little surprising that the herb has derived its name - blue cohosh - from the color of its fruits. It may be noted here that the blue cohosh belongs to the family Berberidaceae.

In effect, the genus Caulophyllum comprises five species - two from the eastern region of North America and the remaining three from the north-eastern region of Asia. The North American species are C. giganteum and C. thalictroides. On the other hand, one of the Asian species is C. robustum, whose rhizome has been utilized in traditional medicine to cure menstrual problems.

It is said that this herb was used therapeutically by the Indians to treat a number of health conditions, including dropsy (edema), rheumatism, cramps, hiccough, sore throats, epilepsy, inflammation of the uterus, hysterics and many more. At the same time, blue cohosh earned a status for its diuretic, antispasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue (encouraging menstrual discharge), parturifacient (making childbirth easier) as well as diaphoretic properties. Contemporary herbal physicians also suggest the use of blue cohosh to cure a variety of female health conditions, particularly in the form of an antispasmodic, stimulant of the uterus, and to induce menstruation.

The rhizome as well as the roots of blue cohosh are knotty and branched and several Native American tribes searched for them for their medicinal value. These indigenous tribes harvested the roots and rhizomes of the herb during the later part of fall, dried them and pulverized them into a powder that was employed as a medication for treating several conditions, including bronchitis, colic, menstrual cramps and rheumatism.

Herbalists who collected blue cohosh as well as prepared various remedial formulations from the herb actually fond out that this plant ought to be used with caution, as they discovered that blue cohosh has a tendency to cause skin irritation as well as aggravate the mucous membranes, particularly when blue cohosh is employed in the powdered form.

Akin to the leaves of raspberry and also black cohosh, the leaves of blue cohosh too possess invigorating as well as unwinding attributes, which actually help in problem-free and painless childbirth. Use of blue cohosh results in constrictions of the uterus that are regular as well as effectual, combined with an excellent period of relaxation.

Blue cohosh is found growing in the wild in many parts of eastern North America, ranging from Manitoba to Alabama. This herb has a preference for forestland valleys, slopes inclined to the north and moist banks of water bodies.

Usually, the roots of blue cohosh are unearthed during autumn, since they contain the maximum amount of the therapeutic properties during this time of the year. Following harvesting, the roots are dried up and stored for use when necessary. The roots are also harvested during the early part of spring when new growth starts and these roots are used to prepare homeopathic remedy. This homeopathic remedy is particularly used to facilitate childbirth as well as to treat specific types of rheumatism.

Blue cohosh may be grown without any difficulty in moist, light woodland soil that has high humus content. This herb has a preference for locations having complete shade. 

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Health Benefits

Blue cohosh is used for stimulating the uterus and starting labor; starting menstruation; stopping muscle spasms; as a laxative; and for treating colic, sore throat, cramps, hiccups, epilepsy, hysterics, inflammation of the uterus, and joint conditions.

The word ‘cohosh' is basically an Algonquin (a North American language spoken in some parts of Canada) term and it needs to be mentioned here that a large number of indigenous American tribes had a great preference for the herb blue cohosh for remedial purposes. To a great extent, blue cohosh was regarded as an herb for use by women to facilitate childbirth, set right an anomalous or delayed menstruation as well as ease profuse hemorrhage and pain during menstruation.

The Native American tribes ingested the root of blue cohosh in the form of an oral contraceptive and individuals from both sexes used it to cure genitourinary problems.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) flower

Early settlers in North America from Europe learnt about the therapeutic worth of blue cohosh from the indigenous American tribes and eventually incorporated this herb in the Pharmacopoeia of the United States and it retained this status till 1905. It may be noted that the contemporary therapeutic utilities of blue cohosh are not fundamentally dissimilar from the traditional uses of this herb. Till today, blue cohosh is regarded as an herb, which is especially appropriate for treating health conditions endured by women and is mainly used in the form of a tonic for the uterus, providing respite from the ovarian and uterine pains and also to facilitate the discharge of menstrual blood. However, here is a word of caution: blue cohosh ought to be never used by pregnant women till the time of labor, as this herb is a uterine stimulant. However, it is extremely helpful during labor as it makes childbirth effortless and easier.

In addition, the herb blue cohosh also has the aptitude to lessen inflammation and is occasionally employed to treat arthritis as well as other rheumatic conditions.

Blue cohosh is an pungent, bitter and warming herb that acts as a tonic for the uterus, diminishes inflammation, helps to flush out intestinal worms and also possesses diuretic actions. The root of this herb possesses antispasmodic, diuretic, anthelmintic (any substance that helps to expel intestinal worms), oxytocic (facilitating childbirth), diaphoretic (inducing perspiration), and tranquilizing properties. An infusion prepared using the roots of blue cohosh in warm water is generally taken for approximately two weeks prior to the expected birth date with a view to make childbirth easier. In addition, the same infusion may also be employed in the form of an emmenagogue as well as a tonic for the uterus.

Therapeutic preparations from blue cohosh are also used internally to treat gout, rheumatism as well as pelvic inflammatory disease. However, this herb should never be recommended for patients enduring high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart ailments. People who use the powdered form of the root may often experience an irritation of the mucous membranes. Hence, it is advisable that this herb should ideally be used under the administration of a qualified and competent physician.

In foods, the roasted seeds of blue cohosh are used as a coffee substitute.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Side effects

Blue cohosh is likely unsafe for adults when taken by mouth. Blue cohosh can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, chest pain, increased blood pressure, increased blood sugar, and other severe side effects.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is likely unsafe to take blue cohosh by mouth during pregnancy. Some of the chemicals in blue cohosh can cause birth defects. When taken by the mother late in pregnancy, blue cohosh can cause severe heart problems in the newborn baby, and can also be toxic to the mother. Many midwives still use blue cohosh to make childbirth easier, because blue cohosh causes the uterus to contract. But this is a dangerous practice, and it should be avoided.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) picture

Heart conditions: There is some concern that blue cohosh might make certain heart conditions such as chest pain (angina) and high blood pressure worse. There is evidence that blue cohosh can cause blood vessels in the heart to become smaller and decrease oxygen flow to the heart. It might also increase blood pressure. Don’t use blue cohosh if you have a heart condition.

Diabetes: There is some concern that blue cohosh might make diabetes worse. Blue cohosh can raise blood sugar levels in some people who have diabetes.

Diarrhea: Blue cohosh might make diarrhea symptoms worse.

Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Blue cohosh might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use blue cohosh.