Blue CohoshCaulophyllum thalictroides
Warning : Blue cohosh is a toxic herb. Natural and Alternative Treatments (NAT) strongly recommends against using it.
Blue cohosh is a flowering herb native to North America, growing in forested areas from the southeastern United States to Canada. Sometimes known as squaw root or papoose root, the herb may have been used medicinally by native Americans, although this belief is controversial. Other common names for the herb include yellow ginseng and blue ginseng. Blue cohosh should not be confused with the similarly named (but unrelated and much safer)
What Is Blue Cohosh Used for Today?
Blue cohosh is widely prescribed by herbalists and midwives. A 1999 survey published in the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery found that 64% of certified nurse-midwives who prescribe herbal medicines use blue cohosh to induce labor. 3
There is no credible evidence that blue cohosh is effective for any of the conditions for which it has been used. Furthermore, several published reports cite cases of serious side effects to infants apparently caused by blue cohosh. (See Safety Issues.)
Blue cohosh is usually used as a tincture. Common dosages range from 5 to 10 drops taken every 2 to 4 hours.
There are many serious safety concerns with blue cohosh.
Some of the compounds found in blue cohosh, such as caulophyllosaponin, methylcytosine, and caulosaponin, appear to constrict coronary vessels, limiting blood flow to the heart and reducing its ability to pump.
One published case report documents profound heart failure in a child born to a mother who used blue cohosh to induce labor.
Given these reports, the availability of safe alternatives for stimulating labor, and the lack of studies to document the herb's efficacy and safety, NAT strongly advises against using blue cohosh.
3. McFarlin BL, Gibson MH, O'Rear J, et al. A national survey of herbal preparation use by nurse-midwives for labor stimulation. Review of the literature and recommendations for practice. J Nurse Midwifery. 1999;44:205-216.
9. Chandrasekhar K, Sarma GH. Observations on the effect of low and high doses of Caulophyllum on the ovaries and the consequential changes in the uterus and thyroid in rats [abstract]. J Reprod Fertil. 1974;38:236-237.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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