Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh (Bugbane) (Actaea racemosa, a.k.a. Cimicifuga  racemosa)

Family: Ranunculaceae

Parts commonly used: (dried) Root and rhizome.

Properties/energetics: Antispasmodic sedative, alterative and emmenagogue/Cool; sweet, spicy, slightly bitter.

Systems predominantly affected:  Reproductive, musculoskeletal, respiratory

Uses: Black Cohosh is affectively used for its ability to reduce dull, aching pain almost anywhere in the body. (Refer to the description of Cramp Bark for information about dealing with sharp, tight, spastic pain.) From observation, it seems Black Cohosh’s pain-relieving properties are partly due to antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects and partly due to a sedating effect on the perception of pain. Besides this generalized effect throughout the body, Black Cohosh has a specific affinity for the reproductive organs. Most often, it is used as a regulator of female imbalances. Its use in painful menstruation can be partially ascribed to the above-mentioned properties of the plant, but the fact that it is useful in relieving suppressed menses and that its affects are often long lasting suggest a generalized tonic effect on the uterus. In spite of the traditional decree that Black Cohosh is a female tonic, do not ignore the possibility that it may have this beneficial effect on the prostate as well. In addition, it should be emphasized that Black Cohosh is quite beneficial to use in the treatment of rheumatic pains but also in relieving arthritic, muscular, and neurological pains. As a respiratory antispasmodic, it can be used to treat symptoms such as whooping cough, and it relieves less severe upper respiratory conditions as well.

Combinations: Combines with Yerba Santa, Gumweed, and Elecampane for upper respiratory problems. Combines well with Yarrow, Cramp Bark, and Saw Palmetto for treating male and female reproductive-organ conditions and with Angelica root for treating rheumatic inflammation.

Affects on specific body types: This herb is difficult to categorize, as it can be appropriate for almost everybody at some point. The dull, aching pain syndrome seems to be more associated with the cool, sluggish circulation of the Monarch, and the anti-inflammatory effects seem to suit the Warrior. The sensitive Seers, however, might find this plant gives them headaches and aggravates low blood pressure. It can, however, be a useful remedy for Seers who can tolerate it, as the herb can counteract many of the strange musculoskeletal aches associated with this constitution. As with anything else, constitutional differentiation can be overdone. This herb is good for people that it makes feel good.

Preparations/dosage: Decoction: 1 cup three times a day. Tincture: 30 drops in water as needed. Small doses taken frequently throughout the day are more effective than less-frequent large doses.

Precautions: Use dried (not fresh) plant parts of this herb. Most plants in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family can be toxic when eaten in their fresh state. Drying the root and rhizome alters their organic chemistry, rendering Black Cohosh safe. Not to be used during pregnancy. Excessive dosages may cause nausea and headache.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition