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Herb Information
Name: Black Cohosh
Biological Name: Cimicifuga racemosa, Cimicifuga heracleifolia, Cimicifuga dahurica, Cimicifuga foetida

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Other Names: Black snakeroot, bugbane, squawroot, bugwort, rattleroot, rattleweed, rattlesnale's root, richweed, Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga, Sheng ma, Chinese black cohosh
Parts Used: Root
Active Compounds:  

Black cohosh contains several important ingredients, including triterpene glycosides (e.g., acetin and cimicifugoside) and isoflavones (e.g., formononetin). Other constituents include aromatic acids, tannins, resins, fatty acids, starches, and sugars. Formononetin is the active element in the herb that binds to estrogen receptor sites, inducing an estrogen-like activity in the body. As a woman approaches menopause, the signals between the ovaries and pituitary gland diminish, slowing down estrogen production and increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) secretions. Hot flashes can result from these hormonal changes. Clinical studies from Germany have demonstrated that an alcohol extract of black cohosh decreases LH secretions in menopausal women.


Native American Indians valued the herb and used it for many conditions, ranging from gynecological problems to rattlesnake bites. Some nineteenth- century American physicians used black cohosh for problems such as fever, menstrual cramps, arthritis, and insomnia.

Remedies For

Diaphoretic, antipyretic, antifungal, antibacterial

Black cohosh helps in the treatment of:

Painful menstruation
Uterine spasms

The primary traditional use of black cohosh has been as a relaxant, sedative, and antispasmodic. Its effectiveness as a remedy for dysmenorrhea has not been successfully proven, but research suggests a pharmacological basis for its use in treating rheumatism and neuralgia.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: 

Clears wind heat, regulates the circulation of qi, relieves pain. It can be used for headache caused by wind heat; gingivitis; hives; diarrhea; venting eruptive skin diseases, such as measles, in the early stages; and prolapsed internal organs, such as the anus and uterus. The Chinese say that this herb "lifts the sunken"; therefore, it is used to direct other herbs upward and is also indicated for prolapsed organs. North American cimicifuga may be similar though not identical to the Chinese variety.


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 strong odor of black cohosh flowers acts as an insect repellent. It is thus also known as bugbane.

Black cohosh is a stately perennial, 3-8 feet tall, topped by a long plume of white flowers (June-September). The leaves are large and pinnately compound; the leaflets are irregularly shaped with toothed edges.

The dried root and rhizome are the constituents utilized medicinally. When wild harvested, the root is black in color. Cohosh, an Algonquin Indian word meaning "rough," refers to its gnarly root structure.


Black cohosh can be taken in several forms:

Crude, dried root, or rhizome (300-2,000 mg per day)
Solid, dry powdered extract (250 mg three times per day).
Tinctures can be taken at 2-4 ml per day.

Standardized extracts of the herb are available and contain 1 mg of deoxyacteine per tablet. The usual amount is 40 mg twice per day. Black cohosh can be taken for up to six months, and then it should be discontinued.


Black cohosh has an estrogen-like effect, and women who are pregnant or lactating should not use the herb. Large doses of this herb may cause abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Women taking estrogen therapy should consult a physician before using black cohosh.

Large doses of black cohosh cause symptoms of poisoning, particularly nausea and dizziness, and can also provoke miscarriage.

Black cohosh should not be used by those who have full-blown measles or those who are having trouble breathing. It should also not be used by those with excess in the upper regions and deficiency in the lower part of the body.

More Information: Herbal medicine for Menopause

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