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Herb Spotlight - Black Cohosh Root

Herb Spotlight - Motherwort - Sun God Medicinals

Black Cohosh Root (Actaea racemosa)  

Family: Ranunculaceae

Part Used: Root and Rhizomes

Flavor/Aroma: Aromatic, acrid, bitter, sweet

Energetics: Cooling, drying


Herbal Actions: 

Analgesic, Uterine Tonic, Febrifuge, Emmenagogue, Oestrogenic, Anti-rheumatic, Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Sedative, Expectorant.⁴

Overview:

Black cohosh, also known as black snakeroot, fairy candle, or bugbane, is a flowering plant native to North America. It thrives in the wet Pacific Northwest climates, both in the wild and cultivated in gardens and parks. It is best known for its medicinal usage as a female reproductive tonic and for providing rheumatism relief.

Botany:

Black Cohosh is an herbaceous perennial herb that grows in moist, heavy soils; it produces tall, tapering racemes, or clusters of white midsummer flowers. It sprouts compound leaves that are vibrant green and textured.

Cultivation and Harvesting:

Black cohosh can be found on the west side of the Cascades, in wetlands, river basins, and coastal forests. It is happiest in old growth forests with rotting nurse trees, thriving wildlife, and amongst companion plants such as trillium and devils club. Black Cohosh needs the variety of insects found in a healthy, complete forest for pollination. 1  

Southern Oregon Cultivation:

Black Cohosh, although considered endangered by United Plant Savers, is found in heavily shaded woodland areas, and stands usually thrive in hilly, deciduous wooded lands. There are few areas in Southern Oregon to find wild Black Cohosh, but it's responsible reintroduction into its proper growing climate is highly recommended.

History and Folklore:

American Native Usage: The name cohosh comes from the Algonquian word for “rough.”

The root decoction was used to address pain during menstruation and childbirth, uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, and to regulate the menstrual cycle. The root was also used as a poultice to treat venomous snake bites.

Herrick records that among the Iroquois the root decoction of Black Cohosh, whose common name translates to "horse smells" and "smells like horse" amongst tribal tradition,  was used to promote the flow of milk in female bodied individuals; it was used to treat rheumatism by decocting the root in a foot bath, and washing the affected parts. A steam or sweat bath was also prepared using the leaves and root. In some cases, leaves were used as a poultice to treat a baby’s sore back, and for general muscle aches.4

Traditional Usage: general pain relief, diminishing night sweats, ease of menstrual cramps, regulate menstrual cycles, uterine tonic, ovarian anti inflammatory, and to support vaginal dryness. Other uses include rheumatoid arthritis support, general neuralgia, acute conjunctivitis, and asthmatic symptoms.

Modern Applications:

There is substantial evidence from modern clinical trials confirming the traditional uses of black cohosh for treating premenstrual tension and other gynecological issues.2 It is one of the herbs approved by the German Commission E, which approved use of the root for premenstrual discomfort, dysmenorrhea or climacteric (perimenopausal or postmenopausal) neurovegetative ailments. Black Cohosh is used as primary remedy for rheumatism and myalgic pain.4,5

Uses and Preparations:

Dried Herb Tea Preparation: 

Up to 2 grams per day in leaf tea and/or root decoction.

Using a reusable tea bag or tea ball, immerse the loose dried herbs into boiling water and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably covered, in order to release the maximum amount of herbal goodness. Some herbal tea can carry a strong flavor. We recommend organic honey as a sweetener which preserves the beneficial herbal compounds. 

Tincture: 

Up to 2-4 mL daily, and as needed for acute situations.  Exceeding the suggested dosage may cause mild frontal headaches, nausea, and gastric discomfort.

Some herbal tinctures can have a strong flavor on their own. Adding your tincture to a glass of 6-8oz of water is one easy way to help, should you wish to dilute the flavor.  

Dosage:

It is important to remember that some bodies may react differently than others when using herbal products. Our recommended dosages are designed to be an average dosage only. If you have specific concerns about the dosage amount or interaction with other medication, please consult with your doctor or health care practitioner prior to using our products.  

Precautions:

Not recommended during pregnancy or during lactation. We recommend consulting with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using any herbal products, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.

References:

  1. Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, 1st. Edition published 1993 pg.  76
  2. Beer A-M, Neff A. (2013) Differentiated Evaluation of Extract-Specific Evidence on Cimicifuga racemosa's Efficacy and Safety for Climacteric Complaints
  3. Blumenthal, Mark. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, First edition published 2003 pg 15
  4. Pengelly, Andrew. Black Cohosh. www.henriettes-herb.com/articles/cohosh.html
  5. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/BlackCohoshroot.html

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.