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Black Cohosh

Black cohosh, a North American forest plant traditionally used to treat snake bites, is also known as Black Snakeroot. It is reported to be a highly effective herb for treating menopausal hot flushes. Black Cohosh stimulates oestrogen-like activity in the body, and should be taken in fairly high doses twice a day for best results. Women undergoing oestrogen replacement therapy should consult their doctors prior to supplementing with Black Cohosh.

Historical Uses of Black Cohosh

North American Indians used this medicinal plant for gynaecological disorders, kidney disorders, malaria, malaise, rheumatism, and sore throat. Additionally, it was used for backache, colds, constipation cough, hives, and to induce lactation. Black Cohosh served as a home remedy in the 19th century for fever and rheumatism, as a diuretic, and to induce menstruation. Its popularity was strong among a group of alternative practitioners who referred to Black Cohosh as macrotys and prescribed it for lung conditions, neurological conditions, rheumatism, and conditions pertaining to women's reproductive organs such as infertility, menstrual problems, inflammation of the uterus or ovaries, potential miscarriage, and relief of labour pains.

How it Works

The active constituents in Black Cohosh include triterpene glycosides (e.g. acetin and deoxyactein) and isoflavones. Additional ingredients that may lend to its medicinal value include aromatic acids, resins, fatty acids, tannins, starches and sugars.

As a woman reaches menopause oestrogen production decreases while luteinising hormone (LH) secretions increase. The result often is intense hot flushes. Studies suggest that Black Cohosh has some oestrogen-regulating ability and may also decrease LH secretions, dampening the severity of hot flushes associated with menopause.

Dosage and Administration

Black Cohosh can be taken in the form of the fresh or dried root, or as a liquid extract. It is also available commercially in capsule and tablet form. Black Cohosh is taken orally. The usual daily dosage is 40 milligrams, but because the strength of commercial preparations may vary, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions whenever available.

Black Cohosh Side-Effects

Breast-feeding or pregnant women should not take Black Cohosh. Large amounts (over several grams daily) can cause abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Black Cohosh should not serve as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy during menopause.

Additionally, women with breast cancer may want to abstain from Black Cohosh until its impact on breast tissue is understood.


Although no reported negative interactions with other drugs exist, Black Cohosh has not been studied thoroughly.

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