Black cohosh has been used for more than two centuries, mainly due to its numerous benefits for menopause symptoms. It is known to relieve both menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and sleep disturbances. In Germany, it is an approved treatment for premenstrual symptoms, painful menstruation and menopausal symptoms.
Native Americans called the plant black cohosh because of the dark color of its roots. It is also known as squaw root, a reference to its use in childbirth and the treatment of other symptoms related to the reproductive system.
The Latin name for black cohosh is Cimifuga racemosa. Cimifuga comes from the Latin cimex (“bug”) and fugare (“to drive away”). This is related to the herb’s strong scent.
Common Names: Black snakeroot; Bugbane; Bugwort; Rattle weed; Squawroot
Latin Names: Cimicifuga racemosa
Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family. It is a tall perennial with small, creamy flowers and broad 3 lobed leaves, native to the eastern areas of North America.
It is underground parts of the plant (rhizomes and roots) that are used for medicinal purposes.
The roots and rhizomes of black cohosh have mild sedative and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it beneficial in a number of conditions.
Black cohosh is most well known as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. The discovery of serious side-effects associated with prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for treatment of menopausal symptoms has caused renewed and growing interest in the use of this herb as a natural alternative.
Black cohosh is believed effective for a number of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal atrophy. It also assists with the psychological symptoms associated with menopause, such as insomnia, anxiety and depression.
There has been significant research into the effectiveness of black cohosh in the treatment of menopausal symptoms in human women. One sizable German study with 629 participants showed improved physical and psychological menopausal symptoms in more than 80% of the participants within four weeks.
In a 2nd German study involving 304 women, not only was the 40 mg of black cohosh taken daily shown to be superior to a placebo, the researchers claimed that the results were similar to those achieved with estrogen replacement therapy.
A 3rd study, involving 80 women treated for 12 weeks with black cohosh extract, showed an improvement in anxiety symptoms as well as menopause symptoms. In the group taking black cohosh, the number of hot flashes dropped from 5 per day less than 1 per day. This was a superior result to estrogen replacement therapy, where hot flashes dropped to 3.5 times a day.
More on natural remedies for menopausal symptoms …
The anti-inflammatory effects of black cohosh indicate that it may be useful in the treatment of rheumatoid conditions such as arthritis, a finding which is borne out by clinical studies. A review of scientific studies indicates that a combination of black cohosh, willow bark, sarsaparilla and poplar bark may help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Some experts believe that plant based estrogens in black cohosh may prevent osteoporosis. This theory has yet to be scientifically tested, particularly given that osteoporosis has been associated with black cohosh therapy in clinical studies.
Black cohosh contains glycosides (sugar compounds), isoferulic acids (substances with anti-inflammatory effects), and, phytoestrogens (plant based estrogens), among several other active substances.
The actual mechanism of action of black cohosh remains unclear, but its usefulness is supportd by a long history of anecdotal evidence and the results of recent scientific studies.
- Tea: Add 20 g of dried root to 1250ml of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer 20 to 30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by a third. Strain, cover, and store in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Drink one cup two or three times daily.
- Tincture: Take 2 – 4 ml once or twice a day in water or tea.
- Capsules: Take one 500 mg capsule three times a day.
- Standardized extract: Take one 40 mg capsule (standardised to 2.5 percent triterpine glycosides) twice daily.
Side Effects and Precautions
Side effects are rare following treatment with black cohosh. However, those noted include constipation, intestinal discomfort, loss of bone mass (leading to osteoporosis), irregular or slow heart beat, low blood pressure, muscle damage, nausea and vomiting.
It is not clear if black cohosh is safe in individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, or endometriosis.
Black cohosh should be used cautiously in patients with a history of blood clots or stroke, seizure disorder, taking medications for high blood pressure, known allergy to aspirin/salicylates, liver disease, or hormone-sensitive cancers.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid black cohosh as the herb may stimulate contractions and lead to premature labor.
Do you have any experience with black cohosh? Share your story below. I’d love to hear from you 🙂