Clayton's Health Facts: Black Cohosh.

Clayton South, SPN (ISSA), is a recognized expert in the bodybuilding / fitness industry with over 150 bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition publications to his credit.

What Is It?
And Where Does It Come From?

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is a perennial fruit bearing plant native to North America. Black cohosh can grow to a stature of nine feet, and has been used in Native American medicine for thousands of years.

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Black Cohosh.
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The name Cimicifuga racemosa is derived from Greek and means "to drive away bugs." This name is appropriate as black cohosh has an unpleasant smell and a bitter taste. It has been used in agriculture for pest control purposes.

The roots of the black cohosh plant are believed to contain the greatest amount of active ingredients, and for this reason the black cohosh found in dietary supplements is extracted from the roots of the plant.

Black cohosh is also known as Black Snake Root, Rattle Root, Squaw Root and Bugbane.

What Does It Do?
And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?

Black cohosh has been used in Native American traditional medicine for thousands of years. Native medicine has found black cohosh effective for treating diarrhea, whooping cough, sore throat, malaria and malaise.1

Western medicine has confirmed the beneficial effects of black cohosh. Black cohosh is used in the treatment of menopasuse, and also in the prevention of breast cancer. Black cohosh is thought to be effective for the prevention of breast cancer because of its ability to inactivate estrogen receptors.8

Black cohosh affects pituitary hormone levels, and can treat a variety of gynelogical problems in women. It is effective at reducing the occurrence of hot flashes, and has been used to induce the elimination process.

Though its exact pharmacological mechanisms of action are not fully understood, black cohash is a popular alternative to prescription menopause medications.

Who Needs It?
And What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?

No physiological need for black cohash exists, and there are no symptoms of deficiency.

Preliminary research demonstrates that persons suffering from diarrhea, sore throat, whooping cough and malaise may benefit from supplementing with black cohash.

Because cohash is widely recognized as an effective and safe treatment for menopause, women from this population can benefit from its use for this purpose.9

How Much Should Be Taken?
Are There Any Side Effects?

While anecdotal reports of adverse reactions have been reported10, these reports are rare and have not been substantiated in scientific research.

Pregnant or nursing women should not take black cohosh unless directed to do so by their physician.


1. Foster S: Black cohosh: Cimicifuga racemosa: a literature review. HerbalGram 45: 35-49, 1999.

2. Liu J, Burdette JE, Xu H, Gu C, van Breemen RB, Bhat KP, Booth N, Constantinou AI, Pezzuto JM, Fong HH, Farnsworth NR, Bolton JL. Evaluation of estrogenic activity of plant extracts for the potential treatment of menopausal symptoms. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 May;49(5):2472-9.

3. Zierau O, Bodinet C, Kolba S, Wulf M, Vollmer G. Antiestrogenic activities of Cimicifuga racemosa extracts. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Jan;80(1):125-30.

4. McKenna DJ, Jones K, Humphrey S, Hughes K. Black cohosh: efficacy, safety, and use in clinical and preclinical applications. Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 May-Jun;7(3):93-100.

5. Liu Z, Yang Z, Zhu M, Huo J. Estrogenicity of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) and its effect on estrogen receptor level in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2001 Mar;30(2):77-80.

6. Lieberman S. A review of the effectiveness of Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) for the symptoms of menopause. J Womens Health. 1998 Jun;7(5):525-9.

7. Chen S-N, Li W, Fabricant DS, Santasiero BD, et al.: Isolation, structure elucidation, and absolute configuration of 26-deoxyactein from Cimicifuga racemosa and clarification of nomenclature associated with 27-deoxyactein. Journal of Natural Products 65: 601-605, 2001.

8. Dixon-Shanies D, Shaikh N. Growth inhibition of human breast cancer cells by herbs and phytoestrogens. Oncol Rep. 1999 Nov-Dec;6(6):1383-7.

9. Bodinet C, Freudenstein J. Influence of marketed herbal menopause preparations on MCF-7 cell proliferation. Menopause. 2004 May-Jun;11(3):281-9.

10. Kruse SO, Lohning A, Pauli GF, Winterhoff H, Nahrstedt A: Fukiic and piscidic acid esters from the rhizome of Cimicifuga racemosa and the in vitro estrogenic activity of fukinolic acid. Planta Medica 65: 763-764, 1999.

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