Black cohosh is a plant native to North America with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It's long been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments including fever, sore throat, cough, pain, and menstrual difficulties.
Today, there's much more interest surrounding black cohosh because of its potential benefits for relieving menopausal symptoms. It was traditionally used for all kinds of women's health issues and is still recommended by herbalists, especially during menopause.
Read on to find out more about the health benefits of black cohosh and how it's commonly used.
What Is Black Cohosh?
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is a perennial plant native to the United States and Canada. Also nicknamed "black snakeroot" and "bugbane", the plant blooms with white flowers but gets its name from its black roots.
The roots are the part of the plant used medicinally. Black cohosh root was used extensively by the Native Americans and early American settlers. It was used by men as well as women, but its primary use was as a tonic for menopausal symptoms, menstrual difficulties, and painful childbirth. (1)
Black cohosh is not used for its nutritional value, but it does contain some important active compounds including phytoestrogens and isoferulic acids.
Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens that can affect human hormones. They have the potential to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, and menopausal symptoms. (2) Isoferulic acid is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. (3)
Main Benefits of Black Cohosh
Black cohosh root contains a compound called fukinolic acid which is mainly responsible for the estrogen-like effect this herb can have on the body. (4)
Menopause typically involves a decrease in estrogen levels as the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. Because of hormone changes, many women will experience symptoms like hot flashes, poor sleep, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been the standard treatment for these types of symptoms, but it's been found to increase your risk of developing breast cancer. (5) Phytoestrogens like black cohosh are a natural alternative to HRT.
In fact, a German medicinal product called Remifemin, which is made of a black cohosh root extract, has been used safely for over 60 years to reduce menopausal symptoms. Other studies have shown its potential to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. (1)(6) The recommended amount is .5 - 2g of black cohosh twice daily as a tea or decoction.
You can try black cohosh out for yourself in this herbal Menopause Melody tea.
Better Sleep During Menopause
Insomnia and poor quality of sleep are not uncommon during menopause or post-menopause.
While there are several other herbs for better sleep to choose from, black cohosh has shown potential benefits for helping with poor sleep that's related to menopause and unbalanced hormones.
One study found that black cohosh improved the sleep quality of early postmenopausal women with no adverse side effects. It also decreased wake after onset duration. (7)
May Help Inflammation and Pain
Another of the main traditional uses for black cohosh root was as a pain-reliever, especially for arthritis and joint pain.
Two of the active compounds in black cohosh are isoferulic acid and salicylic acid, both of which can reduce inflammation. Isoferulic acid acts as an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. Aspirin is actually a derivative of salicylic acid, which has known anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. (8)
While black cohosh may not be used as often for pain relief as it used to be, it can still help with sore throats, inflammation, and musculoskeletal pain.
May Help With PMS and Cramps
Painful and/or irregular periods are a monthly problem for many women. Black cohosh root was used often by indigenous peoples to help regulate periods and ease cramping. (1)
The phytoestrogens in black cohosh are likely the reason it was used to balance hormones and makes periods more regular. It also has an antispasmodic effect along with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to calm muscle spasms and cramps.
If you struggle with uncomfortable periods, you can also try these other natural remedies for PMS and cramps.
May Help With PCOS and Uterine Fibroids
Clearly, black cohosh root is an herb with many potential benefits for women's health. Though more research needs to be done, black cohosh is showing potential for managing polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and treating uterine fibroids. (9)(10)
PCOS is a hormone-related condition, and uterine fibroids are benign growths usually treated with a hormone-based drug. The possible effectiveness of black cohosh for both of these conditions is likely due to the effects it has on hormones. It could become a good natural option for women dealing with either of these issues.
How To Use Black Cohosh
If you want to try black cohosh, you can buy the herb itself (usually in powdered form) or get it as a tincture, capsule, or other type of extract. There is no standard recommended dose, so be sure to consult with a qualified herbal practitioner for direction.
You can also try the German-made preparation called Remifemin to get a standardized daily dose. Always be sure you are buying from a reputable seller and getting a pure supplement.
Keep in mind that black cohosh is often combined with other herbs to increase its effectiveness. You may wish to try it in an herbal formula rather than on its own.
For example, black cohosh is often recommended alongside motherwort or sage for menopausal symptoms. You'll find all three of these in this herbal tea blend for menopause.
Many of the studies involving black cohosh reported no adverse side effects, even with long-term use. However, it can occasionally cause symptoms like upset stomach, headache, vomiting, or nausea.
People with a history of liver problems or a hormone-sensitive condition should avoid black cohosh. Because of its potential to affect hormones, black cohosh is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women.
Black Cohosh for Menopause
Though there are many potential benefits of black cohosh, it remains most popular for its ability to relieve menopausal symptoms. It has a long history of use as an herbal remedy and could be a natural alternative to hormone therapy.
If you find yourself dealing with uncomfortable symptoms during menopause, try it out for yourself.