Herbal Wisdom: Black Cohosh

While studying for final exams I grew quite fond of this herb….why? Well, I’m not exactly sure but it was one of the 70 (yes 70!) we had to know for our exam that I found very easy to remember….

One of the professors of my Botanical Medicine course (also an ND), believes that while knowledge of biochemistry is of extreme importance, getting to know the vitality, or character of the plant should also play a role in herbal wisdom. While this might sound a little strange, I know exactly what she means.  I spend my summers working in garden maintenance and by spending time with plants you do really get a ‘feel’ for them. And funnily enough, while one person can be drawn to and intrigued by a particular plant another person may be completely adverse to it – and often for no apparent reason.

Cimicifuga racemosa

What did I Learn About Black Cohosh This Year?

Latin Binomial: Cimicifuga racemosa (Actea racemosa)

While Black Cohosh is famed for its ability to normalize the female reproductive system (PMS, menopause, painful menstruation, dysmenorrhea etc) its indication in conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and muscular pain (including sciatica!) should not be overshadowed. Its role in rheumatism comes from its actions as a relaxant, antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory and an alterative (a substance that acts to restore overall functioning of the body).

On an energetic level this herb has been found particularly useful for people who feel victimized by their situation. While these people may be very charismatic, there is often an internal feeling of being cut down or exploited which, allows a ‘victim consciousness’ to evolve. Loiuse Hay, author of Heal Your Body, argues that on an energetic level arthritis (especially of the fingers) is related to feeling unloved or victimized in life. Coincidence?

Fresh Black Cohosh may cause local irritation so your ND or health care practitioner will always use the dried roots/rhizome. It may also interfere with hormone replacement therapies and is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. This herb is powerful and is not to be used for more than 6 months uninterrupted.

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. You should never enter into any treatment protocol/supplementation without the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor or other health care practitioner. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Photo credit: Shotaku / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND


Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Hay, L. (1988). Heal Your Body. United States: Hay House Inc.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

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