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Blue Cohosh

This image of cohosh, labelled as belonging to the related genus, Leontice, comes from Medical botany or Descriptions of the more important plants used in medicine by Griffith. This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.  

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

Blue cohosh, a woodland perennial in the Barberry family, is native to the eastern half of North America and has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans and by pioneer midwives to induce labor (“Blue Cohosh,” 2006; Rader & Pawar, 2013). The alkaloid methylcytisine, found within the plant, is believed to act as a stimulant on the uterus, increasing the rate of contractions during childbirth (Perri, 2002).  The extract the root has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent to prevent or reduce fevers (Lee, 2012). Some evidence has shown that the use of blue cohosh may induce labor and may have adverse effects. Researchers advise that it be used with caution (Dugoua et al., 2008).  

Historical Use

According to Medical botany or Descriptions of the more important plants used in medicine, written by Robert Eglesfield Griffith and published in 1847, blue cohosh was used by Native American women to “make use of a tea of the root for some time before their confinement.” 

Latest Research


Blue Cohosh. (2006). In Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). National Library of Medicine (US). 

Dugoua, J. J., Perri, D., Seely, D., Mills, E., & Koren, G. (2008). Safety and efficacy of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) during pregnancy and lactation. Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 15(1): e66–e73. Scopus. 

Lee, Y., Jung, J.C., Ali, Z., Khan, I.A., Oh, S. (2012) Anti-inflammatory effect of triterpene saponins isolated from Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides). Evid. Based Complement. Alternat. Med. 2012:798192. doi: 10.1155/2012/798192 

Perri, S. (2002). Getting to the root of it: A profile of blue cohosh. Midwifery Today 62: 27–28. 

Rader, J. I., & Pawar, R. S. (2013). Primary constituents of blue cohosh: Quantification in dietary supplements and potential for toxicity. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 405(13): 4409–4417. doi:10.1007/s00216-013-6783-7