Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa, Ranunculaceae. The dried (not fresh) roots and rhizomes are used.

Functions of black cohosh

Black cohosh:

  • is a powerful pain reliever which can be used during childbirth, but it is not recommended that it be taken during the pregnancy itself.
  • is a relaxant and normaliser of the female reproductive system. It may be beneficial in:
    • painful or delayed menstruation,
    • ovarian cramps or
    • cramping pains in the uterus.
  • has a normalising action on balancing female sex hormones.
  • has been used in the treatment of rheumatic conditions because of its anti-inflammatory properties and may be used in cases of:
    • rheumatic pains,
    • rheumatoid arthritis,
    • osteoarthritis and
    • muscular and neurological pains.
  • has been used in sciatica and neuralgia.
  • will reduce spasms and aid in the treatment of lung complaints such as whooping cough.
  • is beneficial in cases of tinnitus.
  • it may also be an effective treatment for hot flushes in menopausal women and some Japanese scientists suggest that it has enough qualities similar to estrogen for it to have potential in the treatment of osteoporosis in menopausal women.
  • has been found to lower blood pressure in laboratory animals, but the same has yet to be demonstrated in humans.


  • For uterine contractions black cohosh is combined with blue cohosh.
  • For rheumatic conditions black cohosh is combined with bogbean.
  • Do not use in pregnancy, particularly the early stages.
  • It is best used under the supervision of a herbal practitioner.
  • Avoid black cohosh if you have an estrogen receptor positive (ER+) tumor.
  • Continuous treatments should be limited to a maximum of 6 months.
  • If you have high blood pressure, kidney or liver ailments you should consult with a health professional before taking this herb.
  • Occasional gastrointestinal discomfort has been reported as a possible side effect.
  • High doses may cause dizziness, impaired vision, vomiting and circulatory problems.


Decoction: pour 1 cup of water onto 1/2 - 1 teaspoonsful of the dried root and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml three times per day.

For the gardener

Black cohosh naturally grows in partial or full shade though it can be grown in full sun.

It emerges from its perennial root in spring. The colour is somewhere between black, maroon and purple. In the autumn the top dies back and the new eyes form in the underground rhizome. The rhizome is harvested in the autumn.

Black cohosh can be grown from seeds in cold frames or by dividing the rhizomes and planting the segments that have at least one eye. They need at lest 12 to 24 inches (30 - 60 cm) of space around them to grow.



Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

Hoffmann, F. and Manning M. 2002, Herbal Medicine and Botanical Medical Fads. The Haworth Press.

Marcin, M. M. 1990, Herbal Teas: Growing Harvesting and Brewing. Collins.

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.




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