The blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is awake early this spring. I found some the other day, in three different stages of unfurl.
The one completely unfurled is in a pot in the nursery area, the other two are in the ground in the same area. I missed the initial unfurling of the stem this year. I’m excited to see this plant because it is a native with “threatened” status in the state of AR and I only find it, like the ginseng, in certain little spots out here.
The one in the pot came up from a berry (I didn’t separate out the seed), so that’s exciting too. I’ll gather more and spread them to some of the other areas that look right for it this year.
Where does it grow?
It is an American ginseng companion plant and enjoys the same kind of habitat ginseng prefers – mixed hardwood forests in eastern/southeastern North America with deep, cool shade, loamy soil, and good leaf-litter/ ground cover to keep the soil moist and cool.
What is it good for?
I don’t think anyone uses this herb medicinally often anymore, but it was part of the pharmacy for Native Americans. Parts used are roots and rhizomes.
This is an herb that shouldn’t be used as an ordinary part of self-care. It is useful in very specific circumstances.
I’ve used it in conjunction with black cohosh by alternating between tinctures of the two every three hours to bring on labor when my middle child was due. Not only did this regimen bring on the labor by the appointed hour when I would have undergone induction at the hospital, but it made the labor easier.
Other uses include easing the cramps of menstruation or to bring on menstruation. Keep in mind that anything useful for starting a period or to bring on labor is likely also to be an abortifacient. Blue cohosh as a medicinal plant comes with some very serious warnings attached (see link below).