Blue cohosh, latin name Caulophyllum thalictroides, is an herb derived from the rhizome and roots of a small North American perennial. Blue cohosh is also referred to by names such as papoose root or sqaw root, reflecting on the use of this herb by Native American women who brewed a bitter tea from Blue cohosh to relieve menstrual cramps and ease the pains associated with childbirth.
Blue cohosh tea was also found to be a parturifacient that could induce uterine contractions to speed delivery, and was widely used by native Americans and early settlers to treat common maladies such as sore throat, rheumatism, anxiety, bronchitis, and colic.
Modern herbalists often recommend blue cohosh as a emmenagogue to induce menstruation, and as uterine stimulant and antispasmodic. It is also frequently employed as a diuretic to eliminate excess fluids, as a expectorant to treat congestion, and as a diaphoretic to eliminate toxins by inducing sweating. Traditional herbalists will often combine Blue cohosh and black cohosh to effect a more balanced treatment for nerves and to enhance the herbs antispasmodic effects. It is combined with other herbs to promote their effects in treating bronchitis, nervous disorders, urinary tract ailments and rheumatism.
Researchers studying Blue cohosh isolated an alkaloid, methylcytisine, which closely resembles nicotine in its ability to stimulate intestinal activity, raise respiration, and elevate blood pressure. Blue cohosh also contains caulosaponin, a glycoside which can act as a coronary blood vessel constrictor and is thought responsible for stimulating uterine contractions and inducing childbirth.
While generally considered a safe and effective herb, Blue cohosh should not be used by expectant mothers except during the last month of pregnancy, preferably under the guidance of an experienced herbalists or health care professional.