No. 19. Caulophyllum Thalictroides.
English Name—BLUEBERRY COHOSH.
French Name—Cohoche Bleu.
German Name—Blau Cohosch.
Officinal Name—Caulophyllum radix.
Vulgar Names—Cohosh, Cohush, Blueberry, Papoose root, Squaw root, Blue Ginseng, Yellow Ginseng.
Synonyms—Leontice thalictroides Linnaeus, &c.
Authorities—Michaux, Pursh, Elliot and some dispensaries. Not in Barton nor Bigelow.
Genus CAULOPHYLLUM—Calix colored with six equal sepals. Corolla with 6 small petals, opposite to the sepals of the calix and much shorter. Stamina six opposite to the petals, anthers opening laterally. One central free pistil, one Style and Stigma. Fruit a globular one seeded drupe.—Leaves three on a trifurcate stem.
Species C. THALICTROIDES—Very smooth, three leaves with three dissected or lobed folioles, the terminal cordate: in the centre a dichotome corymb, shorter than the leaves.
Description—Whole plant from two to four feet high.—Root perennial, yellow inside, brown outside, hard, irregular, knobby, branched, with many fibres—Stem upright, straight, smooth, trifurcate at the top or dividing into three leaves, in the centre of which comes out the panicle of flowers—Leaves petiolate smooth, pinnate lobed, with three, very seldom five folioles, the lateral ones nearly sessile, oval or oblong, inequally bifid and acute: the terminal foliole separated, larger, subcordate, with five, seldom three, unequal lobes or segments, oval and acute.
Flowers in a short central loose corymb, yellowish green, rather small; rachis slender, dichotome, with minute bracts at each division. Each flower peduncled, with six equal elliptic obtuse sepals—Petals six very small, opposite and notched, with each an opposite longer stamen, filaments short, anthers elliptic bilocular, opening on each side—Germ globular, style short, stigma obtuse—Drupes resembling berries succeed the blossoms; they are smooth of a dark felue, globular, rather large, with only one hard seed.
History—This genus which includes only one species, was united to Leontice by Linnaeus; but separated by Michaux; they both belong to the natural family of BERBERIDES, and to HEXANDRIA monogynia. Caulophyllum implies that the stem and leaves are connected as it were, and the specific name alludes to the leaves being similar to many Thalictrums—Cohosh was the indigenous name of this plant, and a better one than Blueberry, the usual one in many parts: it blossoms in May and June, while the leaves are yet tender and small, the berries are ripe in summer; they are dry, sweetish, insipid, similar to huckle berries, but larger.
This is a medical plant of the Indians, and although not yet introduced into our officinal books, deserves to be better known. I have found it often used in the country and by Indian Doctors; Smith and Henry extol it.
Locality—All over the United States, from Canada and New England to Missouri and Georgia; but chiefly on mountains and shady hills, rare in plains and glades, yet often found in deep fertile soils, swampy and moist grounds; in river islands, &c.
Qualities—The root is the only part used: in smell and taste, it partakes of Ginseng and Seneca root, and is sometimes mistaken for both. It is sweetish, a little pungent and aromatic: the infusion and tincture are yellow—it contains a gum, resin and oil.
Properties—Demulcent, antispasmodic, emenagogue, sudorific, &c. It is used by the Indians and their imitators for rheumatism, dropsy, cholic, sore throat, cramp, hiccup, epilepsy, hysterics, inflammation of uterus, &c. It appears to be particularly suitable for 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 emenagogue it promotes delivery, menstruation, and dropsical discharges. It may be used in warm infusion, decoction, tincture, syrup or cordial.
Substitutes—Sanguinaria canadensis—Pennyroyal—Polygala Senega— Snake roots—Red Cedar—Spikenard—Camphor—Ginseng, &c.
Remarks—The figure of Henry has trifoliate leaves and the berries on the leaves!
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.