Scientific Name(s): Actaea pachypoda Ell.
Common Name(s): Coralberry, Doll's eye, Snakeberry, White baneberry, White Cohosh
White cohosh, a bushy, herbaceous perennial plant, is native to Canada and the eastern and central United states, and is distributed and cultivated throughout the United States.Turner 2009, USDA 2006, USDA 2015 The poisonous plant grows in clay soil and partial to full shade, and reaches up to 1 m in height. Its wide compound leaves have 6 or more pointed, sharply toothed leaflets. The small white flowers grow in clusters.Turner 2009 The berries of the plant are white with a black stigma scar, which gives the plant its common name "doll's eyes." Other members of the genus include Actaea rubra (red baneberry) and Actaea spicata or Actaea racemosa (black cohosh). Quattrocchi 2012, USDA 2015 See Black Cohosh monograph. A synonym of A. pachypoda is Actaea alba (L.) Mill.
Traditional uses of white cohosh plant are similar to those of black and blue cohosh (ie, to stimulate menstruation and treat other female disorders, childbirth). Tribes such as the Cherokee and Cheyenne used the root to cure itching, colds and cough, urogenital disorders, and stomach disorders, as well as to revive people near death.Duke 2002
The chemistry of the plant is poorly defined. Protoanemonin or a congener may be responsible for its irritant effect. In addition, the plant contains an essential oil. The fruits and seeds contain trans-aconitic acid.Duke 2002 Analysis of the polyphenolic content and triterpene glycosides of 4 Actaea spp., including A. pachypoda, has been reported.Ali 2007, Avula 2007, Nuntanakorn 2007
Uses and Pharmacology
Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of A. pachypoda for any condition.
There are no clinical studies of white cohosh to provide dosing recommendations. The plant contains toxic chemical compounds.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Adverse effects have been documented.Duke 2002
None well documented.
The protoanemonin-like compound can inflame and blister the skin upon contact.Duke 2002
All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the roots and berries, which contain toxic glycosides and an essential oil. Ingestion of these parts results in gastroenteritis, vomiting, and delirium. Older texts describe severe symptoms from ingestion of a few berriesHardin 1974; however, such symptoms may be related to ingestion of the related species A. spicata, for which fatal poisoning in children has been reported.Duke 2002
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