Herb: Black Cohosh


Latin name: Cimicifuga racemosa


Synonyms: Actaea racemosa


Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)



Medicinal use of Black Cohosh:

Black cohosh is a traditional remedy of the North American Indians where it was used mainly to treat women's problems, especially painful periods and problems associated with the menopause. A popular and widely used herbal remedy, it is effective in the treatment of a range of diseases. The root is alterative, antidote, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypnotic, sedative, tonic and vasodilator. It is harvested in the autumn as the leaves die down, then cut into pieces and dried. The root is toxic in overdose, it should be used with caution and be completely avoided by pregnant women. See also the notes above on toxicity. The medically active ingredients are not soluble in water so a tincture of the root is normally used. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, as a sedative and an emmenagogue. It is traditionally important in the treatment of women's complaints, acting specifically on the uterus it eases uterine cramps and has been used to help in childbirth. Research has shown that the root has oestrogenic activity and is thought to reduce levels of pituitary luteinizing hormone, thereby decreasing the ovaries production of progesterone. The root is also hypoglycaemic, sedative and anti-inflammatory. Used in conjunction with St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) it is 78% effective in treating hot flushes and other menopausal problems. An extract of the root has been shown to strengthen the male reproductive organ in rats. The root contains salicylic acid, which makes it of value in the treatment of various rheumatic problems - it is particularly effective in the acute stage of rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica and chorea. Its sedative action makes it useful for treating a range of other complaints including tinnitus and high blood pressure. The roots are used to make a homeopathic remedy. This is used mainly for women, especially during pregnancy.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
July to
October


Scent:
Scented
Perennial

Habitat of the herb:

Moist or dry shady rich woods.

Edible parts of Black Cohosh:

Leaves - cooked. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Other uses of the herb:

Both the growing and the dried plant can be used to repel bugs and fleas.

Propagation of Black Cohosh:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed. It germinates in 1 - 12 months or even longer at 15C. The seed does not store well and soon loses its viability, stored seed may germinate better if given 6 - 8 weeks warm stratification at 15C and then 8 weeks cold stratification. Prick out the young seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer or following spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Moist or dry shady rich woods.

Known hazards of Cimicifuga racemosa:

The plant is poisonous in large doses. Large doses irritate nerve centres and may cause abortion.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.