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Common Name: Blue Cohosh | Scientific Name: Caulophyllum Thalictroides

Family Name: Berberidaceae


Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1828: Raffinesque (1932: J.U.Lloyd. Drugs and Medicines of North America . Bulletin of Lloyd Library.)
The berries are ripe in summer; they are dry, sweetish, insipid, similar to huckleberries but larger, this is a medicinal plant of the Indians, and although not yet introduced into our officinal books, deserves to be better known. I have often found it used in the country and by indian doctors; Smith and Henty extol it… the root is the only part used; in smell and taste, it partakes of ginseng and senega root, and is sometimes mistaken for both. it is sweetish, and a little pungent, and aromatic, it is used by the indians and their imitators for rheumatism, dropsy, colic, sore throat, cramp, hiccup, epilepsy, hysterics, inflammation of the uterus, etc. it appears to be particularly suited to female diseases , and Smith asserts that the indian women owe the

facility of their parturition , to a constant use of a tea of the root for two or three weeks before their time. As a powerful emmenagogue, it promotes delivery, menstruation, and dropsical discharges.

1854: John King.MD. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854.
Properties and Uses – This is essentially an agent peculiar to Eclectics not being employed by any other class of practitioners. It is principally used as an emmenagogue, parturient, and antispasmodic; but it likewise posseses diuretic, diaphoretic, and anthelmintic properties. It has been successfully employed in rheumatism, dropsy, colic, cramps, hiccough, epilepsy, hysteria uterine inflammation, etc. It is a valualbe agent in all chronic uterine diseases, appearing to exert an especial influence upon the uterus, and has been found serviceable in uterine leucorrhea, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea etc. When used in decoction for several weeks previous to the parturient period, it is said to facilitate that process, acting as a preparatory parturient, and it is sometimes combined with the Mitchella Repens, and Eupatoria Aromatica, for this purpose. Combined with equal parts of powdered Hydrasatis canadensis, made into an infusion, and sweetened with honey, it forms and elegant and effectual wash for apthous sore-mouth and throat. In decoction, blue cohosh is preferable to ergot for expediting delivery, in all those cases where the delay is owing to debility, or want of uterine nervous energy, or is the result of fatigue. The decoction or infusion may be made by adding on ounce of the root to a pint of boiling water, and boiling or macerating for a short time; the dose of either is from tow to four fluid ounces, three or four times daily. The tincture should be made by adding three ounces of the finely powdered root to a pint of alcohol, and allow it to macerate for fourteen days; then filter. The dose is from half a fluid drachm to two fluid drachms.

1858-61: Gunn(1932: J.U.Lloyd. Drugs and Medicines of North America . Bulletin of Lloyd Library.)
This is an Indian remedy, and considered by them as one of great value, principally used by the squaws as a parturient, that is to facilitate childbirth, hence the name pappose root. It is said that they drink a tea of this root for two or three weeks before the time of labor, owing to this , the confinement of the indian women is a matter of but short duration and small concern. it has been abundantly proved as a valuable article in this respect by our white women. it is also considered by many as one of the most valuable antispasmodics , that is to relieve cramps, spasm, convulsions, and nervous derangements….in hysteria, and in all cases connected with the uterus or womb-that is known.

1874: John M. Scudder.MD. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition.
We employ this remedy in infusion as a parturient, and in the form of a tincture of the recently dried root, 3viij. to Alcohol 76degree Oj. The alcoholic fluid extract, representing ounce for ounce, is also a good preparation.

Caulophyllum exerts a very decided influence upon the parturient uterus, stimulating normal contraction, both before and after delivery. Its first use, in this case, is to relieve false pains; its second, to effect co-ordination of the muscular contractions; and third, to increase the power of these. The first and second are the most marked, yet the third is quite certain. Still if any one expects the marked influence of Ergot, in violent and continued contractions, he will be disappointed.

I judge that it exerts its influence through the hypogastric plexus; though to some extent is influences every process controlled by the sympathetic. Acting in this way it influences the circulation, nutrition, and functions of the reproductive organs. I have employed it in chronic uterine diseases with some advantage; but further study is necessary to point out the particular cases.

It may be used with good effect in some cases of nervous disease; especially in that condition known as asthenic plethora.

As a remedy for rheumatism it is inferior to the Macrotys, but in some cases it exerts a better influence. My experience has not been sufficient to point out these cases, and in this respect the remedy needs further study.

I would suggest, also, the trial of a tincture of the recent root.

1892: Millspaugh (1932: J.U.Lloyd. Drugs and Medicines of North America . Bulletin of Lloyd Library.)
It also exhibits the power of causing contractions of both voluntary and involuntary muscle fibers, the latter showing in the gravid uterus ;here it does not cause the long lasting contractions of ergot, but intermittent and more successful ones.

1895: Lyman Watkins.MD. An Eclectic Compendium of The Practice of Medicine. John M.Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895.
SM caulophyllum: pain in fingers and toes unattended by structural change, patient plethoric, muscular pain, spasmodic in character.

Irregular menses, dysmenorrhoea, spasmodic uterine contractions, patient plethoric with rheumatic tendencies, colicky pains in bowels coming on after eating, pain in fingers and toes unattended by structural change. Ten drops to four ounces of water; teaspoonful every three hours.

1898: Dynamical Therapeutics-A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. H.T. Webster. Second Edition.
Blue cohosh is one of the standard remedies among Eclectics for muscular pain. This use dates back as far as aboriginal times in the Atlantic States, the Indians valuing it highly as a remedy for rheumatism and other muscular affections, according to Rafinesque’s Medical Flora, published in 1828.

Caulophyllum is adapted to spasmodic affections of the muscles as well as to painful conditions of these organs, being especially applicable to spasmodic action of the muscular walls of the uterus, as in certain forms of dysmenorrhoea, hour-glass contraction, spurious labor pains etc. In spasmodic cramps of the abdominal viscera it is no less reliable. Many cases of painful dyspepsia are amenable to the influence of caulophyllum, the symptom being due to a rheumatoid condition of the muscular walls of the stomach. I have cured dyspepsia of painful character with this agent repeatedly, when ordinary remedies failed. The symptoms here would indicate muscular complication, as the pain would be aggravated immediately upon eating, and be crampy in character. Colicky pains in the intestines may depend upon the same cause, and yield promptly to this remedy. In fact, all the thoracic and abdominal viscera as well as the organs in the pelvis come under these observations. I have relieved severe rectal pain with caulophyllin. Where a pregnant woman has been subject to rheumatism caulophyllum is a valuable remedy to administer throughout gestation, as rheumatism of the uterus is very liable to be a complication, not only of pregnancy but of parturition, unless guarded against by the proper means. In this instance it may be caulophyllum or cimicifuga.

Homeopathic writers place much stress upon the action of this remedy in rheumatism of the small joints, as those of the feet and hands. They assert that it is homeopathic to rheumatism of these parts, as it will cause pain here rather than in other places, but as many remedies act specifically and decidedly upon parts in disease which they fail to affect in health, appreciably, it is not impossible that the remedy may influence other parts more powerfully in disease than the small joints.

Caulophyllum is a splendid remedy for muscular rheumatism. This remark applies especially to the chronic stage of the affection, when the muscles are particularly the seat of the trouble. I have known long standing stubborn cases of chronic pleurodynia cured with small doses of the 3x trituration of caulophyllum in a few weeks, the patient taking two or three grains three or four times a day. In acute muscular rheumatism it acts well, but not as promptly as macrotys.

Form for Administration -I have had the most pleasing results from the use of the 3x trituration of caulophyllin, Keith’s being my preference. Caulophyllum is a remedy that leaves an unpleasant sensation in the throat after being swallowed, unless the dose be very small. Leontin, a special preparation of Lloyd Brothers, does not possess this objectionable property, and has been highly extolled as a substitute.

Dose – Of the specific medicine, from the fraction of a drop to a drop; of the trituration of caulophyllin, from two to three grains; of the leontin from five to ten drops.

1898: Dynamical Therapeutics-A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. H.T. Webster. Second Edition.
Caulophyllum is one of our old reliable remedies for rheumatism. It is too well and favorably known to require commendation. It influences the muscular structures in all parts of the body, but is more adapted, than some other rheumatism remedies, to rheumatic conditions of the small joints – those of the fingers and toes.

It seems to possess an affinity for these parts, adapting it to any painful condition here, not traumatic or attended by structural change, as gout.

It will be found a valuable resort in rheumatism affecting principally the fingers, in combination with jaborandi in the active stages, or alone when the condition is more subacute. It is not ordinarily adapted to vascular disturbance, being more of a tissue remedy – influencing the plastic force of the tissues acted upon, rather than circulatory organs.

Form for Administration – I prefer a trituration of caulophyllin to the tincture of caulophyllum, usually using the 3x. Leontin is a favorite form with many, and is doubtless a valuable form of the remedy, though I have not used it enough to speak with authority. It is a more acceptable form to the taste, however, than caulophyllum, which possesses the property of imparting a peculiar acrid sensation to the throat, which is quite persistent, and unpleasant to many.

1907: Finley Ellingwood.MD. A Manual of the Eclectic Treatment of Disease designed for the many students and Practitioners. In two volumes. volume one. Published by the Author.
Uterine pain with fullness, weight and pain in the legs fullness of tissues as if congested;debility of the nervous system with impaired muscular power,spasmodic muscular pains, articular pain, rheumatic pains of asthenic plethora,epigastric and umbilical colicky pains, dull frontal headaches.

1909: Kings Dispensatory. Felter and Lloyd. Scudder. Ohio Valley Company.
History – This drug is one of our oldest indigenous Eclectic remedies. The Algonkin name (cohosh) is generally supposed to have been applied to this plant by the natives, but according to the statement of Mr. W. R. Gerard, this is hardly probably, as the native term, “applied by the whites to several plants, smooth in all their parts, means ‘it is rough’ (with hairs).” Among the Montagnais of Canada the name cohosh is applied to the bristly fruit of Ribes lacustre. (See D. & M. of N.A.). Still, there is no doubt that the plant was later known to the American Indians, in common with Cimicifuga racemosa, Actaea alba, and Actaea rubra var. spicata, as cohosh. The true common name of the plant is blue cohosh, though it is known also in various parts of the country as pappoose-root (Smith), square-root (Smith), false cohosh (Eaton), and blueberry. Both Pursh (1814) and Barton (1818) call it cohosh, and state that it was known as such among the natives. The plant was introduced into medicine as blue cohosh by Rafinesque, in 1828, thought it is but just to say that the Indian uses of the plant were first made known through an irregular publication entitled “Medical Facts,” issued in Cincinnati, in 1813, by Peter Smith, an advertising “Indian herb doctor;” and it is to Smith that Rafinesque refers as an authority on the subject. The first published botanical record of the blue cohosh is by Gronovius (1739), who received the plant from Clayton, a Virginian botanist, and the second by Cadwallader Colden (1743), an American botanist, afterward distinguished as governor of New York State . Its present botanical name (Caulophyllum) was given it in 1803 by the elder Michaux, who believed the genus to differ sufficiently from the European Leontice, with which it had been classed, to entitle it to a generic rank of which only the one species is now known, which is a native of America, and is found also in Japan.

The term Caulophyllum is derived from two Greek words – kaulos, stem; and phullon, leaf; hence, stem-leaf, so called because the leaves terminate in such a manner as to give them the appearance of being a mere continuation of the stem. Blue cohosh is widely distributed throughout this country extending from New Brunswick to the southern limits of the Appalachian system of mountains, and westward to the Mississippi valley. Contrary to published statements it is not found in low, moist grounds, swamps and marshes, along sea-coasts an don prairie lands and irrigated islands, but grows in rich, shady woods, and deep loam, in hilly and mountainous districts. It is plentiful along the Alleghany mountains, but it is not found in the adjacent lowlands in the southern states. Caulophyllum is a handsome plant of a peculiar bluish-green color. It blossoms in April and May and matures its fruit in August. A decoction of the roasted ripened seeds is said to resemble coffee. Although caulophyllum was first introduced by Peter Smith as early as 1813 and endorsed by Rafinesque (1828) and the botanics, there was but little call for it, except in domestic medicine for making infusions an ddecoctions, until 1852, when Prof. King, who first became acquainted with the drug in 1836, brought it out in his first edition of the American Dispensatory, giving a description of it and its uses, and introducing some preparations of it. From that time until the present day it has been in increasing demand in Eclectic practice, and has been adopted by the Homoeopaths, though it is still largely ignored by the “regulars.” Prof. E. M. Hale, M. D., of Chicago, states that caulophyllum was introduced to the Homoeopaths by Prof. B. L. Hill, at one time Professor of Surgery in the Eclectic Medical Institute, of Cincinnati, O., in his lectures on obstetrics and gynecology before the Homoeopathic College, at Cleveland, O. At the same time he introduced to them hydrastis, cimicifuga and other Eclectic drugs.

Among the early preparations of this drug were the fluid extract of caulophyllum, compoun dtincture of caulophyllum, and the compound tincture of mitchella (mother’s cordial), all exclusively Eclectic products. Blue cohosh partially yields its virtues to hot water and glycerin, an dfully to alcohol. It may be employed in decoction, or the specific caulophyllum, which is reliable and more convenient, may be used. In purchasing, care must be taken that this root is not mixed with other roots, especially those of the Hydrastis canadensis, with which the pressed and wrapped article prepared for sale is apt to be associated. Caulophyllin added to drastic purgatives, as aloes, podophyllin, etc., will entirely prevent or relieve the tormina attending their action.

Lloyd’s Leontin (the 1 per cent solution of the emmenagogue principle of blue cohosh) has been very successfully employed in amenorrhoea dysmenorrhoea, and chlorosis. The dose ranges from 5 to 15 drops in syrup or sugar water.

Specific Indications and Uses – The specific indications for caulophyllum are uterine pain, with fullness, weight, and pain in the legs; fullness of tissues as if congested; debility (irritability) of the nervous system, with impaired muscular power; spasmodic muscular pains; articular pain; rheumatic pains of asthenic plethora; epigastric and umbilical colicky pains; dull frontal headache; great thirst; as an oxytocic; to relieve false pains and uterine irritability; sexual debility, with excitability; spasmodic uterine contractions; dysmenorrhoea; irregular menstruation; crampy pains in stomach and bowels after eating; pain in toes and fingers not due to tissue changes.

Related Drug – Stylosanthes elatior, Swartz. Pencil flower. United States . Reputed of value in relieving abdominal and uterine pains during pregnancy, and is said to be a tonic parturient.

1911: John William Fyfe. MD. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. 1911.
Uterine irritation, as a parturient, to releive alse pains, spasmodic after pains, chronic uterine diseases, hysteria, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea. As a measure preparatory to confinement, caulophyllum, when used for two or three weeks precious to labor, is of much service in child bearing women. Caulophyllum thalictroides is antispasmodic, tonic, alterative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, parturifacient, and anthelmintic.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.