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Black Cohosh Root

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 15, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Black Cohosh Root


Black Cohosh Root is the root of an herbaceous perennial plant with large, deep green leaves that grow about two feet tall. This plant grows very well in woodland gardens and blooms when well-shaded in June or July. The flowers are tiny white flowers that emerge from a three-forked spike, which may reach six to seven feet in hight.
Other names for Black Cohosh Root (Cimicifuga racemosa) are Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candles, Bugbane, Bugwort, Rattle Root, and Squaw Root, to name a few. Black Cohosh Root grows well in fertile, moist, but well-drained woodland soil. It is best cultivated in groups and it can be propagated by seed or division that must be planted in the fall in order to receive enough chill to aid its germination. The plant was also called Bugbane because of the flowers’ strong odor that repels insects.

History and Origin

The medicinal value of Black Cohosh Root was discovered by the Native American Indians and was introduced to the early European settlers. The Native American Indians discovered that Black Cohosh Root is best in treating snakebites and joint problems. However, the root was primarily used for women’s health concerns. The Algonquian tribe named the plant Cohosh, which means ‘rough’ in reference to the texture of the rhizome.

Black Cohosh Root originated in the woodlands of New England and the eastern part of Canada. Early settlers also used the root for the same medicinal purposes. During the later part of 1800s, Black Cohosh Root became an integral ingredient in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which became a widespread over-the-counter cure for infertility, menstrual problems, and disturbing symptoms of menopause.

Ancient Uses

American colonizers have used Black Cohosh Root for the remedy of dropsy, bronchitis, fever, nervous disorders, hysteria, lumbago, yellow fever, and rattlesnake bites. It was also used for inducing labour during childbirth of women during the early settlement in America.

The Native Americans have used Black Cohosh Root for hundreds of years to remedy malaria, sore throats, kidney problems, and rheumatism; after discovering the initial medicinal properties of the root in relieving menstrual cramps.

Modern Uses

Recent initial studies have suggested that Black Cohosh Root combined with other herbs may also help in the remedy of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Results of other studies have proven that the Black Cohosh Root can be an effective and safe alternative to estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) for women who are not willing or not capable of taking ERT for menopause.
Modern herbal researchers have recognized that the anti-inflammatory and mild sedative activity of the Black Cohosh Root can actually help a woman with hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause such as irritability, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

Side Effects

The only downside of using Black Cohosh Root in treating the symptoms of menopause is to experience a mild stomach upset. Black Cohosh Root should not be used during pregnancy due to its possible ability to incite uterine contractions. There is also a growing concern about the safety of Black Cohosh Root in women with a family history of breast cancer.

Read also: Cocoyl Sarcosine

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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