Squaw vine / Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Traditional Indication

Squaw vine is primarily a partus preparator, uterine relaxant, antidysmenorrhoeic, emmenagogue, astringent, nervous tonic and restorative. It is indicated for dysmenorrhoea, pregnancy and catarrhal colitis. Partridge berry was commonly used by several native North American Indian tribes as a parturient to hasten childbirth. It is still used in modern herbalism as an aid to childbirth and is also considered to have a tonic effect upon the uterus and the ovaries. Specifically indicated for the facilitation of parturition, Mitchella is reputed to promote an easy labour by aiding contraction of the womb during childbirth. It is also recommended for dysmenorrhoea and other painful conditions of the female reproductive tract. It also has a calming effect on the nervous system and, in addition, improves the digestion. It may be used in nervous exhaustion, irritability or debility in either sex, especially when symptoms involve the reproductive system. It was also occasionally used to treat a variety of other complaints including insomnia, rheumatic pain and fluid retention. (1)

Pharmacognosy

After a long history as a uterine tonic by North America’s indigenous population, partridge berry was adopted by the Eclectic Physicians, who administered it to susceptible women to prevent miscarriage and to prepare for labour, as its use “will often favour a mild and speedy delivery” and is preferable to resorting to forceps. (2)

Squaw vine is part of a combination of herbal medicines that have been traditionally used in the third trimester to prepare a woman for delivery. This preparation is called ‘mother’s cordial’ or ‘partus preparatus’. In addition to Squaw vine, partus preparatus typically contains, Black cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa, Raspberry Rubus idaeus, Blue cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides (3) and Milk thistle Silybum marianum.

1. PFAF. Squaw vine 2019.
2. Westfall RE. Herbal medicine in pregnancy and childbirth. Advances in Therapy. 2001;18(1):47-55.
3. Edward Mills J-JD, Dan Perri, Gideon Koren. Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy and Lactation An Evidence-Based Approach: Taylor & Francis Medical, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group; 2006.