Blue cohosh/Actée à Grappes Bleues
Caulophyllum thalictroides (Berberidaceae family) Blue cohosh is also known as beechdrops, blueberry root, blue ginseng, papoose root, squaw root, and yellow ginseng.
Parts used: The herb consists of the roots and rhizomes of the plant, harvested in late fall after the aerial parts of the plant have died back. The rhizomes resemble a tangled mass of spaghetti and careful washing is needed to removed any dirt and gravel that may have become bound up in the root mass.
Habitat: Perennial. This plant is native to North America. It is a true woodland plant preferring rich soil and shade. Blue cohosh prefers deciduous woods, spreads by rhizome and grows in colonies. Its leaves have a distinctive 3 lobed shape. The plant flowers in April-June with small inconspicuous yellow-green flowers.
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue (stimulating), febrifuge, parturient, relaxant, tranquilizer, uterine tonic.
Uses: Primarily known for its affinity with the female reproductive system, it is used in cases of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, stalled or disrupted labour, premenstrual tension, menopausal symptoms, uterine inflammation, fibroids and fever. While the herb has come to be seen somewhat one-dimensionally, its antispasmodic qualities make it useful for lung conditions such as asthma, spasmodic coughing and dry cough. Also helpful to treat muscle tension and spasms.
Preparation/Dosage: Fresh or dried tea or tincture.
Safety Considerations: Not for use during pregnancy until the onset of labour or until labour is overdue. Not for use in lactation, infants, small children, diabetes or hypertension. Blue cohosh can be used to induce and/or speed up labour, but should only be used under the supervision of a practitioner who has clinical experience in its use. Large doses/long term use can cause heart irregularities, nausea, vomiting, hypertension, and respiratory depression.
*Blue cohosh has a history of use as an abortifacient. Any herb used in the amounts required to induce an abortion will be toxic to the liver and kidneys of the mother. Blue cohosh is a teratogen – causing structural abnormalities to the fetus. Women who attempt to use blue cohosh to abort will likely be unsuccessful and require a follow-up surgical abortion. The use of herbs as abortifacients is not recommended. Surgical abortion is and remains the safest most effective means of terminating a pregnancy.