Medicinal plant of the month September: black cohosh

Even the indigenous peoples used the roots of the plant as a remedy and it is also used in modern phytotherapy: black cohosh.

While it used to be used to treat snake bites, it is now considered a herbal alternative to hormone therapy in gynecology. Its effectiveness has been proven in several studies.

Black cohosh: beautiful appearance, repulsive smell

The Cimifuga racemosa belongs to the perennial buttercup family and can hardly be overlooked due to its appearance. Long, candle-shaped flower clusters of many small, white flowers are located on the stems, which can be up to two meters long. The silvery stamens protrude from the flowers.

Black cohosh is beautiful to look at, but it smells bad. A repellent smell emanates from the beautiful flowers, thanks to which the plant protects itself from harmful insects, especially from leaf bugs. The black cohosh also owes its name to her. It is composed of the terms “cimex” (bug) and “fuga” (escape).

The therapeutic components are located in the rhizome

The rhizome of the plant also gives off an unpleasant smell. The plant part, which is about 15 centimeters long, is of therapeutic importance. The indigenous peoples of North America used the rhizome to treat snakebite and difficult childbirth.

Today, Cimifuga rhizoma is a proven remedy for menopausal symptoms. The reduced estrogen production and the increased secretion of luteinizing hormone cause hot flashes, insomnia and other annoying symptoms in many women during the menopause. This is where the therapeutic effect of the Cimifuga rhizome comes into play. A mixture of several triterpene glycosides, including for example actein, cimificifugoside and cimiracemoside, provides an estrogen-like effect but suppresses other undesirable estrogenic effects. This is also the decisive advantage over conventional hormone treatments, which are often associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Dry extracts from black cohosh

Black cohosh is also an herb that can be used to combat excessive sweating. The isopropanolic Cimicifuga racemosa special extract binds to central nervous receptors, for example in the regulatory centers for body temperature and mood in the hypothalamus. In this way, typical menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or mood swings can be reduced.
A wide range of dry extracts from the rootstock of the Cimifuga are available as medicinal products. The positive effect only begins after a period of administration of about two to three weeks.


Guida M, Raffone A, Travaglino A, Neola D, Reppuccia S, Borgo M, Vitale C, Limone A, D’Alessandro P, Massaro G, Mollo A. Cimicifuga racemosa isopropanolic extract for menopausal symptoms: an observational prospective case-control study. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2021 Dec;37(12):1132-1137. Epub 2021 Sep 3. PMID: 34477029.

Mehrpooya M, Rabiee S, Larki-Harchegani A, Fallahian AM, Moradi A, Ataei S, Javad MT. A comparative study on the effect of “black cohosh” and “evening primrose oil” on menopausal hot flashes. J Educ Health Promot. 2018 Mar 1;7:36. PMID: 29619387; PMCID: PMC5868221.

Pockaj BA, Loprinzi CL, Sloan JA, Novotny PJ, Barton DL, Hagenmaier A, Zhang H, Lambert GH, Reeser KA, Wisbey JA. Pilot evaluation of black cohosh for the treatment of hot flashes in women. Cancer Invest. 2004;22(4):515-21. PMID: 15565808.

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