Herbs for Labor

Cohosh

What it is:

Blue and black cohosh are roots from two separate plants. Blue cohosh, Caluphyllum thalictroides, is also known as squaw root, papoose root, blue ginseng or yellow ginseng. Black cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa, is also known as baneberry, black snakeroot, bugbane, rattleroot, rattletop, squawroot and wanzenkraut.

These medicinal herbs are used for labor induction.

How it works:

Studies are just beginning to determine how and why these herbs work the way they do. It is known that these herbs can start contractions and should be used with caution during pregnancy as they may induce abortion.

Cohosh is popular among midwives because it is considered a "natural" way to induce labor. It is also an induction method available to midwives who do not have access to regulated pharmaceuticals. Some experts express concern that trying to start labor is never "natural," when introducing something different into the mother's diet or daily routine.Those midwives who choose not to use cohosh refer to the lack of research or their own personal experience with the safety of it.

How to use it:

There is no standard recognized protocol for using black or blue cohosh. A report in the Journal of Nurse Midwifery from 1999 found that of the midwives in the study who used the herbals, 69% had learned individual preparations from other midwives and none had learned them from their formal midwifery training.

Most experts recommend that cohosh only be used with the assistance of a trained health care provider. To find a health care provider in your area, check your phone book or ask your health care provider to recommend a trained herbalist in the area. You may also get assistance through an expert at a natural foods store.

Be sure to inform your health care provider of your intention to use cohosh to be sure nothing is recommended that is known to cause adverse reactions with either herb.