The popular herb Black cohosh comes from the root of the North American forest plant Cimicifuga racemosa. Also known as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort and squawroot, Black cohosh has an extensive history of safe use by Native Americans who revered it as a remedy for a host of common ailments.
Native Americans employed Black cohosh as an effective treatment for fatigue, neuralgia, rheumatism, sore throat, asthma, bronchial spasms, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Mixed with chamomile, ginger and raspberry leaf, black cohosh has been used for centuries by women to stimulate menstrual flow, ease the strains of childbirth, and confer relief from the symptoms of menopause.
In Europe Black cohosh products are regularly used in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Contemporary herbalists also hold Black cohosh in high regard as an antispasmodic for relief from cramps, muscle pains, and menstrual pains. With its mildly sedative and relaxing effect, black cohosh is used also to treat anxiety and nervousness. Modern herbalists also recommend black cohosh as a cough suppressant and expectorant, a diaphoretic for eliminating toxins, and consider it to be an excellent treatment for lowering high blood pressure.
Researchers studying Black cohosh have isolated chemical derivatives mimicking the effects of estrogen, supporting the use of the herb in the treatment of female conditions. Black cohosh was found to contain the glycoside acetein, a steroidal derivative that is effective in lowering blood pressure in animals. While adherents claim the same effect in humans, no research is available to verify this. Researchers have also determined that black cohosh contains compounds that support its uses as a sedative and an anti-inflammatory agent.
There are few known health concerns regarding Black cohosh, but consuming large amounts are known to cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Expectant mothers should only use black cohosh under the supervision of a health professional, since black cohosh has a reputation of stimulating the uterus to speed childbirth, and large doses could lead to premature birth.