White cohosh
White cohosh


White cohosh appears to be a substance with no reliable evidence to support its use, yet with documented toxicity. It should not be confused with black cohosh, used for symptoms of menopause, nor with blue cohosh, a substance used as a uterine stimulant and antispasmodic (6). White cohosh is also known as baneberry but it should not be confused with European baneberry.

People use this for...

Orally, white cohosh has been used to stimulate menstruation and to treat other female disorders. White cohosh is also used orally for colds and cough, urogenital disorders, stomach disorders, reviving those near death, as a purgative, in childbirth, and for curing itching.

Likely Unsafe ...when used orally. The entire plant is toxic (6).

Likely Unsafe ...when used orally due to toxicity (6); avoid using.

There is insufficient reliable information available about the effectiveness of white cohosh.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Dosing & administration

    Adverse effects

    General: Orally, white cohosh can cause gastrointestinal (GI) irritation (19), acute stomach cramping, headache, tachycardia, vomiting, delirium, and circulatory failure (6).
    Topically, the application of white cohosh can lead to inflammation and skin blistering (6).

    Interactions with pharmaceuticals

    None known.

    Interactions with herbs & supplements

    None known.

    Interactions with foods

    None known.

    Interactions with lab tests

    None known.

    Interactions with diseases

    GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) CONDITIONS: White cohosh can irritate the GI tract. Avoid using in individuals with infectious or inflammatory GI conditions (19).

    Mechanism of action

    The constituent protoanemonin is believed to cause irritant effects (6). The fruit and berries are especially toxic. They contain toxic glycosides and an essential oil (6).


    6The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.
    19Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.
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