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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

aka Beechdrops, Blue Ginseng, Blueberry Root, Leontice, Papoose Root, Squaw Root, Yellow Ginseng
(Caulophyllum thalictroides)

Increases blood pressure - not to be used by those with high blood pressure or heart disease.
Its bitter principles act much like nicotine in constricting peripheral blood vesels.
• Children have been POISONED by berries thinking them to be blueberries!
• The powdered herb is highly irritating to mucous membranes, so avoid inhaling!
• Can cause contact dermatitis!

FYI A perennial Eastern North American plant native to deciduous forests along running streams and moist, rich ground and swamps, growing to a height of 3 feet with a 1½ foot spread and having a bluish-green coloration when mature and a red-purplish cast when young. Round, fleshy STEMS are sheathed at the base. FLOWERS have 5 petals, are yellow-green appearing at the top of the stalks. LEAVES are 1 to 4 inches long, thin, bluish-green, oval and lobed, which is divided into 2 or 3 leaflets which may be further divided. FRUIT is a blue-black poisonous berry about the size of a pea. The RHIZOME is knotty, branched, brownish gray, white inside, bitter and acrid, irritates the tongue when chewed, with a mass of fibrous ROOTS below and cup-shaped scars above; taste is sweet-bitter becoming acrid.

The name is said to derive from a number of reasonings: from the dark blue seeds; because of its resemblance to the unrelated black cohosh which has similar effects. What is true is that 'cohosh' is an Algonguin word.

Appeared in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1882 to 1905, and in the NF until 1936, but was largely replaced by Black Cohosh beginning around 1915.

Astrologically ruled by Pluto.

This is a difficult herb to use effectively and is currently limited to use by midwives and naturopaths in inducing labor §

CONTAINS: Sterioidal saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids, mucilaginous compounds, polysaccharides, gum, soluble resin, 89% water when fresh (7% when air dried), 14%starch, salts; caulosaponin, caulophylline, baptifoline, cytisine, laburnine, leontin, hederagenin, methylcytisine (stimulates respiration and peristalsis, raises blood pressure), magnoflorine, phosphoric acid, vitamins B1, B2, A, C, E.
BASED ON ZERO MOISTURE CONTENT PER 100 g: 14.6% ash, 74.5% carbohydrates, 0.60% fat, 11.2% crude fiber, 36% dietary fiber, 10.3% protein, 4,000 IU vitamin A, 5.15 mg vitamin C; 76.2 mg aluminum, 389 mg calcium, 0.12 mg chromium, 0.36 mg cobalt, 16.4 mg iron, 130 mg magnesium, 2.37 mg manganese, 1.2 mg niacin, 1,560 mg phosphorus, 725 mg potassium, 0.79 mg riboflavin, 0.35 mg selenium, 0.63 mg silicon, 2.90 mg sodium, 0.93 mg thiamine, 2.1 mg tin, trace mg zinc.

PROPAGATION By RIPE FRESH SEED in fall (best, but can be held over and stratified for 4 weeks, then soil temp of 65 to 70ºF.; germinates in 2 to 4 weeks but can be quite irregular, some seeds not germinating for one year), or by DIVISION of the rhizome in fall, by CUTTINGS from rhizome in early fall or spring.
NEEDS Perennial to zone 3. Best as an ornamental in a woodland garden (NOT if you have children!). Space 18 to 24 inches apart in rich, moist, humusy soil (although said to be visually best grown in clumps), pH 5 to 8 in part shade (filtered sun); likes humidity.
HARVEST Rhizome and root in autumn
FLOWERS April to June
PART USED DRIED RHIZOME/ROOTSTOCK with some applications referring to fresh rhizome.
FORM Decoction, infusion, liquid extract, powder, tincture, syrup, and historically as a cordial.
RELATED SPECIES Russian Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum robustum)image: Used similarly to the American species, but is more irritating.


♦ Often combined with Black Cohosh for its complementary properties.
Acrid, bitter, warming, abortifacient, antifungal, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, emetic, emmenagogue, estrogenic, laxative, anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, estrogenic, parturient, oxytocic (accelerates childbirth), peripheral vasoconstrictor, stimulant, sudorific, vermifuge; affects glandular and digestive systems, liver, uterus, nerves, joints and urinary tract.
Has been used internally for amenorrhea, arthritis, asthma, bladder infections, candidiasis, chronic yeast infection, colic, constipation, convulsions, diabetes, edema, endometriosis, epilepsy, dysmenorrhea (including spasmodic), fibroids (to alleviate pain), leukorrhea, spasmodic cough, gout, heart palpitations, hiccup, hysteria, intestinal worms, menstrual cramps, neuralgia, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), PMS (premenstrual syndrome) retained placenta, chronic yeast infection, rheumatism, vaginitis, uterine atony, whooping cough. Has usually been given in combination with other herbs for inflammation of the vagina, regulation of menstrual flow, for painful and suppressed menstruation, and to induce labor and/or when birth is delayed due to weakness or fatigue. Has also been combined with False Unicorn and Goldenseal. Another combination associated with nervousness and anxiety in the weeks before and during childbirth has been equal portions of Skullcap, Motherwort, Yarrow, and False Unicorn root, dose being 1 to 2 ml (1/4 to 1/2 tsp). Another formula used has been to combine 3 parts wild yam, 2 parts Blue Cohosh, 1 part Skullcap; if uterine rigidity was present a small amount of lobelia was added; 1 tsp of the mix was combined with 1 cup of water and infused for 20 minutes; taken cold a mouthful at a time during the labor process.
Once used by the women of various Native American tribes to ease childbirth. It was traditionally taken during the last 2 to 3 weeks of pregnancy to improve cervical dilation and strengthen contractions during labor. This application was picked up by the medical profession and was used by American physicians before the use of forceps when birth was complicated by weakness or fatigue of the mother.
Used by some Native American tribes as a sedative and to treat rheumatism, dropsy, colic, sore throat, cramps, hiccup, epilepsy, hysterics and an inflamed uterus. The Omahas used the decoction as a fever remedy. The Potawatomis used it as an aid to lingering childbirth. The Menominees, Potawatomis, Ojibwes and Meskwakis used it in tea form for suppression of profuse menstruation and for genito-urinary problems (mainly incontinence) in both men and women. The Pillager Ojibwe used the tea as an emetic (fresh root was scraped fine and a small amount placed in a white cloth and squeezed into warm water), and along with the Chippewas and Forest Potawatomi used it in decoction form with 2 other herbs for lung problems; these tribes also combined it with Bloodroot in decoction form for cramps; another use was to combine Blue Cohosh with Echinacea in equal parts and steep in water to take for indigestion and biliousness. Skullcap and Blue Cohosh were used for hysteria.
On an historical note the following recipe was used for bronchial congeston, but some of the herbs included are no longer considered safe for internal use: 1 oz each of Blue Cohosh and Comfrey, 1/2 oz of Pleurisy root, 1/2 tsp of Lobelia, 1/4 oz Ginger; an infusion was made using 1 quart of boiling water, then steeped, covered, for 20 minutes, strained; 1 tbsp was taken 3 or 4 times daily.
Has been used as a poultice for venomous insect stings.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine it has been used to treat bronchitis, nervous disorders, urinary tract problems, and rheumatism.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
DOSE LIMITED to one week at a time.
♦ More modernly has been used as a tincture since some properties are not successfully extracted in water.
GRAINS = 10 to 30
FRESH RHIZOME/ROOT = 1/2 to 1 tsp
DRIED RHIZOME/ROOT = 1/8 tsp, or 0.2 to 1 gram taken 3 times daily.
INFUSION = 1 oz rootstalk with 1 pint boiling water; steeped 30 minutes; 2 tbsp taken every 2 to 3 hours in hot water.
DECOCTION = 1 tsp dried root in 1 cup water; simmered 10 minutes; taken same as infusion, but stronger action.
TINCTURE = 4 oz of root powder in 1 pint vodka, steeped 2 weeks, shaking daily; taken 5 to 10 drops 3 times daily.
COMPOUND TINCTURE = 2 oz blue cohosh plus 2 oz black cohosh combined in 1 pint 100 proof vodka, steeped 2 weeks, shaken daily; taken 5 to 10 drops 3 times daily.
CAULOPHYLLIN = (pharmaceutical) 1 to 3 grains.

Introduced in 1858 and used for threatened miscarriage, after-birth pains, amenorrhea, barrenness, labor pains, cholera, dysmenorrhea, false conception, false labor, false pregnancy, foot problems, gonorrhea, problems of the hands, pain in the breasts, leucorrhea, menstrual disorders, ovarian pain, problem pregnancies, rheumatic gout, rheumatism, uterine atony, uterine spasms.

Was once an ingredient of 'Mother's Cordial' aka Syrup of Mitchella (in reference to Mitchella repens, another woman's herb).
Seeds were once roasted and used as a substitute for coffee.

©2001, 2004, 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH