Fetid Bugbane

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.

Tall perennial with a woody rootstock and divided leaves, to 1m (3ft) long, with ovate, toothed leaflets and a 3-lobed terminal leaflet. Star-shaped white flowers are produced in spikes 60cm (2ft) long in summer and autumn.

Common Name:
Fetid Bugbane
Botanical Name:
Actaea foetida syn. Cimicifuga foetida.
Native Location:
Siberia, E. Asia
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.
1.2-2m (4-6ft)
50-80cm (20-32in)
Parts Used:
Rhizomes (sheng ma)
An anti-infective herb that lowers fevers and relieves pain.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for coughs, colds, headaches, gum-disease, and feverish infections, such as measles.
Encyclopedia of herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 102