Heard of black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot, rattletop, rattleweed, and macrotys? Well if you have, you’re already aware of black cohosh, because these are the other names for this herb. Botanically, it’s called Cimicifuga racemosa. And such is its power, bugs don’t come near it, and hence the names!
Table of Contents
Black cohosh plant
Black cohosh is a herbaceous perennial plant found in some parts of North America. It has coarse leaves with toothed margins and sweet smelling flowers that are without petals or sepals! The plant can grow to a height of 7 feet. The healing powers of the herb were known since olden times, as Native Americans used it to treat disorders like, sore throat, colds, cough, constipation, hives, backache, kidney problems, gynecological disorders, malaria and rheumatism. They even used it to induce lactation!
Importance of black cohosh
Black cohosh possesses some excellent curative properties that alleviate premenstrual tension, menopause, inflammation of the uterus or ovaries, infertility and other gynecological problems in women. It also helps induce labor pains and is used for abortion. Previously, it was thought this herb healed because it contained some estrogen-like chemicals, but recent research has found it works by binding to serotonin receptors.
Effectiveness of black cohosh
The effectiveness of black cohosh lies in its composition. It contains active compounds of triterpene glycosides, including actein and cimicifugoside, resins, caffeic and isoferulic acids. Clinical studies conducted on women indicate that black cohosh may help relieve menopausal symptoms. However, concrete proof is yet to be established.
Black cohosh preparations
Mostly, the roots and rhizomes of black cohosh are used in preparations. These are commonly used fresh or dried to make strong teas or infusions and capsules. Also, its solid and liquid extracts are used for making pills and tinctures, respectively. One preparation, called Remifemin, contains black cohosh extract equivalent to 20 mg of root per tablet.
Side effects of black cohosh
Black cohosh, being a powerful herb, is not without side effects. Let’s see what all it can cause:
a. Black cohosh can cause headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, stomach discomfort, heaviness in the legs, and weight problems. It has also been known to cause seizures, vomiting, sweating, low blood pressure, slow heartbeats and loss of bone mass in some.
b. If used during pregnancy for inducing labor or for lactation, it can cause neurological complications in a post-term baby.
c. Black cohosh may produce stimulation of the mucous membrane lining the uterus.
d. Since, use of this herb increases blood flow to the pelvic area, it’s not recommended during menses, as it may increase or prolong bleeding.
e. The tannin contained in black cohosh inhibits iron absorption.
f. Although not established, in an experiment done on mice, black cohosh increased metastasis of cancer in lungs.
Precautions for black cohosh
Black cohosh should not be taken during pregnancy, since the effects have not been rigorously studied. If taken, it should be under the supervision of a physician. Also, women with breast cancer should avoid its use. Although black cohosh has not been reported to interact with any drugs, it’s not conclusively established. So, avoid taking it along with prescriptions drugs.
Regulatory status of black cohosh
Since black cohosh is marketed as a dietary supplement in the US, it’s counted as a food and not drug. So, it doesn’t require FDA approval. However, since supplements are not tested for consistency, there’s a possibility of the composition varying considerably, from lot to lot.
Black cohosh is a magic drug, but it’s also a double-edged sword. So, if you wish to use this herb, do so by all means, but don’t forget to take your physician into confidence.