Blue Cohosh

Featured Photo Credit: Carol, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue Cohosh is well-known for its effects as a female health supplement. Native Americans employed roots and flowers as herbal medicine to cure a variety of diseases and as a general tonic. Blue cohosh is thought to have actions comparable to those of the hormone oestrogen. It is a lovely wildflower with distinctive spherical blue fruits held stiffly above the leaf canopy. It blooms from April through May and is a perennial.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Caulophyllum thalictroides

Botanical Family: Berberidaceae

Also Called: Papoose root, blue ginseng, Bugbane

En français: Caulophylle

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Need constant humidity.

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

Blue cohosh seeds are roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. It is believed that roasting the seeds removes the toxicity.

Caulophyllum thalictroides and Caulophyllum giganteum are the two species of Blue Cohosh. Caulophyllum thalictroides has lighter greenish blooms that bloom after the leaves have opened. The blooms of Caulophyllum giganteum (Giant Blue Cohosh) are dark purple/red and open with or before the leaves.

Medicinal Uses

Native Americans utilised Blue Cohosh flowers and roots as a herbal remedy to cure a variety of maladies and as a general tonic, including anticonvulsant, anti-rheumatic, febrifuge, emetic, sedative, and, most importantly, a gynecologic aid. Some people believe blue cohosh has estrogen-like qualities since it is occasionally used to stimulate the uterus during pregnancy or menstruation. It is also reported to assist with muscular spasms, hiccups, sore throat, cramps, joint discomfort, and other symptoms, however additional research is needed.

Blue Cohosh is very important herb in the treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and depression, vaginal dryness, mood swings and night sweats. It can also be used in younger women to aid with menstrual cramps. However it is also useful to treating tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and high blood pressure. The roots also contain a salicylic acid, making it useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica and chorea. Native Americans used it extensively to treat a variety of different problems including sore throat, muscles, indigestion and cough.

Large quantities of the root can be toxic so it should be taken with caution and completely avoided by pregnant women. The plant contains chemicals that can cause cell damage. Careful though, it has the potential to poison people especially children.

The juice of the plant, especially the flower stems has can be used as an insect repellent. Hence the name Bugbane.

Propagating Caulophyllum thalictroides

Blue cohosh is generally propagated through rhizome cutting or seeding. If using seeds, plant in late summer or early fall. They should germinate within a year or two. If transplanting, it is best to do so in early spring or fall.

Caring for Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh is a forest woodland herb, and requires forest-like conditions such as shade, mulch, and moisture. It lives in deciduous woodlands and along boundaries. In the late summer, its blossoms are replaced with blue berries.

Companion plant suggestions include Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), blue phlox (Phlox divaricata), sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Plants may be grown from seed, although they do not normally blossom until the third or fourth year. Although mature plants can be split, they are normally better left alone.

Blue cohosh seeds
BLue Cohosh Seeds

Pruning Caulophylle

Leave seedheads on plants for fall and winter interest. Cut back in spring.

Other

Blue Chosh is not subjected to known dieases or pests. It can cause skin irritation, or side effects if ingested.

Sources and References

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture

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