Skip to main content

White Cohosh

Scientific Name(s): Actaea pachypoda Ell.
Common Name(s): Coralberry, Doll's eye, Snakeberry, White baneberry, White Cohosh

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 30, 2021.

Clinical Overview


Historically, white cohosh root has been used to treat female disorders (eg, dysmenorrhea, metrorrhagia); however, there are no animal or clinical data regarding the use of A. pachypoda for any condition, and concerns exist regarding toxicity.


There are no recent clinical studies of white cohosh to provide dosing recommendations.


No longer considered safe.


Avoid use. Adverse effects have been documented.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Blistering and inflammation of the skin upon contact.


Ingestion of white cohosh results in stomach cramping, vomiting, and delirium. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the roots and berries, which contain toxic glycosides and an essential oil.

Scientific Family

  • Ranunculaceae (buttercup)


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.

Adverse Reactions

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

Index Terms

  • Actaea alba (L.) Mill



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

Actaea pachypoda. USDA, NRCS. 2015. The PLANTS Database (, November 2015). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Actaea pachypoda Ell. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [database online]. Beltsville, MD: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. Updated June 19, 2006. Accessed November 1, 2016.
Ali Z, Khan SI, Pawar RS, Ferreira D, Khan IA. 9,19-cyclolanostane derivatives from the roots of Actaea pachypoda. J Nat Prod. 2007;70(1):107-110.17253859
Avula B, Ali Z, Khan I. Chemical fingerprinting of Actaea racemosa (black cohosh) and its comparison study with closely related Actaea species (A. pachypoda, A. podocarpa, A. rubra) by HPLC. Chromatographia. 2007;66(9):757-762.
Duke J, Bogenschutz-Godwin M, duCellier J, Duke P. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. 2nd ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2002.
Hardin JW, Arena JM. Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants. Durham, NC: Duke University Press; 1974.
Nuntanakorn P, Jiang B, Yang H, Cervantes-Cervantes M, Kronenberg F, Kennelly EJ. Analysis of polyphenolic compounds and radical scavenging activity of four American Actaea species. Phytochem Anal. 2007;18(3):219-228.17500365
Quattrocchi U. CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boston, MA: CRC Press; 2012.
Turner NJ, von Aderkas P. The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2009.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.