HABITAT AND RANGE—Blue Cohosh is found in the deep rich loam of shady woods from New Brunswick to South Carolina, westward to Nebraska, being abundant especially thruout the Allegheny Mountain region.
DESCRIPTION OF PLANT—This member of the barberry family (Berberidaceae) is a perennial herb, 1 to 3 feet in height, and indigenous to this country. It bears at the top one large, almost stemless leaf, which is triternately compound—that is, the main leaf stem divides into three stems, which again divide into threes, and each division bears three leaflets. Sometimes there is a smaller leaf, but similar to the other, at the base of the flowering branch. The leaflets are thin in texture, oval, oblong, or obovate and 3 to 5 lobed.
In the early stage of its growth this plant is covered with a sort of bluish green bloom, but it generally loses this and becomes smooth. The flowers are borne in a small terminal panicle or head, and are small and greenish yellow. They appear from April to May, while the leaf is still small. The globular seeds, which ripen about August, are borne on stout stalks in membranous capsules and resemble dark-blue berries.
DESCRIPTION OF ROOTSTOCK—The thick, crooked rootstock of Blue Cohosh is almost concealed by the mass of matted roots which surrounds it. There are numerous cupshaped scars and small branches on the upper surface of the rootstock, while the lower surface gives off numerous long, crooked, matted roots. Some of the scars are depressed below the surface of the rootstock, while others are raised above it. The outside is brownish and the inside tough and woody. Blue Cohosh possesses a slight odor and a sweetish, somewhat bitter and acrid taste. In the powdered state it causes sneezing.
COLLECTION, PRICES AND USES—The root is dug in the fall. Very often the roots of Golden Seal or twinleaf are found mixed with those of Blue Cohosh. The price of Blue Cohosh root ranges from 2 1/2 to 4 cents a pound.
Blue Cohosh, official in the United States Pharmacopoeia for 1890, is used as a demulcent, antispasmodic, emmenagogue and diuretic.
Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants, 1936, was written by A. R. Harding.