Blue Cohosh – Caulophyllum Thalictroides: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Woman’s Ally of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

In Chippewa, be’cigodji’biguk meaning one root, blue cohosh is similar to its name twin black cohosh, but from a whole other genus of plants. They aren’t look-a-likes, but their medicinal uses are similar. “Cohosh” is from an Algonquin word related to pregnancy/women. Both cohoshes are species at risk of overharvest. Presently, motherwort is a more sustainable choice as a “powerful woman’s ally”.

In our area it’s fairy common to see swaths of blue cohosh in swampy areas, and also in deciduous or mixed woods. If you go out looking for ramps in the spring, there is a high chance you will spot a patch of blue cohosh in the same area, if you’re looking. You may even see colonies along some of the side roads.

Blue Cohosh - Caulophyllum Thalictroides
Blue Cohosh – Caulophyllum Thalictroides

Edible Uses of Blue Cohosh

The thoroughly roasted seeds can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. The raw seeds are toxic. (Perhaps check out the likes of dandelion and chicory for your coffee substitution needs.) The blueberry like fruits that remain on the plant until autumn are potentiality poisonous, so no jam here!

Medicinal Uses of Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Immune
  • Reproductive
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Antispasmodic, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, and Emmenagogue. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as a tonic for amenorrhea (late period) and root tea for many “menstruating persons problems” like menstrual cramps and to facilitate labor. Recently, more so for delayed labor, in small doses. Yet now even to induce labor at this point there is a question of whether the mild heart stimulation is bad for the baby.

Blue cohosh constricts blood vessels in the heart and is to be avoided if you have hypertension or heart disease. This is not a herb to self treat with! Careful medical supervision is doubly suggested.

Black cohosh is more popular medicinally (especially if talking menopause age). And as stated earlier, motherwort is a more sustainable choice at the moment with both cohoshes being species at risk of overharvesting in the wild. Blue cohosh patches are hardly though, and the rhizome can be partially and carefully harvested with new bud growth left to thrive – for an actual herbalist who knows how to use it safely. Yet motherwort is safer too and also grows around Haliburton.

Blue Cohosh - Caulophyllum Thalictroides
Blue Cohosh – Caulophyllum Thalictroides

Alternative Uses of Blue Ginseng

If you have an abundance of these long lived plants, the bright blue seeds can be used to make seed jewelry.

Bees and other insects will enjoy the early spring pollen and nectar.

Blue Cohosh - Caulophyllum Thalictroides
Blue Cohosh – Caulophyllum Thalictroides

Growing Caulophyllum Thalictroides

Blue cohosh grows best in mixed hardwoods where you’re also likely to find its allies bloodroot, ginseng, goldenseal, ramps, sugar maple trees and perhaps violets. In autumn, you can transplant rhizomes that show budding in order to form a new patch. The seeds are hard to germinate.


Don’t use if pregnant or trying to conceive.

Avoid if you have hypertension or heart disease.

The “berries” are poisonous.

Both the fresh plant and powdered root can irritate mucous membranes and potentially cause dermatitis. Wear a mask when grinding the dried root, it is dusty and this dust shouldn’t be inhaled.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures, and More

Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

The Earthwise Herbal, Volume II: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

The Green Pharmacy: The Ultimate Compendium Of Natural Remedies From The World’s Foremost Authority On Healing Herbs

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