(Actaea racemosa, formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa)
Black cohosh is a tall, flowering plant found in rich, shady woods in eastern areas of North America. A member of the buttercup family. Black cohosh is also known as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, and squawroot.
A case-control clinical study of 949 breast cancer cases and 1,524 controls found that black cohosh use had significant protective effects against breast cancer development. More research is needed.
Black cohosh is often referred to as a “woman’s remedy” because it is used mainly to relieve premenstrual problems, menstrual cramps, and symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) has approved black cohosh for these symptoms. Black cohosh is also a source of vitamin A and pantothenic acid. It contains glycosides (sugar compounds), isoferulic acids (substances with anti-inflammatory effects), and, possibly, phytoestrogens (plant based estrogens), among several other active substances.
Black cohosh has also been used to treat pain before, during, and after childbirth; breast pain; ovarian pain; and uterine pain. Other reported uses of black cohosh include arthritis pain relief, lowering blood pressure, sedation, treatment of bronchial infections, treatment for spasms associated with whooping cough, and treatment of diarrhea.
Patients with a history of breast cancer, risk factors for breast cancer, or who are actively engaged in breast cancer treatment, should talk to their doctor before taking black cohosh.
Side effects may include upset stomach, headache, rash, nausea, and vomiting. Very high doses may cause slow heart rate, uterine cramps, dizziness, tremors, joint pain, and light-headedness.
Cautions and Side Effects
Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding, if you have heart disease or an oestrogen-sensitive tumour, or if you are on blood pressure medication. It should also be avoided if you suffer from coeliac disease, fat malabsorption deficiency of vitamins A,D,E or K, or irritative conditions of the upper digestive tract, such as acid reflux. If you’re on oestrogen therapy, consult a doctor before taking. Do not use for more than 6 months. May cause upset stomach, headache, reduced heart rate and raised blood pressure. Excessive amounts can cause vertigo, nausea, impaired vision, vomiting, impaired circulation and liver damage.