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Herbal Monograph

Herb: BLACK COHOSH ROOT (Cimicifuga Racemosa; Ranunculaceae)

Other Names:    rattleweed, bugwort, cimicifuga, richweed.    (2)

Black Snake Root, Rattle Root, Squaw Root, Bugbane  (34)

Black snakeroot, bugbane, rattleroot, rattleweed, squawroot.    (57)

Character/Energetics:  sweet, pungent, slightly bitter, cool (6)                   

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: liver, spleen, stomach, large intestine (6); uterus, nerves, lungs. heart  (14)       

Parts used: root (6) ; rhizome (14)   

Habitat:  A native of North America, where it grows freely in shaded woods in Canada and the United States. It is called Black Snake Root to distinguish it from the Common Snake Root (Aristolochia serpentaria).  (source?)

Found in rich woods of eastern deciduous forests from Ontario to Georgia, west to Arkansas, north to Wisconsin.  Most is wildcrafted, some grown commercially in Europe.    (61)

Identification & Harvesting:    Plant is 3-5 ft. high, leafy, with a sturdy, blackish rhizome which is cylindrical, tough and knotty.  The straight, strong, dark-brownish roots sprout from the underground rhizome and are roughly quadrangular and grooved.  The transverse root section shows wedge-shaped bundles of white wood while the section of rhizome shows a large black medulla surrounded by a riung of paler, wodier widges.  Leaves are double-pinnate (feather-like), smooth and crenate-serrate.  Inflorescence is a long-stemmed, drooping raceme, 1-3 ft. long with white flowers.  There are 3-8 petals.  Grows wild in Canada and US, cultivated in Europe.    (2)

The fresh root is dug in October.  (34)

Rhizome is thick, hard and knotty, with short lateral branches, cylindrical, compressed, marked with transverse leaf scars.  Transverse section is horny, enclosing a ring of woody tissue with a hard, thick bark.  Tastes bitter and acrid and rather astringent.  Unpleasant odor.   (57)

Active Constituents:  triterpene glycosides incl. actein, 27-deoxyactein;  phenypropane derivatives incl. isoferulic acid  (2)

various glycosides such as actaeine, cimicifugin, bitter principles racemosin, estrogenic substances, triterpenes, isoferulic acid, tannin (6)       

The chief constituent is the amorphous resinous substance known as cimicifugin, or macrotin, of which it contains about 18 %, but the bitter taste is due to a crystalline principle named racemosin. The drug also contains two resins, together with fat, wax starch, gum, sugar and an astringent substance.   (34)

Actions:  The estrogen-like effect cannot be upheld any longer due to more recent results of research.  In vitro and in vivo investigations demonstrate that compounds of the rootstock of c. racemosa couple to the estrogen-receptor;  however, these results must be interpreted as a blockade of the receptor  (2)

antispasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, alterative, diuretic, antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, anti-tussive, uterine stimulant; stimulating and relaxing for the nervous system, slightly narcotic, tonic, nervine, hormonal balancer     (6) , (14), (15), (22), (50)

Many studies confirm mild sedative action and anti-inflammatory activity.  An isoflavone in the root binds to estrogen receptors, producing estrogen-like activity.    (61)

Astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, alterative.    (57)

Conditions and Uses: treats hiccoughs   (1)

Black Cohosh benefits the female glandular system due to the presence of phytoestrogens known as isoflavones. It is also an antispasmodic herb, so it helps to relieve muscle cramps often associated with periods. Another effect of the herb is an anti-inflammatory action, which may contribute to its ability to relieve hot flashes.

It has also been clinically found to promote and restore healthy menstrual activity, soothe irritation of the uterus, cervix and vagina, relieve the pain and distress of pregnancy, and contribute to quick, easy and uncomplicated deliveries.

Historically it has been used for conditions such as arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, convulsions, water retention, high blood pressure, nerves, rheumatism, snakebites and whooping cough. It has an antidepressant action that is especially useful for post-parturition depression associated with feelings of “doom and gloom.”  (1a)

Treats climacteric ailments (menopausal), premenstrual and dysmenorrheic neurovegetative disorders.    (2)

It is useful for rheumatic and arthritic complaints accompanied by feelings of heaviness. It also is used to ripen and bring out skin rashes such as measles. In Chinese medicine it is used to raise Chi and counteract prolapsed conditions of the stomach, intestines, bladder, and uterus. It improves blood circulation and is used in treating delayed and painful menses. Combined with other parturient herbs such as squaw vine and raspberry, it is used during the last two weeks of pregnancy to facilitate childbirth. Black cohosh is classified in traditional Chinese medicine as a cooling diaphoretic, but it is used more by Western herbalists for its antispasmodic properties. (6)            

Black cohosh is a powerful remedy in all nervous conditions, fits, convulsions and spasmodic afflictions. Native American women used it for all pelvic conditions, female complaints, uterine troubles, to relieve pains associated with childbirth and menstrual cycles. It will help to bring about menstrual flow that has been retarded by exposure to cold. It is a wonderful remedy to use in high blood pressure (hypertension)formulas to equalize circulation.

Combine in a syrup with wild cherry bark, coltsfoot, yerba santa and elecampane for whooping cough, bronchitis, respiratory spasms and asthma.

Black cohosh has also been used for dropsy, rheumatism, snakebites and spinal meningitis.


Acute rheumatism:  Tincture, Fluid Extract; Arthritis: Tincture *, Fluid Extract, Decoction * Bronchial spasms:  Tincture *, Fluid Extract *, Decoction *;

Coughs:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Decoction, Syrup; Cramps:  Tincture, Fluid Extract, Decoction;

Excess uric acid:  Tincture, Fluid Extract; First pains of labor:  Tincture, Fluid Extract;

Rheumatic fevers:  Tincture, Fluid Extract

* Usually used  in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem. (14)

BLACK COHOSH ROOT (Cimicifuga Racemosa; Ranunculaceae)

Conditions & Uses (cont.)

For panic attacks:  antispasmodic and sedative, relaxing and restorative for the nervous system; heart tonic, cooling and astringent.   (15)

Traditionally used as a powerful relaxant, useful in the treatment of rheumatic pains, rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis, muscular and neurological pain and rheumatoid neuralgia, and to beneficially aid the female reproductive system, normalizing menstruation, relieving menstrual cramps and regaining normal hormonal activity. (22) 

Black cohosh is a very effective and reliable remedy in many ailments. It is much used in the relief of rheumatism, epilepsy, fits, St. Vitus’ dance, convulsions, asthma, delerium tremens, nervousness and other spasmodic affections; also valuable in uterine disorders, female complaints, heart palpitations, and exerts a marked influence over the entire nervous system. (50)

Approved for use in Germany for treatment of PMS, dysmenorrhea, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.  During menopause, ovarian function declines;  estrogen production decreases;  luteinizing hormone (LH) increases;  these changes are associated with hot flashes.  One study showed an alcohol extract reduced hot flashes by lowering LH.  Another study showed its LH reduction activity is comparable to conventional estrogen replacement therapy, even in drastic cases of complete hysterectomy and abrupt menopause.  Used in Europe for over 40 years, with over 1.5 million documented cases.  Efficacy and safety are confirmed by both long-term clinical experience and by controlled studies.    (61)

Useful in small doses in children’s diarrhea.  In paroxysms of consumption it gives relief by allaying the cough, reducing rapid pulse, and inducing perspiration.  Especially recommended in cases of amenorrhea.  In whooping cough its action is very highly spoken of.  Frequently employed as a remedy for rheumatism.  Said to be a specific in St. Vitus’ Dance in children.

Combinations: Combined with other parturient herbs such as squaw vine and raspberry, it is used during the last two weeks of pregnancy to facilitate childbirth.  (6)

Combine in a syrup with wild cherry bark, coltsfoot, yerba santa and elecampane for whooping cough, bronchitis, respiratory spasms and asthma.  (14)

For panic attack:  Add up to a total of 3 ml skullcap, passionflower, valerian or lemon balm tincture per dose to increase sedating action. Decoction can be combined with valerian. (15)

Tincturing Process: Solvent percentage of absolute alcohol–60-83% (10)

1:5, 80% alcohol, 10-25 drops every four hours or more.    (61)

Dosage & Applications: 2 tsp. of dried root in a pint of water, take 2 or 3 tbsp. 6X daily, cool; tincture, 10-60 drops; standard decoction in formulas, 3-9 gms. (6)

  Infusion: 1 tsp. every 30 minutes to 3 Tbsp. every three hours, according to need

  Decoction (root): simmer 5-15 minutes. 1 to 2 oz. 3-4x daily

  Tincture:  1/2  to 1 tsp. 3x daily 

  Fluid Extract:  5 to 30 drops 3x daily

  Syrup:  1/2  to 1 Tbsp. 3-4x daily

  Powder:  1 to 5 #0 capsules (5 to 30 grains) 3x daily   (14)

  10 to 45 drops 1-3x daily or as needed.   (22)

For panic attack:  take up to 2 ml tincture 3x daily, or a decoction made with 20 g herb to 750 ml water. Add up to a total of 3 ml skullcap, passionflower, valerian or lemon balm tincture per dose to increase sedating action. Decoction can be combined with valerian. (15)

1500-1800 mg dried whole herb, daily.    (61)

5-30 drops liquid extract;  tincture 1/2-1 drachm.    (57)

Precautions:  Black cohosh is a strong medicinal herb and should be used cautiously and in low doses. An excessive amount may cause dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and headache.  (1a)

Very high doses lead to vomiting, headache, dizziness, limb pains and lowered blood pressure.  With normal doses, occasional gastric discomfort.    (2)

        Black cohosh is a very potent agent and an overdose will produce nausea and          vomiting.   (14)

        Avoid  in pregnancy; do not exceed stated dose.   (15)

        During pregnancy, use only under the guidance of a trained medical professional. (22)

No reported contraindications or drug interactions;  occasional upset stomach.  No long-term toxicity in animals.    (61)

Can cause nausea, vomiting or uterine contractions.    (1b)

Overdoses produce nausea and vomiting.    (57)

Divination: Eight of Swords

      Black cohosh is used for neurological afflictions, epilepsy, chorea, to alleviate pain,               for the liver, hepatitis, childbirth and premenstrual pains and cramps.                           Promotes menses.

Divinatory meanings: Cramped. Locked in. Publicly restrained or held back.

Reverse Meanings: Being totally in the moment. Involvement in present concerns.   (52)

General Notes: 



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data

(1a) ibid Research Data “Black Cohosh” file (Nature’s Field, July/Aug 1998)

(1b) ibid Research Data, “If You Take Herbs, Tell Your Doctor”, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, Mar. ’98

 (2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 746-47

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D. 

(10) Herbal Preparations and Natural Therapies by Debra Nuzzi St. Claire, M.H., pg 127

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 87-88

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 21, 162-163, 180

(22) Herbs and Herbal Formulas (booklet) by Mark Hershiser

(34) A Modern Herbal (Vol. 1 A-H) by Mrs. M. Grieve, pg. 211

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, pg. 29

(52) The Herbal Tarot Deck (Created by Michael Tierra and Designed by Candis Cantin)

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 98

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 30-31


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