Black Cohosh

Black cohosh, Actaea racemosa, Benefits of Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa, where to find black cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa (Actaea racemosa) Ranunculaceae.

The Native Americans have long known about the medicinal properties if black cohosh. They call it squaw root and use it to alleviate menstrual problems and the pain if childbirth. The plant originates from eastern North America where it can be seen growing on hillsides and in shady places on the edge of woods or hedgerows. The plant reaches about 2-3m in height.

Parts used


In autumn, after the fruits have ripened, the root is dug up, then cut and dried.

The dried root is used for powder and tinctures, and to make dry and liquid extracts.


The root is rich in compounds that mimic the effects of oestrogen. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant triterpenoid glucosides are also present as well as salicylic acid, which acts in a similar way to aspirin. The root contains tannins, which are antibacterial and aid wound healing

Medicinal uses

Black cohosh is prescribed for gynaecological problems, including periods (absent, painful or heavy), and to soothe premenstrual tension.

In 1998, a German review documented the benefits of black cohosh in the treatment of menopausal problems such as hot flushes and depression. In a trial performed in 1987, tablets containing black cohosh extract were found to improve menopausal symptoms significantly. In 1998 Japanese scientists demonstrated the effects on blood vessels and arteries of piscidic acids - found in black cohosh - in vitro (laboratory tests).In earlier clinical studies in 1962 Italian researchers discovered that the plant could cause dilation of blood vessels without adversely affecting blood pressure levels.

In traditional Chinese medicine black cohosh is used to treat inflammation, pain and fever. The plant's anti-inflammatory properties, which suggest its potential use in the treatment of rheumatism, were reported in Planta Medica in 2000. Black cohosh also has a sedative effect and is beneficial in the treatment of anxiety. The plant has also been used to remedy coughs.


Whether used in the form of a dry or liquid extract, a powder or in any other pharmaceutical preparation, a treatment based upon black cohosh should only ever be used in consultation with a medical herbalist.



Although no toxic side effects have been noted even after six months continuous treatment, it is important to take black cohosh only as prescribed by a medical herbalist.

It should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Women who have a history of breast cancer and other oestrogenrelated cancers should also avoid it.

Black cohosh should not be taken with other drugs that lower blood pressure, except on the advice of a medical herbalist.

It should not be taken if you are allergic to aspirin.


Grow in moist, rich soil, ideally in a lightly shaded position.


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