Black Cohosh

(Cimicifuga racemosa)

Black cohosh is a shrub-like plant native to the eastern deciduous forests of North America, ranging from southern Ontario to Georgia, north to Wisconsin and west to Arkansas. The dried root and rhizome are used medicinally. When harvested from the wild, the root is black in colour.

Cohosh, an Algonquin Indian word meaning “rough,” refers to the plants gnarly root structure. Native Americans valued the herb and used it for many conditions, ranging from gynaecological problems to rattlesnake bites. Some 19th century American physicians used black cohosh for fever, menstrual cramps, arthritis, and insomnia.

What it does

Black cohosh contains many active compounds including cimicfugosides and isoflavones and so has many different actions. It acts on the endocrine system and has oestrogen mimicking properties. It is also anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, mildly pain relieving and a muscle relaxant.

Potential Uses

Arthritis Dysmenorrhoea Gout
Myalgia Menopause Osteoporosis
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Hypertension (High blood pressure) PMT

Other information

Many herbalists recommend Black Cohosh for a variety of female hormonal disorders including pre-menstrual cramping and breast tenderness. It is also used for muscle cramps and general aches and pains and has a calming effect on the nervous system.

The herb’s major active compound 27-deoxyactein possesses the ability to selectively reduce serum concentrations of luteinising hormone (LH). The LH reducing action is primarily responsible for the dramatic, and clinically proven, ability of black cohosh to relieve common menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, depression, vaginal dryness, etc. Studies have shown black cohosh to be far superior to HRT in reducing menopausal complaints. Although research into the effect of black cohosh on bone density is currently lacking, there is justification for its use in combination with bone-building nutrients in prevention of osteoporosis. This herb may also benefit certain symptoms of premenstrual tension.


Do not use in pregnancy or when breast feeding.

If you are taking medication for your blood pressure, check with your doctor before taking Black Cohosh.

Generally, there are no side effects or contra-indications from using Black Cohosh.

At the time of writing there were no well known negative drug interactions with Black Cohosh.


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