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Medicinal and Useful Plants of North America, with herbal uses and scientific names. Learn to identify, and use wild medicinal herb plants that grow all around us. History, Folklore, Growing Information.
black cohosh herb closeup of flower

Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa

Black Cohosh Herb Uses and Medicinal Properties

 Black Cohosh has a long history of herbal use by Native Americans, and as an alternative medicine by early settlers. It was used mainly to treat painful periods and problems associated with menopause. Used in conjunction with St. John’s Wort, it has proven to be effective in treating hot flashes and other menopausal problems. Black Cohosh is believed to be useful for treating a range of other complaints; including tinnitus and high blood pressure. The fresh flowers have a strong odor and are effective insect repellents, thus the alternative name Bugbane.

Black Cohosh is an endangered medicinal herb plant. Only the cultivated herb should be used.  Do not harvest Black Cohosh plants or roots from the wild.

Other Names: Black snakeroot, Bugbane, Bugwort, Cimicifuga, Rattleroot, Rattleweed,

Black Cohosh contains Acetic-acid, Actein, Ascorbic-acid, Butyric-acid, Cimicifugin, Formononetin, Gallic-acid, Isoferulic-acid, Oleic-acid, Palmitic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Tannic-acid. It is a powerful cardiac stimulant and has a sedative effect on the nervous system.  Research has shown that Black Cohosh root has estrogenic activity and reduces levels of pituitary luteinizing hormone, thereby decreasing the ovaries production of progesterone. Black Cohosh is used in alternative medicine as an alterative, antidote, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, birthing aid, cardio-tonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue (to promote menstruation), expectorant, hypnotic, tonic and to treat rheumatism.

CAUTION: Large doses of Black Cohosh can cause poisoning.

Black Cohosh Native Habitat and Plant Description

Black Cohosh is a native North American perennial herb, found from southern Canada to the Appalachian Mountains and as far south as Georgia and Missouri. It grows mostly on hillsides and in open woods in moist rich soil. Black Cohosh grows to about 8 feet tall and bears a handsome long plumb of white flowers from June to August. The leaves are pinnate and compound with irregular tooth leaflets. The rootstock is knotty and scared with old growth. The rhizome of the root is black and rough, Cohosh is a Native American word for rough, hence Black Cohosh.

How to Grow Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh is a hardy perennial in shaded areas to zone 3.  Grow in shaded areas, requires watering to thrive. Sow seed 1/4 inch below soil surface in a flat in the late Summer. Plant in rich, moist ground in Spring. Easily propagated by division. Black Cohosh prefers humus rich soil, like that found in the woods. It will self sow its seed and can grow into big patches under the right conditions. Black Cohosh Seed

Black Cohosh Folklore and History

Black Cohosh root was used by Native Americans to treat snake bite and as a ceremonial herb to bring visions. The root was thought by some early American settlers to be the main ingredient in witches brew, and any female caught with it in her possession was burned as a witch.

How to Harvest and Use Black Cohosh

Gather Black Cohosh rootstock in the fall after the fruit has formed. Wash roots carefully, blot with paper towel or absorbent cloth. Dry in a well ventilated area away from smoke, pets and pests, preferably on wire racks.

Black Cohosh Herbal Recipes and Preparations

Black Cohosh Decoction: Add 2 tsp. dried rootstock to 1 pint of water, boil and let cool. Give 2 to 3 tbsp. up to six times a day.

Black Cohosh Tincture: Soak 2 to 3 oz. powdered rootstock in 8 to 12 oz. Vodka for 3 weeks shaking the jar 1 or 2 times a day. Strain, give 5 drops 3 to 4 times a day.

Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron

Black Cohosh Links : Black Cohosh

No Liver Toxicity from Black Cohosh Confirmed in New Meta-Analysis

Black Cohosh Profile - University Medical Center of Maryland

Photos by Karen Bergeron

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Informative Herb Links

Guide to Herbal Properties
Extensive List of Medicinal Plant Constituents

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