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                                        Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh

Common Name(s): Blue cohosh , squaw root , papoose root , blue ginseng , yellow ginseng

Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohosh, a species of Caulophyllum (family Berberidaceae), also called squaw root or papoose root, is a flowering plant in the Berberidaceae (barberry) family. It is a medium-tall perennial with blue berry-like fruits and bluish-green foliage.From the single stalk rising from the ground, there is a single, large, three-branched leaf plus a fruiting stalk. The bluish-green leaflets are tulip-shaped, entire at the base, but serrate at the tip. Its species name, thalictroides, comes from the similarity between the large highly divided, multiple-compound leaves of Meadow-rue (Thalictrum) and those of Blue Cohosh.

On a flowering plant, the central stem terminates in a floral panicle about 1-3" long that is rounded or elongated; each panicle usually has 5-30 flowers (rarely more). Individual flowers are about 1/3" (8 mm.) across, consisting of 6 petaloid sepals, insignificant petals, 6 stamens, and an ovoid ovary with a beak-like style. Depending on the local ecotype, the oblanceolate sepals are greenish yellow, greenish brown, or greenish purple. Underneath each flower, there are 3-4 green bractlets that resemble sepals. The branching stalks of the panicle are light green, glabrous, and ascending. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring before the leaves have fully developed. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by berry-like seeds that are about 1/3" across, globoid in shape, glabrous, and glaucous. These seeds are initially green, but they later become bright blue at maturity during the summer. The seed coat is fleshy and contains carbohydrates. The root system is rhizomatous and fibrous.

Chemical analysis of blue cohosh has revealed that the herb encloses several alkaloids as well as glycosides; among these the alkaloid called methylcytisine and the glycoside called caulosaponin give the impression that they contribute the maximum of the physiological actions of the plants. Experiments conducted on animals have demonstrated that the actions of methylcytisine are similar to those of nicotine: but it is just about 1/40 times less toxic compared to nicotine. This chemical amalgam raises the blood pressure and also promotes respiration as well as intestinal motility. The oxytocic (facilitating childbirth) consequences of blue cohosh seem to be caused by the glycoside caulosaponin - which is derived from the triterpenoid saponin called hederagenin. It may be noted that caulosaponin works to narrow down the blood vessels, thereby applying a toxic action on the cardiac muscles and also results in intestinal seizures in comparatively smaller animals.


The quinolizidine alkaloids anagyrine, baptifoline, and N-methylcytisine were isolated from blue cohosh rhizomes. Other lupine alkaloids have been detected.  In addition to the quinolizidines, the aporphine alkaloid magnoflorine is found in substantial quantities. 2Levels of the major quinolizidine alkaloids in herbal preparations have been determined by gas chromatography.  Blue cohosh root also contains triterpene saponins derived from hederagenin; 5 however, these saponins have not been purified or elucidated by modern chemical techniques. The saponins of the related species C. robustum have recently been more thoroughly characterized as a series of hederagenin bisdesmosides. 


Uterine stimulant

N-methylcytisine (caulophylline) was found to be a nicotinic agonist in animals 7 and to displace [ 3 H]nicotine from nicotinic acetylcholine receptors with 50 nm potency. 8 It was essentially inactive at muscarinic receptors. Other quinolizidine alkaloids were considerably less potent nicotinic ligands, with anagyrine having IC50 values greater than 100 mcm in these test systems. 


Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs) interacts with BLUE COHOSH

Blue cohosh might increase blood sugar. Diabetes medications are used to lower blood sugar. By increasing blood sugar, blue cohosh might decrease the effectiveness of diabetes medications. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs) interacts with BLUE COHOSH

Blue cohosh seems to increase blood pressure. By increasing blood pressure blue cohosh might decrease the effectiveness of medications for high blood pressure.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Nicotine interacts with BLUE COHOSH

Blue cohosh contains chemicals that work similarly to nicotine. Taking blue cohosh with nicotine might increase the effects and side effects of nicotine.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is LIKELY UNSAFE to take blue cohosh by mouth during pregnancy. Some of the chemicals in blue cohosh can cause birth defects. When taken by the mother late in pregnancy, blue cohosh can cause severe heart problems in the newborn baby, and can also be toxic to the mother.

Many midwives still use blue cohosh to make childbirth easier, because blue cohosh causes the uterus to contract.