Scientific Name(S): Actaea alba (L.) Mill. (also known as A. pachypoda Ell.) and A. rubra (Ait.) Willd. Family: Ranunculaceae
Common Name(S): White Cohosh, baneberry, snakeberry, coralberry, doll's eye
Botany: White cohosh is a bushy, herbaceous perennial, that can grow to 3 feet tall. Its wide leaves have 6 or more sharp leaflets. The small flowers are white and grow in clusters. The berries of the plant can be red or white. The plant is found from Alaska to California and east to the mid-United States. Anatomical structure has been investigated.
History: The plant has been used in a manner similar to that of black and blue cohosh to stimulate menstruation and to treat other ''female disorders." Certain tribes, such as Cherokee and Cheyenne, used the root to cure itching, colds and cough, urogenital disorders, stomach disorders and to revive those near death. It has also been used as a purgative and in childbirth.
Uses of White Cohosh
White cohosh has been used historically to treat women's disorders. Homeopaths have used white cohosh to treat arthritis and rheumatism.
Side Effects of White Cohosh
Ingestion of white cohosh results in stomach cramping, headache, increased pulse rate, vomiting, delirium, and circulatory failure.
Toxicology: All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the roots and berries, which contain the toxic glycosides and an essential oil. Ingestion of these parts results in acute stomach cramping, headache, increased pulse rate, vomiting, delirium, and circulatory failure. As few as 6 berries can cause severe symptoms, persisting for hours. The protoanemonin-like compound can inflame and blister the skin. Gastric lavage, emesis, and supportive treatment are recommended if ingested.
Summary: There is no evidence that white cohosh is of any therapeutic value. Its ingestion can lead to toxicity. Its use should be discouraged. Few reports are available on this topic.
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