Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.)

Description: the plant can grow to five and a half feet tall from a blackish knotty and tough rhizome. Leaves are double-pinnate, smooth and serrated. The flower raceme is drooping with three to eight petaled flowers. Sepals enclose the flower bud.

Location: Located in forests of Canada and the United States.

Food: Not a food.

Traditional Uses: The root (rhizome) is the medicinal part used. Root infusions were used to induce abortions, stimulate menstruation and promote lactation. Alcohol in fusion of the roots used to treat rheumatism. Infused root taken to treat coughs. Root infusion said to be cathartic and stimulating, a tonic and blood purifier. Hot bath soak with roots said to alleviate arthritis pain.

Modern Uses: Commission E approved for premenstrual syndrome and climacteric complaints. Commercial preparations are used to treat female conditions (dysmenorrhea): uterine spasms (cramps), menstrual pain, hot flashes, mild depression, vaginal apathy, menopause. Traditional uses for fever, arthritis and insomnia. Estrogenic effect reduces luteinizing hormone levels. A recent study of the use of Remifemin, a proprietary Black Cohosh extraction (See Friede and Liske, Obstet Gynecology. 2005;105:1074-1083) significantly reduced hot flashes, atrophy, and psyche disturbances in a trial group from 304 postmenopausal women. Results confirmed efficacy and tolerability of ispropanolic extract of black cohosh. Forty six percent of breast cancer survivors who received a black cohosh preparation were symptom free of hot flashes, sweating and other symptoms of anxiety and sleep disturbances related to premenopausal breast cancer treatment (see Jacobson, Journal Clinical Oncology; 19(10):2739-2745. 2001). A 2003 study showed an increase of bone formation in postmenopausal women (see Wuttke, Maturitas; 44(suppl 1); S 67-S 77. 2003).

Chemistry: Triterpene glycosides: acetin, cimicifugoside. Also isoflavonoids: formononetin, Formononetin binds to estrogen receptor sites and is active. The combination of estrogen effect and lowered luteinizing hormone secretions may account for its activity.

Notes: Consult a holistic health care practitioner before using this herb for dysmenorrhea , hormone replacement therapy, menopausal symptoms. Avoid if you are lactating or pregnant.

Overdose may cause pain, headache, nausea, dizziness. Recommended usage should not exceed 6 months.