Labor Tools: 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. Those midwives who choose not to use cohosh refer to the lack of research or their own personal experience with the safety of it.
Some experts express concern that trying to start labor is never "natural," when introducing something different into the mother's diet or daily routine. Most experts agree that induction of labor should only be done if there is concern for the safety of the baby, never for the convenience of the mother or her health care provider.
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 how to use them 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 bookor 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.