Black Cohosh

Botanical Name(s):

Cimicifuga racemosa. Family: Ranunculaceae

Other Name(s):

black snake root, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot, rattleweed, squaw root

General Description:

Black cohosh is a tall perennial herb originally found in the northeastern United States. Native Americans boiled the root in water and drank the brewed beverage to treat women's problems, as well as fatigue, snakebite and arthritis. The medicinal part consists of the dried rhizome and roots. Black cohosh is cultivated in Europe.

Black cohosh contains alkaloids, tannins and terpenoids. The medicinal part has been used to control symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes. No effect on estrogen-dependent cancers has been demonstrated.

Medically Valid Uses:

Currently, there are no documented valid medical uses for black cohosh.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Black cohosh is most commonly used to treat menopausal symptoms (e.g., hot flashes, sweating, depressed mood) and premenstrual discomfort (e.g., cramping and muscle tension). The plant has estrogen-like effects and binds estrogen receptors. A study reported in the December 2006 Annals of Internal Medicine found that the root was no better than a placebo.

Some people have used black cohosh as a nervine (to calm nervous tension) or tonic (to promote the functions of the systems of the body), and as an anti-diarrheal. Black cohosh has also been used as a cough suppressant and antispasmodic (prevents or eases spasms or cramps). Some claims suggest that black cohosh can help inhibit growth of estrogen-sensitive breast tumor cells.

Dosing Format:

Black cohosh can be found in capsule and powder form. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose. Remifemin (the brand-name of the standardized extract) has been used in Germany for menopausal management since the mid-1950s.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Large doses of this herb can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, stiffness, visual disturbances, reduced pulse rate and increased perspiration.

Black cohosh should not be used by people with heart disease or people taking blood-pressure medication. Large doses may induce miscarriage.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use black cohosh.

Since black cohosh can act as a blood thinner, do not use it with blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin).

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. McFarlin BL, Gibson MH, O'Rear J, Harman P. A national survey of herbal preparation use by nurse-midwives for labor stimulation. Review of the literature and recommendations for practice. J Nurse Midwifery. 1999;44(3):205-16.

  2. Lieberman S. A review of the effectiveness of Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) for the symptoms of menopause. J Womens Health. 1998;7(5):525-9.

  3. Tyler V. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. New York, NY: Haworth Press, Inc.; 1993.

  4. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  5. Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.

  6. Peirce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association: Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York, NY: Stonesong Press; 1999.

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