Black Snakeroot

This genus of 28 species if perennials is found in moist, shady grassland or woodland in northern temperate regions. Several species are grown in borders, especially in woodland settings, for their tall, graceful spikes of flowers and their elegant cut leaves. Sixteen species were formerly classified as the genus Cimicifuga. These include species such as A. podocarpa (syn C. americana)) (American Bugbane) and A. dahurica (syn. C. dahurica), and Asian species, used interchangeably with A. foetida as sheng ma in traditional Chinese medicine. The drug sheng ma was first noted in a Chinese medical text c.CE25-200. Actaea racemosa (syn C. racemosa) has long been used by native N Americans for various female problems, and for this reason it is often referred to as "squaw root". White baneberry, or "doll's eyes" (A. pachypoda syn. A. alba), is named after its black-eyed white berries and was used by various tribes for rattlesnake bites, and by the Cherokee to revive the dying, but it is now considered too toxic for medicinal use. The aromatic roots of Japanese black snakeroot (A. simplex syn. C. simplex) are used as a spice and are commonly known in Japan as sarashina-shôma.

A member of the buttercup family, black cohosh has long been used by Native Americans to treat menstrual discomfort and the pains of childbirth. Western civilizations have used it to treat menopausal symptoms since the 1700s due to its estrogen-like effects on the body.

Tall perennial with a woody rootstock and broadly ovate leaves, to 40cm (16in) long, divided into 3-lobed leaflets with toothed margins. Slender bottle-brush spikes, to 60cm (2ft) long, of unpleasant-smelling white flowers that are borne in summer.

Common Name:
Black Snakeroot
Other Names:
Black Cohosh, Bugbane, Bugwort, Cimicifuga, Cohosh Bugbane, Rattleweed, Squawroot, Yellow Ginseng
Botanical Name:
Actaea racemosa syn. Cimicifuga racemosa.
Native Location:
Eastern N. America
Moist, rich, neutral to acid soil in partial shade.
By seed sown when ripe in a cold frame or nursery bed for germination the following spring; by division in spring.
Rhizomes are lifted in autumn and used fresh in tinctures, or used dried for use in decoctions, liquid extracts, and tinctures.
1.2-2,2m (4-7ft)
60cm (24in)
Over the last decade, as Chinese herbal medicine became more popular in the West, many women discovered Asia's great "female" tonic dong quai. Incredibly, the once almost impossible to find Eastern herb is now found in neighborhood drugstores and supermarkets. A similar groundswell of consumer awareness and demand also made black cohosh commercially available in the United States. And for good reason. What dong quai is to Eastern herbalism, black cohosh is to Western herbalism. You wouldn't know this from its common and Latin names—bugbane and cimicifuga. Both are tributes to the plant's effectiveness as an insect repellent, not a medicine. (Cicimifuga is a combination of the Latin cimex, for "bug", and fugere, for "drive away".) For centuries, however, Native Americans used black cohosh to treat a host of "female complaints", including heavy menstrual periods, irregular menstrual periods, labor pains, and menstrual cramps. Early American settlers used the plant even more extensively, for nervous exhaustion, snakebites, sore throats, and yellow fever.

Over the last 60 years, European research into black cohosh's therapeutic actions has been key to rekindling worldwide interest in this remarkable healing plant for yet another indication—menopause. Scientists have identified estrogen like substances—technically called phytoestrogens—in black cohosh's roots and rhizomes. Two of these substances, actein and triterpene, are especially effective in treating many of the symptoms of menopause. In fact, in Germany, black cohosh is the most widely prescribed (and successfully used) natural alternative to prescription hormone replacement therapy (HRT). And it's still an excellent insect repellent.
Parts Used:
Root, Rhizomes
A bitter tonic herb that soothes aches and pains, controls coughing, lowers fevers, and stimulates the uterus.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for bronchial complaints (such as whooping cough and asthma), menstrual and menopausal problems, labor and post-partum pains. Often combined with Menyanthes trifoliata (see bog bean) and Petroselinum crispum (see parsley) for arthritic and rheumatic diseases, with Zanthoxylum americanum (see prickly ash) for sciatica and tinnitus, and with Hypericum perforatum (see St. John's Wort) for menopausal problems. Excess causes nausea and vomiting. Not given during pregnancy and lactation. Used in homeopathy for discomfort in late pregnancy, labor pains, and for headaches and depression.
To treat rheumatism, bronchitis, sore throats, fever, snakebite, and lumbago; to calm involuntary muscle motions; as a sedative. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of black cohosh to treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and symptoms of menopause.
Black cohosh has antianxiety, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, pain-relieving, and sedating properties. Traditionally, it has also been used by folk herbalists and Native Americans as an emmenagogue—an herb that brings on delayed menstrual periods. Today it is prescribed as a tonic or "regulator" of the female reproductive organs and hormones. Its antispasmodic and sedating properties are particularly effective for treating irregular or painful menstrual periods, menstrual cramping, arthritic and rheumatic pain, and muscular cramping and pain. It is most frequently used to relieve menopausal symptoms, including anxiety, depression, exhaustion, heart palpitations, hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Black cohosh is widely available in commercial teas and tablets, alone or in combination with other herbs. Choose a product made by a well-known manufacturer and follow the directions on the label. To make a decoction, add ½ teaspoon of dried rootstock to 1 cup of water and boil for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and flavor with lemon and honey, if desired. Drink up to 1 cup a day, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Do not use black cohosh if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, if you have heart problems, or if you have been advised not to take oral contraceptives. Overdoses and extended use of the herb can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, joint pains, lowered heart rate, and/or vomiting. If these symptoms occur, stop taking the herb and contact your medical practitioner. Some research indicates that inappropriate use of black cohosh may increase the risk of developing abnormal blood clotting, breast tumors, and liver problems.
This herb is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of black cohosh may range from 40 to 200mg of powdered rhizome daily; alcoholic-aqueous extracts corresponding to 40mg of the drug; or 0.4 to 2ml of tincture (1:10 in 60 percent alcohol).
Possible Side Effects:
Black Cohosh's side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Drug Interactions:
Taking black cohosh with these drugs may increase the risk of hypotension (excessively low blood pressure):
Acebutolol, (Sectral)
Amlodipine, (Norvasc)
Atenolol, (Apo-Atenol, Tenormin)
Benazepril, (Lotensin)
Betaxolol, (Betoptic S, Kerlone)
Bisoprolol, (Monocor, Zebeta)
Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
Candesartan, (Atacand)
Captopril, (Capoten, Novo-Captopril)
Carteolol, (Cartrol, Ocupress)
Carvedilol, (Coreg)
Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
Clonidine, (Catapres, Duraclon)
Diazoxide, (Hyperstat, Proglycem)
Diltiazem, (Cardizem, Tiazac)
Doxazosin, (Alti-Doxazosin, Cardura)
Enalapril, (Vasotec)
Eplerenone, (Inspra)
Eprosartan, (Teveten)
Esmolol, (Brevibloc)
Felodipine, (Plendil, Renedil)
Fenoldopram, (Corlopam)
Fosinopril, (Monopril)
Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
Guanabenz, (Wytensin)
Guanadrel, (Hylorel)
Guanfacine, (Tenex)
Hydralazine, (Apresoline, Novo-Hylazin)
Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
Irbesartan, (Avapro)
Isradipine, (DynaCirc)
Labetalol, (Normodyne, Trandate)
Lisinopril, (Prinivil, Zestril)
Losartan, (Cozaar)
Mecamylamine, (Inversine)
Mefruside, (Baycaron)
Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
Metoprolol, (Betaloc, Lopressor)
Minoxidil, (Loniten, Rogaine)
Moexipril, (Univasc)
Nadolol, (Apo-Nadol, Corgard)
Nicardipine, (Cardene)
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)
Nisoldipine, (Sular)
Nitroglycerin, (Minitran, Nitro-Dur)
Nitroprusside, (Nipride, Nitropress)
Olmesartan, (Benicar)
Oxprenolol, (Slow-Trasicor, Trasicor)
Perindopril Erbumine, (Aceon, Coversyl)
Phenoxybenzamine, (Dibenzyline)
Phentolamine, (Regitine, Rogitine)
Pindolol, (Apo-Pindol, Novo-Pindol)
Polythiazide, (Renese)
Prazosin, (Minipress, Nu-Prazo)
Propranolol, (Inderal, InnoPran XL)
Quinapril, (Accupril)
Ramipril, (Altace)
Reserpine, (Reserpine)
Sildenafil, (Viagra)
Sotalol, (Betapace, Sorine)
Spironolactone, (Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton)
Telmisartan, (Micardis)
Terazosin, (Alti-Terazosin, Hytrin)
Timolol, (Betimol, Timoptic)
Torsemide, (Demadex)
Trandolapril, (Mavik)
Triamterene, (Dyrenium)
Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
Valsartan, (Diovan)
Verapamil, (Calan, Isoptin SR)
Taking black cohosh with these drugs may alter/interfere with the action of the drug and is best avoided by those with estrogen-dependent tumors:
Anastrozole, (Arimidex)
Carbocysteine, (Mucopront, Rhinatiol)
Cisplatin, (Platinol-AQ)
Cyclophosphamide, (Cytoxan, Neosar)
Cyproterone and Ethinyl Estradiol, (Diane-35)
Doxorubicin, (Adriamycin, Rubex)
Epirubicin, (Ellence, Pharmorubicin)
Estradiol, (Climara, Estrace)
Estrogens (Conjugated A/Synthetic), (Cenestin)
Estrogens (Conjugated/equine), (Cenestin, Premarin)
Estrogens (Esterified), (Estratab, Menest)
Estropipate, (Ogen, Ortho-Est)
Ethinyl Estradiol, (Estinyl)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Ethynodiol Diacetate, (Demulen, Zovia)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Etonogestrel, (NuvaRing)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Levonorgestrel, (Alesse, Triphasil)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norenthindrone, (Brevicon, Ortho-Novum)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestimate, (Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
Ethinyl Estradiol and Norgestrel, (Cryselle, Ovral)
Exemestane, (Aromasin)
Fluorouracil, (Adrucil, Efudex)
Megestrol, (Lin-Megestrol, Megace)
Mitomycin, (Mutamycin)
Mitoxantrone, (Novantrone)
Norgestrel, (Ovrette)
Paclitaxel, (Onxol, Taxol)
Tamoxifen, (Nolvadex, Tamofen)
Thiotepa, (Thioplex)
Vinblastine, (Velban)
Taking black cohosh with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (Fero-Grad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
Disease Effects:
May increase the risk of breast cancer metastasis.
Supplement Interactions:
May adversely affect the liver and increase the risk of liver damage when combined with herbs and supplements that can cause hepatotoxicity (destructive effects on the liver), such as Bishop's Weed, Borage, Chaparral, Uva-Ursi and others.
Encyclopedia of herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 102
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD Pp. 75-78
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 43-44