Other Common Names: Black Bugbane, Black Snakeroot, Rattle Root, Rattle Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Root, Rattleweed, Squawroot
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) was introduced to European settlers by various Native American peoples, who used the herb to treat uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia and fatigue. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), modern clinical studies demonstrate the herb’s effectiveness at reducing the frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. Although its mechanism of action is not yet clear, scientists are confident that chemicals in black cohosh do not mimic estrogen or pose the same risks associated with hormone replacement therapy agents. This is significant to women who cannot take estrogenic compounds due to having a history of a hormone-driven disease, such as breast cancer.
Black Cohosh root was a featured ingredient in Lydia Pinkham's "Vegetable Compound," The 1800s answer to "female complaints," including menstrual disorders, difficulty conceiving and unpleasant symptoms of menopause.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at NIH continues to study the pharmacology of black cohosh and to evaluate its safety. At this point, it is known that in the root and rhizome tubers of the plant contain isoferulic acids, which produce anti-inflammatory effects. The therapeutic dosage recommended by the University of Maryland Medical Center is 2 to 4 ml black cohosh tincture, mixed with water, juice or tea, taken 3 times per day. (Please see Precautions below.)
Black cohosh contains triterpene glycosides (cimifugaside, etc.) that bind to estrogen receptors and suppress the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH), which tends to increase as estrogen levels decrease and results in climacteric symptoms -- the medical term that describes hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome.
Triterpene Glycosides: cimifugaside 27-deoxyactein, actein
Quinolizidine Alkaloids: cytisine, methyl cytisine
Phenylpropand Derivatives: isoferulic acids
Compounds from the root and rhizome are made into tablets, teas and tinctures.
Do not use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Safety beyond six months of use has not been established. Do not use in conjunction with tamoxifen, hormone replace therapy, immuno-suppressant drugs or high blood pressure medications. Do not use if you are a recent organ transplant recipient. Consult a health care practitioner before using this herb if you have a history of a hormone-related condition, including breast cancer. Black cohosh may reduce absorption of iron supplements unless taken at least 2 hours apart.
For Certified Organic Black Cohosh, please visit the Organic Herbs & Spices page.