Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides L) Herbal Medicine

Blue cohosh Health Benefits, Dosage, Side effects and Warnings.

Blue cohosh

Scientific Name: Caulophyllum thalictroides  (L.) Michx. Family Berberidaceae (barberries)

Other names:

Blue cohosh, squaw root, papoose root, blue ginseng, yellow ginseng

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is perennial herb that is native to North America and Asia. Blue cohosh has long been used as herbal medicine by native Americans to prevent pregnancy, induce labor, help menstrual flow, treat menstrual cramps, as laxative, and to treat other medical conditions.

Blue cohosh plant is a perennial plant that grows to a height of about 1 to 2 feet. Blue cohosh has a simple, round, erect and high stem that grows from a knotty rootstock Blue cohosh bears a large, tri-pinnate leaf whose leaflets are oval, petioled, and unequally lobed. Blue cohosh bears a 6-petaled, yellow- green flowers, Blue cohosh flowers mature to bitter, bright blue seeds that resembles berries on thick stripes. Blue cohosh fruit Is about the size of a pea, dark blue in color, borne from as fleshy stalk.

Blue cohosh Traditional Medicinal Uses and Health benefits

Blue cohosh contains variety of chemicals including alkaloids and saponins which may be responsible for uterine-stimulating effects. There are many traditional uses for this herb as practiced by Native American people, however limited medical and scientific research may support its claimed health benefits.

Female reproductive system. Blue cohosh has a long folkloric medicinal use for the female reproductive system providing health benefits for the following:Blue cohosh

Blue cohosh is also used to treat colic, sore throat and hiccups.

Blue cohosh has a history of being used to treat epilepsy and hysterics.

Anti-inflammation. Blue cohosh is widely used to treat symptoms of rheumatism, arthritis, joint and muscle pains.

Skin Conditions. Blue cohosh is also used to treat various skin problems such as acne, warts and dry skin.

Fever. It is effective in alleviating the symptoms of fever, colds, cough and flu.

Science Research: Blue cohosh Health Benefits

Nicotinic toxicity from tincture of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) used as an abortifacient.
Numerous natural products have been used as traditional abortifacients, each with their own efficacy and adverse effects. With the continued growth of the natural products industry, clinicians are more likely to see adverse effects from attempted abortions using these agents. A 21-y-old female developed tachycardia, diaphoresis, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle weakness and fasciculations after using blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) in an attempt to induce an abortion. These symptoms are consistent with nicotinic toxicity and probably resulted from methylcytisine known present in blue cohosh. The patient's symptoms resolved over 24 h and she was discharged. Whether successful or not, the use of natural agents to induce abortion is frequently associated with adverse effects in the mother or fetus. Clinicians should recognize the potential toxicity of these agents. Source: Veterinary and Human Toxicology. 2002 Aug;44(4):221-2.

Safety and efficacy of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) during pregnancy and lactation.
According to a survey of midwives in the United States, approximately 64% of midwives reported using blue cohosh as a labour-inducing aid. There are three case reports in the scientific literature that blue cohosh taken at the time of delivery may cause; 1) perinatal stroke, 2) acute myocardial infarction, profound congestive heart failure and shock and 3) severe multi-organ hypoxic injury. There is one case report that blue cohosh possesses abortifacient properties. There is in vitro evidence that blue cohosh may have teratogenic, embryotoxic and oxytoxic effects. In lactation, the safety of blue cohosh is unknown. Based on the available scientific information, blue cohosh should; 1) be used with extreme caution during pregnancy, 2) be used only under medical professional supervision and 3) not be available to the public as an over-the-counter product. There is an urgent need to conduct a retrospective or prospective cohort study of midwifes using blue cohosh in order to determine its safety. Key words: Blue cohosh, caulophyllum thalictroides, pregnancy, lactation, breastfeeding, systematic review. Source: The Canadian journal of clinical pharmacology. 2008 Winter;15(1):e66-73

Profound neonatal congestive heart failure caused by maternal consumption of blue cohosh herbal medication.

A newborn infant whose mother ingested an herbal medication, blue cohosh, to promote uterine contractions presented with acute myocardial infarction associated with profound congestive heart failure and shock. The infant remained critically ill for several weeks, although he eventually recovered. Other causes of myocardial infarction were carefully excluded. Blue cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides, contains vasoactive glycosides and an alkaloid known to produce toxic effects on the myocardium of laboratory animals. We believe this represents the first described case of deleterious human fetal effects from maternal consumption of blue cohosh. Source: The Journal of pediatrics. 1998 Mar;132(3 Pt 1):550-2.

How to Get and How to Use

Where can I get or buy Blue cohosh?

Blue cohosh is available in most health stores in tincture form. Blue cohosh is also used in combination with other herbal medicines.

Blue cohosh is also commercially prepared in powder, tincture and capsules taken as supplements. They are available in most fitness and health stores. Blue cohosh is also available online via Amazon as listed: Solaray Blue Cohosh Root Capsules for example, there are other brands, be sure to select one from a reputable manufacturer and do follow the suggested dosage.

Blue cohosh is usually taken internally and dosage should not exceed 6ml per day.

Blue cohosh capsules as supplement. Taken as directed.

Blue cohosh ointment prepared as a salve ointment, applied to skin 3 times daily.

Blue cohosh tea or decoction. tea

  1. Prepare about half teaspoon of dried Blue cohosh root for every cup of water.
  2. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes
  3. Let it steep and strain
  4. Store in a glass jar for later consumption
  5. Drink 1 cup, twice to three times a day.

You can add other herbs or honey to improve the efficacy and taste. See side effects.

Dosage, Warnings and Side Effects

Blue cohosh extract from leaves and barks and fresh berries may be poisonous. if taken by mouth it can cause shock, nose bleeding, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, difficulty in breathing and potential damage to the kidney.

Blue cohosh extract from roots may potentially be unsafe if used in excess. It can cause high blood pressure, increase in blood sugar level, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and kidney damage.

Blue cohosh herbal extract is not to be given to children.

Contact dermatitis. Blue cohosh can cause allergic reaction to sensitive people.

Blue cohosh has been found to cause fetus malformation, thus use is discouraged for pregnant women until labor has commenced.

Blue cohosh has been reported to cause acute myocardial infarction and shock to new born babies.

Use of Blue cohosh herbal extract is also not recommended during pregnancy and lactation.

Blue cohosh is not advisable for prolonged use due to potential risk of poisoning. Medical supervision is adviced.

Heart conditions: There are reports that blue cohosh might worsen heart conditions. According to research, Blue cohosh has a narrowing effect to the blood vessels thus it can decrease blood circulation, increase blood pressure and makes the heart works harder while depriving much needed oxygen.

Diabetes: There are some reports that Blue cohosh use has caused the blood sugar level to increase. Consult with your doctor if you plan to use Blue cohosh.

Hormone-sensitive conditions. Blue cohosh may affect the homone production in women and should be avoided when dealing with such conditions as uterine cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

Drug interactions

Blue cohosh is a potent herbal medicine and the full extent of its interaction with drugs and other herbal medicines is undetermined. However, Blue cohosh should not be taken simultaneously with the following;

Blood pressure medication. Blue cohosh has been reported to increase blood pressure, Blue cohosh may counter the effects of these drugs.

Medications for diabetes. Blue cohosh may increase blood sugar level, making the effects of these drugs less effective.

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