Mostly used as an emmenagogue to increase menstrual flow, it relives the symptoms associated with menopause and PMS while easing menstrual cramps and nervous tension.
Other names are Actaea macrotys, Actaea racemosa, Actée à Grappes, Actée à Grappes Noires, Actée Noire, Aristolochiaceae Noire, Baie d’actée, Black Cohosh, Baneberry, Black Aristolochiaceae, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane, Bugwort, Cimicaire à Grappes, Cimicifuga, Cimicifuga Racemosa, Cimicifuge, Cohosh Negro, Cohosh Noir, Cytise, Herbe aux Punaises, Macrotys, Phytoestrogen, Phytoestrogène, Racine de Serpent, Racine de Squaw, Racine Noire de Serpents, Rattle Root, Rattle Top, Rattlesnake Root, Rattleweed, Rhizoma Cimicifugae, Sheng Ma, Snakeroot, Squaw Root
Medicinal extract is made from the roots which are harvested in the fall.
It shares a name with blue cohosh, but belongs to a different family. Blue cohosh is part of the Berberidaceae family for containing berberine and has more potential harmful effects.
Photo by @krnel
- mainly used to treat female gynecological issues
- no berberine like blue cohosh, making it safer
- not estrogenic, affects serotonin receptors
- long use in Native Amerindian medicine
Photo by @krnel
What's it used for?
The roots and rhizomes have long been used by Native Amerindians to treat gynecological issues, s well as sore throat, depression and kidney problems. The mid-19th century saw use for treating rheumatism and nervous disorders, endometritis, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, sterility, severe after-birth pains, and for increased breast milk production.
It's still in use a a supplement for treating of premenstrual tension, menopause and other gynecological problems. It's rarely used for anxiety, sore throats, fever or cough anymore.
Recent studies have shown that it doesn't have estrogenic effects, despite at times increasing or decreasing the effects of estrogen in the female body. It's not an estrogen substitute. It seems to have compounds that bind and activate serotonin receptors.
Complex biological molecules, such as triterpene glycosides (e.g. cycloartanes), have been shown to reduce cytokine-induced bone loss (osteoporosis) by blocking osteoclastogenesis in in vitro and in vivo models
... a cycloartane glycoside from Actaea racemosa, has been identified as a novel efficacious modulator of GABAA receptors with sedative activity in mice.
It can be used to treat or prevent weakened bones, acne and inducing labor for pregnant women.
The name "bugbane" comes from it's use as an insect repellent. It's also seen use in wart and mole removal although rarely still used for that.
Where is it found?
Native to eastern North America, it's found in woodlands from southern Ontario to Georgia and west to Missouri and Arkansas.
USDA public domain
Are there any risks?
The unrelated plants blue and white cohosh are less safe. Black cohosh doesn't have berberine like blue cohosh does. It can be taken orally for up to a year. Some mild side effects an emerge, such as as stomach upset, cramping, headache, rash, a feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and weight gain. It's possible there might be liver damage, but it's not certain.
It might be unsafe for pregnant women and breast-feeding, as it acts on the female hormonal system and might increase the risk of miscarriage. Some concern is placed on breast cancer worsening, and increasing the risk of blood clots in those with protein S deficiency.
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