Black Cohosh (Cimifuga racemosa)

Black Cohosh Identification:

A tall growing woodland perennial of the buttercup family, Black Cohosh is a native of North America. It has a long stalk which splits into several branches, each having long plume-like clusters of strong-smelling, white flowers. The flowers bloom from May to August, ultimately giving way to small, round seed pods, producing a sound similar to a rattlesnake, thus giving rise to the nickname Rattleroot.

Black Cohosh is useful as a back-ground plant for a border garden of hardy perennials, or as a member of a wild garden. The leaves are said to repel insects, hence the name Bugbane. The plant can be propagated from seed or by root division. Harvest the roots in fall after the fruits have ripened. Cut them lengthwise to dry.

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)
Other Names: Squawroot, Snakeroot, Bugbane, Bugwort, Rattleroot, Richweed
Flowers: May – August
Parts Used: Root and rhizome
Habitat: Rich woods. South Ontario to Georgia; Arkansas, and Missouri to Wisconsin.


This herb was named ‘black’ because of its dark medicinal roots. Cohosh is Algonquian for ‘rough’, another reference to its roots. The Indians boiled Black Cohosh’s gnarled roots in water and drank the decoction for fatigue, sore throat, arthritis, and rattlesnake bite—hence one popular name for this herb, “snakeroot”. But Black Cohosh was used primarily by Indian women for gynecological problems and childbirth.

Dr. John Lloyd reports that the Indians introduced this drug to early American medicine, and it was discussed by early writers on materia medica, none of whom “added anything not given by the Indians as far as the field of action of the drug is concerned”, except for some Nineteenth Century instances of the use of this plant for treating smallpox. As the name Squaw Root suggests, a common name of Black Cohosh, Indians used this plant as a female remedy, also for debility, to promote perspirations, as a gargle for sore throat and for rheumatism.
Constituents: Cimifugin (marotin), Starch, Gum, Tannic Acid, etc.

Medicinal Properties:

Properties: Black Cohosh is used as an antispasmodic, antitussive (prevents coughing), sedative, emmenagogue (promotes menstrual discharge), astringent, diuretic, and expectorant.

Main Uses: It is used in cases of rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, intercostal myalgia (muscular rheumatism), and whooping cough, tinnitus aurium (ear-ringing sensation due to disease of the auditory nerve), poor monthly periods and cramping pains in the womb. Also used for bronchitis, chorea, fevers, nervous disorders, lumbago, snakebites, menstrual irregularities, childbirth. Traditionally important for “female ailments.” Research has confirmed estrogenic, hypoglycemic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory activity.

Warning: Avoid during pregnancy!

Preparation And Dosages:
Tincture: Should be made from fresh root. Collect the rootstock in the fall, after the leaves have died down and the fruit has appeared.

ROOT. Tincture [Fresh Root, 1:2, Dry Root, 1:5, 80% alcohol], 10-25
drops, up to 3X a day.

Note: In some cases, large doses cause vertigo, tremors, reduced pulse, vomiting, and prostration.

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