Black cohosh – Benefits and Side Effects

Black cohosh also known as Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemosa is a perennial plant most commonly found in North America. It is a smooth herbaceous plant and produces compound leaves from its underground stem (also known as rhizome). Medicinal extracts are obtained from its roots and rhizome. This plant is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. At the same time it also used as an analgesic or sedative. In historical days blach cohosh has been used by the Natives of America to treat gynaecological disorders. Its medicinal properties are so versatile that it has also been used to cure sore throat, kidney disorders or even depression. Later in 1840’s it has also been used to cure rheumatism, nervous disorders and lactation.

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The use of black cohosh has changed a great deal over the period of time. In present days it is mainly used for the following:

  • It is used to moderate the effects of menopause. It is said to have estrogenic properties and is taken in by women undergoing menopause. Since it is a mild sedative and also has anti- inflammatory properties, it helps in case of hot flashes. It is also helpful with other menopausal symptoms such as headaches, vaginal dryness, heart palpitations and even mood changes.
  • Though it has no scientific support right now but black cohosh has also been reported to be used by women in order to regulate periods and ease out intensity of PMS symptoms.
  • It is also used to induce labor pains.
  • It is sometimes also used to bring relief from arthritis pain and lower blood pressure.

Black cohosh should be taken only under a doctor’s prescription. The amount of dose taken plays great importance. The doctor can prescribe the dosage as per patient’s requirement. As a revealed in studies if more than 950 milligrams of black cohosh is consumed in a day, it is considered as over dosage and is bound to have side effects. At the same time doctors also suggest that black cohosh should not be used for prolonged times. At a time it should not be taken in for more than six months.

Black cohosh can only be taken in form of tablets or solution. There are no food products that can act as natural sources of black cohosh. Also it should be taken only by adults above 18 years of age. It may have severe side effects on children.

Side effects of Black Cohosh

Like every other thing black cohosh too has its benefits as well as side effects. Some of the side effects of  its consumption are as follows:

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  • Over dose of black cohosh may cause headaches and upset stomach. It may also result in vaginal bleeding or spotting or nauseated feeling. Very prolonged use may also result in gain of weight.
  • It is also associated with liver damage. Though there are still not any proven facts or reports to support the same. But many experts have raised their concerns that black cohosh may lead to liver damage. So people who take regular intake of such medicines should remain aware and constantly look for any signs of liver damage, so that it may be cured at an early stage, if at all such a situation occurs.
  • Women who are pregnant should avoid taking black cohosh. Though it is taken to induce labor pains but if taken in early months of pregnancy it increases the risk of miscarriage.
  • Also, women suffering with breast cancer should not take medicines prepared from this herbaceous plant. Studies have reported that it may worsen existing breast cancer.
  • Black cohosh is said to have characteristics like that of female hormone estrogen. And it produces same effect as this hormone. So it is very important that its intake be avoided in all diseases or conditions that may be affected by female hormone. Such diseases may include ovarian cancer or cancer of the uterus, fibroids and endometriosis.
  • People who have protein S deficiency should particularly avoid black cohosh. This is because this deficiency is characterised by blood clots formation, and since black cohosh has hormone like affect it may increase the possibility of blood clots formation.

As we can see black cohosh can be both beneficial as well as harmful. It is very important that it is taken in only under supervision of doctor. Also, because its dose plays a very important role in the slight difference that is there between effect and side effect. The usage for medicinal purpose has changed a lot over the time from historic days till present and its further usage is still under research. The greatest question that lays ahead the scientists at present is how it behaves so similar to female hormone estrogens, and the studies are still under progress to solve the mystery.


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