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Black Cohosh

(Cimicifuga Racemosa)

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Black Cohosh is a perennial plant native to North America. It grows in rich, open woods and hillsides from Maine and Ontario to the southern United States. The stem is smooth and furrowed, and grows from three to nine feet in height. The leaves are ternate, then pinnate, and are irregularly shaped. There are two to five leaflets which are egg-shaped or oblong, and irregularly toothed and cut. Small white or yellow flowers grow in long racemes from June to August. The medicinal part is the rootstock, which is the underground portion of a stem producing leaves from its upper surface and roots from its lower surface. It is often thick and contains deposits of reserve food material.

Other common names for this plant are:

 Battleweed  Black Snakeroot  Blue Ginseng
 Blueberry  Bugbane  Bugwort
 Cimici Fuga  Cohosh  Columbine
 Rattleroot  Rattleweed  Squawroot
 Snakeroot  Rich Ridodrine Weed  

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 Carbohydrates   Cimicifugine  Cimigenol
 Cimicitin  Estrogens  Fatty Acids
  Hormones   Isoferulic Acid  Oleic Acid
  Palmitic Acid  Plant Acids  Resins
 Salicylic Acid   Saponins  Stearic Acid
 Tannic Acid  Volatile Oils  


 Calcium  Iodine  Phosphorus
 Vitamin E  Zinc  UFA

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Antispasmodic - an agent which relieves or prevents spasms, usually of the smooth muscles. Barbiturates and valerian are examples of antispasmodics.

Astringent - an agent which causes the constriction or contraction of tissue.

Diaphoretic - an agent which increases perspiration.

Diuretic - Diuretics form a class of drugs which increase the volume of urine produced by the kidneys. It can be used effectively to treat mild cases of edema when kidney function is good and when the underlying abnormality of cardiac function, capillary pressure, or salt retention is being corrected simultaneously. Diuretics are not an appropriate treatment for edema caused by inflammation of the kidneys, and are useless in cardiac edema associated with advanced kidney insufficiency.

Emmenagogue - an agent which stimulates menstrual flow.

Expectorant - an agent which stimulates the outflow of mucus from the lungs and bronchials.

Narcotic - an agent which depresses the function of the central nervous system, inducing sleep and lessening pain. By definition, narcotics can be toxic in excess.

Sedative - Sedatives are a class of drugs which function to quiet nervous excitement and reduce motor activity without inducing sleep. They are used in the management of neuroses and in the treatment of anxiety and apprehension accompanying various disease states such as hypertension. Sedatives commonly function to induce reversible depression of the central nervous system. Examples of this class are phenobarbital, secobarbital sodium, and pentobarbital.

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Black Cohosh has very effective qualities as an expectorant, often clearing the lungs of congestion from Bronchitis or the Flu or Common Cold.

It is an excellent central nervous system tonic and a safe sedative. It depresses the heartbeat slightly while increasing the pulse's strength and stimulating the muscular system.

It neutralizes poisons by stimulating the secretions of the kidneys, liver, lymphatic system, and bladder, equalizes blood circulation, and expels mucus from the bronchial tubes.

It contains natural estrogen, the female hormone, which helps in hot flashes, contracts the uterus, and increases sluggish menstrual flow.

A Black Cohosh poultice can be used for inflammation, and as a syrup for coughs.

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It may produce mild toxicity in some cases with nausea, vomiting, and nervousness exhibited. It will produce adverse reactions in those with low blood pressure or low blood sugar, since it is hypotensive and hypoglycemic.


The oxytocic property of Black Cohosh in conjunction with vasoconstrictors such as ephedrine, methoxamine, phenylephrine or sympathomimetics may cause severe hypertension.

Citrates and tannates in conjunction with Black Cohosh may produce erratic and unpredictable results due to oxytocic action, while Black Cohosh and sparteine may have synergistic oxytocic activity.

Topical application of this astringent herb in conjunction with the acne product tretinoin (retinoic acid, vitamin A acid), may adversely affect the skin.

The tannin in Black Cohosh may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in tea made from this herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

The neuromuscular relaxing action of Black Cohosh may be enhanced by the use of certain aminoglycoside antibiotics such as clindamycin.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed that observable interaction may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in Black Cohosh.

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