BLACK COHOSH - A WOMAN'S HERB: USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLACK COHOSH
BLACK COHOSH, ACTEAE RACEMOSA / CIMICIFUGA RACEMOSA
Black Cohosh is native to
North America and was used by Native Americans who used the plant for gynaecological problems, kidney problems, malaria, sore throats and to induce lactation in breast-feeding mothers, for colds, coughs, hives and backache. In the 19th century it was a common home remedy in the for rheumatism, fever, to promote menstruation and as a diuretic. It fell out of use with the advent of pharmaceuticals. US
It has a number of other names which refer to its properties or alleged properties, some of theses being black snakeroot, rattle root, rattle top and rattle wood, all referring to the belief that a tincture of the roots is an antidote for rattlesnake venom. Its other names are bugbane and bugwort as insects tend not to go near it; it is a natural insect repellent.
It has been used in
Europe for 40 years and is approved by the German Commission E for premenstrual discomfort, painful menstruation and to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes/flashes. However some doubt has been cast on this use, as clinical trials of Black Cohosh have rarely been conducted for more than a six month period. The parts used in herbal remedies are the roots and rhizomes.
Scientific studies are still underway on Black Cohosh and as it contains plant-based estrogens, it is believed that these may inhibit bone loss which leads to osteoporosis. It is possible that it may help reduce inflammation, especially that which is associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; preparations for these complaints typically do not use Black Cohosh alone. It is usually combined with willow bark, sarsaparilla (Smilax), poplar bark (Populus tremuloides), and guaiacum (Guaiacum officinale) resin. This combination is said to relieve inflammation but there is not enough evidence to show that Black Cohosh can do this on its own.
It is a tall flowering plant that grows in shady woods in the eastern regions of the North American continent. It is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family of plants so is also related to the Lesser celandine. The fresh or dried stems and / or roots of the plant can be used in infusions, (tisanes); 1 ounce of fresh root and stems, chopped, to 1 pint of boiling water steeped for 15 minutes before straining and drinking.
People with liver complaints are advised not to take Black Cohosh preparations, as it has very occasionally caused some problems. However these were very few in number but pregnant and lactating mothers are also advised not to use it as well as women with a hormone-related condition such as breast cancer. Most of the reported side effects of Black Cohosh are minor however.