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Black Cohosh

  • Cimicifuga racemosa L.
  • Ranunculaceae
  • Buttercup family

Common Names

herbsBlack cohush
herbsBlack snakeroot

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

A tall growing, unpleasantly scented, woodland perennial plant, 3-8 feet high. The large creeping, knotty rootstock, scarred with the remains of old growth, produces a stem of up to 9 feet in height. Large compound leaves thrice-divided; sharply toothed; terminal leaflet 3-lobed, middle lobe is the largest. Small, fetid, flowers are white and strong smelling, in very long, slender, fluffy, spikes, terminating tall leafy stalks, each flower has numerous white stamens and no petals; May to September. Tufts of stamens conspicuous. Flowers ultimately give way to small, round seed pods with several seeds. When the stalk is shaken, the seeds rattle within their pods, producing a sound similar to a rattlesnake, thus the nickname "rattleroot". Grown in shade or full sun, but is grown more vigorously in the sun. Zones 3-10. Not heat-tolerant. Wiry stems with divided dark green leaves and wandlike racemes of white flowers is very showy.

Where Found

Rich upland woods, hillsides and woods at higher elevations. Southern Ontario to Georgia; Missouri to Wisconsin. Native of North America.

Medicinal Properties

Alterative, astringent, diuretic, alterative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue (starts menstrual flow), expectorant, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, cardiac stimulant (safer than digitalis), anti-inflammatory, sedative, antitussive, uterine stimulant

Biochemical Information

Actaeine, cimicifungin (macrotin), estrogenic substances, isoferulic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, phosphorus, recemosin, tannins, starch, gum, triterpenes, and vitamins A and B5.

Legends, Myths and Stories

Cimicifuga (C. racemosa) comes from the Latin "to drive away", so named because certain species are used to drive away bugs and other insects.


Insoluble in water. Tincture used for bronchitis, chorea, menstrual irregularities, stimulates kidney, restores digestive system to normal, fever, nervous disorders, chorea (St. Vitus' Dance), lumbago, rheumatism, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox. Traditionally important for "female ailments", painful menses and helps in labor and delivery during childbirth. Research has confirmed estrogenic, hypoglycemic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory activity. Applied as poultice to wounds. Helps relieve sinusitis, persistent coughs, bronchitis, whooping cough, headache, and asthma. Lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Relives pain, palpitations, panic attacks, relieves muscle spasms, neuralgia, morning sickness, and menstrual cramps. Helpful for poisonous bites. Can be used as an antidote for the venom of snakebites. Reduces mucus levels. The liquid obtained from boiling the roots can be used to treat diarrhea in children.

Combined with skullcap, wood betony, passionflower, and valerian, black cohosh works as a mild tranquilizer.

Black cohosh has the same effects on the female system as synthetic estrogen, without the side effects. Best of all, Black cohosh has no cancer causing agents like synthetic estrogen.

Formulas or Dosages

Collect the rootstock in the fall, after the leaves have died down and the fruit has appeared.

Decoction: boil 2 tsp. rootstock in 1 pint of water. Take 2 to 3 tbsp. 6 times a day, cold.

Fluid extract: a dose is from 5-30 drops in liquid daily.

Tincture: made by half-filling a pint or quart bottle with the powdered root, adding diluted alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) or whisky until the bottle is full, and agitating once or twice a day for two weeks. Doses range from 1-30 drops in a tsp. of water.

How Sold

Capsules: take 1 capsule 3 times per day.



This plant must only be used in small quantities since strong or large doses cause nausea and vomiting, symptoms of poisoning.

Avoid during pregnancy until labor and only under supervision of a doctor. Do not take if any type of chronic disease is present.

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