Black Cohosh

Latin:  Actaea racemosa (Cimicifuga)

Family:  Ranunculaceae

Parts Used: Roots

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cool

Properties:  Antispasmodic, nervine relaxant, sadative, diaphoretic, female reproductive tonic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Actions:  Black cohosh has a long history of use by certain Native American tribes for a variety of concerns such as menstrual pain and cramping, rheumatism, backaches, spasmodic coughs and insomnia.  This herb has become quite popular for women experiencing menopause and indeed it is quite useful for hot flashes, tension, cramps and hormonal fluctuations.

I tend to work with this plant on a couple levels.  On a gross level, it is a strong herb that is nicely relaxing, releases muscle tension and for folks who have tics, neuralgia, generally arthritic pain and what Chinese medicine practitioners would call “wind.”

On a deeper level, I find it helpful for people who are in a fair bit of despair and are feeling dark with flashes of anger and deep rage at life’s circumstances.  Black cohosh works at that deep level to soothe both the anger and the depression.  I find that anger usually is associated with trauma and a feeling of being violated or deeply disrespected.  When anger gets bottled inside it can start to make the individual feel deeply toxic.   There its a feeling of deep stagnation, paralysis, held and frozen fear and tension that is often old.  There is a feeling of being haunted, unable to move forward because of past sorrow.  Black cohosh helps in the process of releasing and discharging that anger and depression in a way that is transformative and healing.

Dosage: 10 drops to 1 ml to 3 x/day, 1-2 tbsp decocted in pint of water for 30 mins, in powder 250-500 mg to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:  Avoid in pregnancy unless under the supervision of a professional at the end of pregnancy or during labor.  This is the only herb that I have really messed up with to the point of vomiting.  I mistook the tincture for another and took way too large a dose.  Bad choice.  So, be careful with the dosage on this one.  It is an emetic at large doses.  On a milder level it can cause dizziness and nausea as well.   Generally avoid this if taking other sedative psychiatric meds.

Further Reading:

Black Cohosh Monograph  By Pengelly, Bennett, Hernandez, et al.

Black Cohosh: Insights into its Mechanism(s) of Action  Ruhlen, Sun, Sauter, et al