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Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa, Actaea racemosa)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • 5-HT(7) ligand, Actaea macrotys, Actaeapachypoda, Actaeapodocarpa, Actaea racemosa L., Actaearubra, actaealactone, actée à grappes (French), Amerikanisches Wanzenkraut (German), Appalachian bugbane, baneberry, BCE, black bugbane, black cohosh root extract Cr 99, black cohosh roots, black snakeroot, Botrophis serpentaria, bugbane, bugwort, caffeic acid, Cimicifuga, Cimicifuga racemosa, Cimicifugae racemosae rhizoma, Cimicifugawurzelstock (German), cimicifugic acid A, cimicifugic acid B, cimicifugic acid D, cimicifugic acid E, cimicifugic acid F, cimicifugic acid G, cohosh bugbane, CR, CR BNO 1055, CR extract, ferulic acid, fukinolic acid, herbe au punaise (French), ICR, isoferulic acid, isopropanolic black cohosh extract, isopropanolic extract, macrotys, Macrotys actaeoides, methyl caffeate, mountain bugbane, N-omega-methylserotonin, p-coumaric acid, phytoestrogen, protocatechualdehyde, protocatechuic acid, Ranunculaceae (family), rattle root, rattle snakeroot, rattle top, rattle weed, rattlesnake root, rattleweed, Remifemin®, rhizoma Actaeae, rich weed, richweed, schwarze Schlangenwurzel (German), snakeroot, solvlys, squaw root, squawroot, Thalictrodes racemosa, Traubensilberkerze (German), triterpene glycosides, Wanzenkraut, Ze 450.
  • Combination product examples: GYNO-Plus (black cohosh and St. John's wort), PNC (pennyroyal, red raspberry, lobelia, blue cohosh, black cohosh, blessed thistle), Phyto-Female Complex (standardized extracts of black cohosh, dong quai, milk thistle, red clover, American ginseng, chaste-tree berry), Reumalex® (contains 35mg of black cohosh, 100mg of white willow bark, 25mg of sarsaparilla (4:1), 17mg of poplar bark (7:1), and 40mg of guaiacum resin).
  • Note: Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is not to be confused with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) , which contains potentially cardiotoxic or vasoconstrictive chemicals. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is also not to be confused with Cimicifuga foetida, bugbane, fairy candles, or sheng ma; these are species from the same family (Ranunculaceae) with different therapeutic effects.

Background

  • Black cohosh is popular as an alternative to hormonal therapy in the treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood disturbances, excessive sweating, palpitations, and vaginal dryness. Several studies have reported black cohosh may improve menopausal symptoms for up to one year, although the evidence is mixed.
  • The mechanism of action of black cohosh remains unclear. Research suggests that there may be no direct effects on estrogen receptors, although this is an area of active controversy.
  • Safety and efficacy beyond one year have not been proven. Reports suggest the safety of short-term use, including in women with menopausal symptoms for whom estrogen replacement therapy is not suggested. Nonetheless, caution is advised until better-quality safety data are available. There have been reports of liver damage and higher lead levels in the blood from black cohosh. Use of black cohosh in high-risk populations (such as in women with a history of breast cancer) should be under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.