Black cohosh
Cimicifuga racemosa

Black cohosh - Cimicifuga racemosa (in the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup family)

Part used: Root.

Taste/smell: Bitter, sharp, spicy, acrid.

Dosage: Decoction: 1 heaping teaspoon per cup of water; or 1:3 dry plant liquid extract: 10-40 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water.

Mental picture and specific indications: Consider black cohosh when there are spasms, achy pains, chilliness, fevers, nervous system irritation or eBlack cohoshitement, depression of a deep, dark and heavy nature, incessant talking and neuralgia. It is specific for headaches in the late luteal phase associated with low estrogen levels. Many symptoms are worse in the morning, during menses and with cold applications. Symptoms are better with warmth and after eating.

Use: (a) Antispasmodic, (b) Sedative, (c) Diaphoretic, (d) Digestive stimulant, (e) Mild expectorant, (f) Peripheral vasodilator, (g) Hypotensive, (h) Female reproductive tract tonic, (i) Anti-inflammatory.

Black cohosh is used for menstrual cramps, amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, late menstruation, endometriosis, menopausal complaints or post hysterectomy, dyspepsia, joint inflammation and rheumatism. It is specific for the initial phases of influenza when there is chilliness, aching muscles and an acute fever. It is thought that the salicylic acid in the herb may be responsible for alleviating myalgias and neuralgias. The constituent, ferulic acid, has an anti-inflammatory effect that could also alleviate pain. It will increase and normalize uterine contractions during labor. It is also useful for after-pains following labor. Especially consider black cohosh with reproductive tract problems related to congestion, nervous irritability of the reproductive organs, achy muscles, and emotional irritability or depression. Black cohosh is well known for its support of the female reproductive tract function. It appears to act as a phytoestrogen. Black cohosh has been shown to suppress luteinizing hormone surges associated with hot flashes in menopausal woman. Constituents of black cohosh compete in vitro with 17-beta-estradiol for estrogen receptor binding sites. Research with rats shows a reduction of serum levels of luteinizing hormone in ovariectomized rats with a methanol extract of black cohosh and substances in the extract were shown to bind with estrogen receptors in the rat uteri.

Research has shown black cohosh to have an inhibitory activity in vitro and in vivo on bone resorption in ovariectomized rats as well as rats on low calcium diets. The extract has significantly decreased the growth of the breast carcinoma cell line when tested in vitro. It appears to be a beta 1 antagonist and beta 2 receptor agonist.

It relaxes the smooth muscles of the blood vessels, relaxes the uterus and skeletal muscles as well as dilates the bronchioles. The active constituents are thought to be (a) triterpene glycosides, principally actein (aglycon acetylacteol) and cimifugoside (aglycone - cimigenol), (b) isoflavones including formononetin, (c) aromatic acids including isoferulic acid, ferulic acid, and salicylic acid.

Contraindications: Do not use in the first trimester of pregnancy due to emmenagogue effect. Use after the first trimester should be under the guidance of a trained professional. Large doses can slow the heart, create hypotension and bradycardia. Signs of toxicity are nausea, vomiting, injected conjunctiva, flushed face, dilated pupils, light headed, frontal headache with a severe bursting sensation, stiffness and trembling limbs, decreased pulse and blood pressure, and joint pain. This plant is currently under heavy demand. There is concern that the sustainability of this plant is poor and it will become endangered soon.

Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.