Other Names: Black snakeroot; Macrotys; Actea racemosa L.
Habitat: North America. Found as understory in rich, hardwood forests East of the Missippi River, esp. abundant in Ohio and West Virginia.
Actea (very similar but for fleshy fruits),
Hydrastis, Helleborus & Aconitum spp. in Ranunculaceae family.
Caulophyllum (in Berberidaceae, a closely related family)
Part used: Rhizomes and roots
Botany: Perennial herb growing from a large, knotted rhizome. Radical compound leaves with sharply toothed margins. In summer produces a compound raceme of white staminate flowers with superior ovaries. Fruit a single follicle, splitting down the inner suture at the top, producing up to 10 angular brown seeds.
American Indian Use:
- Traditionally used as a diaphoretic in agues and general fevers. Reportedly cured many cases of yellow fever and smallpox.
- Rheumatism – root decoctions used externally to steam painful joints.
- Root decoctions for facilitating partruition, menstrual disorders and for ‘chest difficulties’ [Pedersen]
- Snake-bite antidote – root poultices applied [3,4,9]
Early use by European Americans:
- Early settlers extracted whole roots with whisky and drank it as rheumatism cure 
- Barton (1801) in Collections &c.(reprinted by Lloyds) wrote up the plant as an astringent
- Used a strong root decoction for ‘putrid sore throat’.
- Also used for ‘the itch’.
- Dr.Garden reported on the use of Cimicifuga racemosa in treating pulmonary TB – American Medical Recorder 1823. He actually used it on himself when afflicted by TB with positive results. He reaffirmed his belief in this remedy in 1850.
- Chapman (1825) classified Cimicifuga racemosa as an expectorant, and at this time it was widely used to treat pulmonary diseases, esp asthma & consumption.
- 1830 – introduced into US Pharmacopoeia. Remained till 1936. In NF 1936-50.
- Young (1831) described use of Cimicifuga racemosa in chorea and St.Vitus Dance.
- Howard (1832) promoted use of Cimicifuga racemosa for smallpox, a claim supported later by Dr. Norris (1872) in a paper read to the Alabama State Medical Assn. who reported families in Alabama who used Cimicifuga racemosa tea during an epidemic were absolutely free from smallpox 
- In 1848 an AMA committee analysed Cimicifuga racemosa and found it had no perceptible increase in any secretions, but “They uniformly found it to lessen the frequency and force of the pulse, to soothe pain and allay irritability”. Cimicifuga racemosa became widely recognized as a ‘purely sedative agent’.
How Black Cohosh Helps with Menopause
Black cohosh contains properties that will help “calm the nerves”. In olden times, it was referred to as “female problems” and/or Hysteria women suffered from with the onset of their menstrual cycle.Today, of course, we know it as PMS or Premenstrual syndrome. PMS has a wide variety of symptoms, including mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression.
Black cohosh contains properties that may act as a sedative for many women who suffer from extreme cases of PMS. It acts as a anodyne (a painkilling drug); sedative and anti-spasmodic.
menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes/flushes, irritability, mood swings and sleep disturbances can be calmed with the use of Black cohosh. It can be made into a formula with other herbs that calm the nerves such as Valerian, skullcap, and wild yam. Such a formula will keep you calm during the lead up to your menstrual cycle.
- Waterman & Grunden (eds). Chemistry and Chemical Taxonomy of the Rutales. Academic Press, 1983.
- Potters New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs & Preparations
- Lloyd J.& C. Bulletin No.30,1931. Repro.Series No.9,Pt.2. Drugs & Medicines of Nth.America
- Lyle,T. 1897:132
- Duker et al. Planta Medica 57(1991)
- Marderosian & Liberti. 1988. Natural Product Medicine A Scientific Guide to Food, Drugs, Cosmetics. George Stickley Co, Philadelphia.
- Pedersen,M. Nutritional Herbology
- B.Smith Barton 1801. Collections of an Essay towards a Materia Medica of the United States. Lloyds Reproduction Series No.1 1900.
- Lloyd J.U. 1911. History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopeia of the United States. Bulletin No.18, Pharmacy Series No.4
- Ellingwood : 145
- Felter: 467
- Schauenberg & Paris
- Spoerke, D. Herbal Medications
- BHP 1983.
- Bensky & Gamble: 70
- JU Lloyd 1892 Elixirs and Flavouring Extracts. New York