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Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Alkaloid, alpha-isolupanine, anagyrine, aporphine, baptifoline, beechdrops, Berberidaceae (family), blue cohosh root, blue ginseng, blueberry, Caulophyllum, Caulophyllum thalictroides Mich., Leontice thalictroides (L.), lupanine, magnoflorine, Mastodynon, N-methylcytisine, papoose root, quinolizidine alkaloids, saponins, scaulophylline, sparteine, squaw root, taspine, thalictroidine, triterpene saponins, yellow ginseng.

Note: Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) should not be confused with black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), an over-the-counter herbal supplement sold as a menopause and menstrual remedy.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The constituents of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) include methylcytisine, N-methylcytisine, thalictroidine, aporphine, sparteine, the saponins caulosaponine and caulophyllosaponine, as well as alkaloids, taspine, magnoflorine, anagyrine, baptifoline, 5,6-dehydro-alpha-isolupanine, alpha-isolupanine, and lupanine.4,3,1,2
  • Carcinogenic effects: Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) has been evaluated in vitro for its cytotoxic effects on human liver cancer cell lines.5
  • Labor induction effects: There have been at least ten chemical compounds isolated from the blue cohosh plant.3,4,2,1 The glycosides caulosaponin and caulophyllosaponin, and the chemical sparteine, which are constituents of the blue cohosh plant, have been shown to have labor induction properties.1 Caulosaponin and caulophyllosaponin have increased the rate and degree of uterine contraction for up to 90 minutes in vitro and in vivo.1 The chemical sparteine, has been used in the past as a drug to induce labor.


  • Insufficient available evidence.


  1. Reichert, R. Neonatal congestive heart failure associated with maternal use of blue cohosh. Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine 1998;Winter:265-267.
  2. Ganzera, M., Dharmaratne, H. R., Nanayakkara, N. P., and Khan, I. A. Determination of saponins and alkaloids in Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh) by high-performance liquid chromatography and evaporative light scattering detection. Phytochem Anal 2003;14(1):1-7. 12597249
  3. Kennelly, E. J., Flynn, T. J., Mazzola, E. P., Roach, J. A., McCloud, T. G., Danford, D. E., and Betz, J. M. Detecting potential teratogenic alkaloids from blue cohosh rhizomes using an in vitro rat embryo culture. J Nat Prod 1999;62(10):1385-1389. 10543898
  4. Jhoo, J. W., Sang, S., He, K., Cheng, X., Zhu, N., Stark, R. E., Zheng, Q. Y., Rosen, R. T., and Ho, C. T. Characterization of the triterpene saponins of the roots and rhizomes of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides). J Agric Food Chem 2001;49(12):5969-5974. 11743794
  5. Lin, L. T., Liu, L. T., Chiang, L. C., and Lin, C. C. In vitro anti-hepatoma activity of fifteen natural medicines from Canada. Phytother Res 2002;16(5):440-444. 12203264

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