Cotton Root Bark

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Cotton root bark


Cotton root and the cotton plant are known as Gossypium herbaceum. Cotton is a member of the mallow or Malvaceae family. The cotton plant is an evergreen shrub that is native to Asia and Africa. It is also grown in the southern United States, Egypt, and countries along the Mediterranean Sea. The plant was cultivated to produce cotton fiber for clothing. Cotton root bark, the inner bark, and cotton seeds are all used as herbal remedies. While the seeds also served as a food, cotton root bark has been known for centuries as a "female medicine."

The herbal remedy is known as cotton root bark, Gossypium herbaceum, and cotton.

General use

Gossypium is the Latin word for cotton-producing plant, and this evergreen shrub has been cultivated for thousands of years in India. That form of cultivation was brought to China and Egypt in approximately 500 b.c. Europeans brought cotton cultivation to the New World in 1774.

Traditional uses

While Gossypium herbaceum was grown to produce cotton fiber, other parts of the plant served as medical remedies and food products. Cotton root bark was used as a folk remedy for numerous female conditions ranging from nonmenstrual bleeding from the uterus to inducing labor contractions. While it was used to make childbirth easier, cotton root bark was also taken as an abortifacient (to induce miscarriages).

Cotton root bark was not just a woman's remedy. Chewing on the roots was said to stimulate the sexual organs, giving cotton root the reputation of being an aphrodisiac. The root also had uses not related to reproduction. Cotton was also a remedy for conditions including snake bite, dysentery, and fever . Furthermore, cotton seed was once a food product and a remedy. A seed oil emulsion was given as an intravenous treatment for people with nutritional deficiencies.

Some of cotton root bark's remedial uses came to North America with the Africans enslaved by Europeans. Women used cotton bark root to stimulate menstrual flow and for help with difficulties during childbirth. Cotton had a different use when slave owners raped women; they drank cotton root tea to induce abortions.

Contemporary uses

Contemporary uses of cotton root bark cover nearly every aspect of the female reproductive system. Generally, a tea made from this herb is consumed for such conditions as producing a normal menstrual cycle. Numerous other uses are listed in such sources as the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) for Herbal Medicines,, the 1998 book based on the findings of Germany's Commission E. The European group's findings about herbal remedies were published in a 1997 monograph.

Cotton root bark is used as an aid during childbirth and as a remedy for the absence of menstruation , irregular menstruation, and painful menstruation. Pregnant women take cotton root bark to increase uterine contractions, to expel the afterbirth, and to help with the secretion of milk. Cotton root bark is also taken for difficulties experienced during menopause .

Furthermore, cotton root bark is currently used as a male contraceptive in China because it's said to immobilize the sperm. Cotton root bark supposedly blocks production of sperm without affecting a man's potency. As of June 2000, clinical trials were underway regarding this use of cotton root bark.

In addition, cotton root bark still has a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Evidence of this property of the herb, however, is anecdotal. No clinical research or studies have proved that cotton root bark stimulates or increases sexual desire.

In addition to the medicinal uses of cotton root, oil from cotton seed is currently used in soap and in the production of margarine, shortening, cooking oil, and salad oil.


While cotton root bark was taken as a tea in folk medicine, other forms of the herb are used in contemporary alternative medicine. Cotton root bark is currently used as a liquid extract or a tincture. The dosage for both the tincture and liquid extract is 0.51 tsp (24 ml) of either solution. This amount can be divided into two daily doses; a single dose consists of 2040 drops (0.250.5 tsp). The extract or tincture can be added to a small amount of water .

Cotton root bark can be combined with goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ) in herbal preparations.


Cotton root bark has varied uses, and opinions are varied about whether this remedy is safe to use. According to the PDR for Herbal Medicines, cotton root bark is safe when taken in therapeutic doses. Other herbalists state that no part of Gossypium herbaceum should be taken internally without first consulting with a doctor or health practitioner. This precaution is particularly important for pregnant women. Although cotton root bark is a remedy for conditions related to childbirth, manufacturers of herbal products advise women to seek medical advice before using it.

Although health risks have not been reported, poisonings have occurred when animals ate cotton-seed cakes over a long period of time. Some of those cases were fatal.

In addition, gossypol is a chemical found in cottonseed oil that is believed to immobilize sperm. Men who cook with this oil may find themselves temporarily infertile.

Side effects

Cotton root bark has not been identified as producing side effects.


There are no identified interactions associated with taking cotton root bark.



PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Co., 1998.

Ritchason, Jack. The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Health Books, 1995.

Squier, Thomas Broken Bear, with Lauren David Peden. Herbal Folk Medicine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.


American Botanical Council. P.O. Box 201660, Austin TX, 78720. (512) 331-8868.

Herb Research Foundation. 1007 Pearl St., Suite 200. Boulder, CO 80302. (303) 449-2265.


Health Mall Online.

Liz Swain