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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BLACK COHOSH
Subject to legal restrictions in some countries
Ranunculaceae
aka Black snakeroot, Bugbane, Bugwort, Cohosh, Rattleroot, Rattlesnake root, Rattleweed, Richweed, Snakeroot, Squawroot
(Cimicifuga racemosa syn Actea racemosa syn Macrotys actaeoides)
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RECOMMENDED for PROFESSIONAL USE ONLY!
High doses
(as much as 1 tsp of the root or 2 tsp of the liquid extract) are dangerous!

Excess causes headaches, vertigo, tremors, low pulse, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and irritation to the nervous system.
If these symptoms appear, seek medical assistance immediately!


DRUG INTERACTIONS: NOT while on ESTROGEN REPLACEMENT THERAPY. Can create an excess of the hormone.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT when PREGNANT or BREASTFEEDING. NOT with BREAST CANCER or ESTROGEN-DEPENDANT TUMORS.

CONTAINS: The root contains 79% water (fresh), 6.7% water (air dried), 10% sugars, 8% starch, salicylic acid, saponins, tannins, phenols, phenolic glycosides, triterpene glycosides, sterols, gallic acid, isoferulic acid, alkaloids, cimicifugin (a ranunculoside in resin form with antispasmodic and sedative properties present only in the fresh root; also known as macrotin), pseudotannins, 0.1 to 0.4% volatile oils, 3 to 5% fixed oils and resins, saturated fatty acid palmitic, unsaturated fatty acid oleic, mucilagenous gum..
NOTE: Ranunculin converts to anemonin upon drying.
Based on Zero Moisture content for 100 grams, the root contains: 22.6 mg alum, trace amounts of ash, 597 mg calcium, 81.3% carbohydrates, 0.18 mg chromium, 0.38 mg cobalt, 11.9% crude fiber, 41.0% dietary fiber, 1.5% fat, 3.8 mg iron, 174 mg magnesium, 0.14 mg manganese, 3.15 mg niacin, 208 mg phosphorus, 1,030 mg potassium, 8.2% protein, 0.065 mg riboflavin, 0.32 mg selenium, 0.27 mg silicon, 5.8 mg sodium, trace mg thiamine, trace of tin, 4,070 IU vitamin A, 13.5 mg vitamin C, trace mg of zinc.



A tall, stately perennial with a large, knotty root (black skinned with white to brown waxy interior) having long, slender fibers. Native to eastern Canada and the United States growing 3 to 8 feet in height with large, rich green leaves ternately decompound; leaflets cuneate to cordate at the base, 1 to 4 inches long, becoming pinnate further up the plant; flowers small, white, with an unpleasant odor, in long wand-like racemes, sometimes panicled; 2 to 5 sepals, petaloid, falling early; petals horned, mostly 2-lobed; many stamens; 1 to 8 pistils, sessile or stipitate with many ovules; rhizome a thick, hard, knotty mass with short branches and a bitter acrid taste.
The genus name is derived from the Latin 'cimex' (bedbuds) and 'fugere' (to drive away) and the leaves were indeed used as repellant for the creatures. Racemosa is also Latin and means 'full of flowers'.
Was introduced in 1844 by Dr. John Kind for rheumatic and nervous disorders. Was official in the USP from 1820 to 1936 and in the NF 1935-1950. Was one of the principle ingredients of Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound.

PROPAGATION:By fresh ripe SEED (soil temp 55 to 65º) in autumn; keep under cover; germination is slow and irregular. Also by DIVISIONdivision.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental (although the flowers are not pleasantly fragrant) in moist, humus rich soil in part shade. Hardy to zone 3. Likes humidity and a pH of 5 to 8 in part sun.
FLOWERS: July to August
HARVEST: Rhizomes are lifted in autumn after the leaves have died back and the fruit has appeared; used fresh or dried in tinctures, or dried for use in decoctions, and liquid extracts.
PART USED: Rhizomes
SOLVENT: Alcohol, hot water (less suitable to extract active principles)
RELATED SPECIES:
CIMICIFUGA FOETIDA, C. DAHURICA and C. SIMPLEX are used in oriental medicine for headaches, measles, prolapse of the uterus, stomach, intestines and bladder, and to raise 'chi'.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Bitter, tonic, alterative, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenogogue, estrogenic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypotensive (effects have not been definitely verified, although some peripheral vasodilation was observed), slightly narcotic, nervine, sedative (arterial and nervous systems), uterine stimulant, and vasodilator. Also a possible cardiac stimulant and is said to increase gastric secretions as well as lower body temperature by dilating blood vessels; plant properties responsible for these and the hypotensive effects is best extracted in alcohol rather than water.
Affects reproductive, nervous, respiratory and circulatory systems. Effects include the ability to bind to estrogen receptor sites. Has been combined with Squaw vine and Raspberry during the last 2 weeks of pregnancy to prepare the body for childbirth, but is not recommended unless under the care of a physician. Has been combined with blue cohosh for uterine conditions.
Has been used internally for arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, muscular and neurological pain, neuralgia, toothache, urine retention, bronchial infections, menstrual problems (dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, ovarian and uterine cramping, PMS), menopausal problems, childbirth labor, postpartum pain, rheumatism, sciatica, and tinnitus (depresses the central nervous system and inhibits vasomotor centers involved in inner ear balance and hearing explaining its use to ease tinnitus; has usually been combined with ginkgo or prickly ash).
In a study of menopausal women, the half given the extract of the root showed significant increase in estrogenic activity and a reduction of hot flashes. In another study, vaginal dryness was relieved and compared favorably in effectiveness to pharmaceutical estrogen. However, its use must be monitored carefully BY A PROFESSIONAL and USED FOR A LIMITED PERIOD. Has also been used for premenstrual discomfort and painful periods.
Has often been combined with Bogbean, Parsley and/or Willow bark for arthritis and rheumatism. Was used for rheumatic complaints by early North American settlers and was being used in New York hospitals in the 19th century for this purpose. The whole root was placed in whiskey to extract its properties.
Has been used for high blood pressure and to equalize circulation. Traditionally taken as a capsule, pill, or tincture for high blood pressure.
Its history includes use for scarlet fever, measles, smallpox, asthma, scrofula, St. Vitus dance, epilepsy, convulsions, dropsy, spinal meningitis, delirium tremens, bronchitis, pulmonary conditions, intercostal myalgia, sciatica, whooping cough, pericarditis, angina pectoris, male gonorrhea, spermatorrhea, seminal emission, lack of libido, dyspepsia and hysteria.
Has been used at times for panic attacks (often combined with skullcap, passionflower, valerian, or lemon balm).
Once used in syrup form for coughs, whooping cough, liver and kidney problems. Was traditionally taken as a tea for lung complaints.
Used by Native Americans for snakebite and has been used externally to heal sores and puncture wounds. The bruised root was applied locally to snakebite as an antidote.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Works slowly, but is accumulative over several weeks when the dose may need to be lowered. Not recommended without professional guidance, nor for long periods of time (6 months max).
INFUSION = 2 tsp to 1 pint boiling water; 2 or 3 tbsp taken cold up to 6 times daily; no more than 3 doses daily of 1/3 cup.
FRESH ROOT = 1 to 3 tsp total daily
DRIED ROOT = 1.5 to 3 grams total daily
EXTRACT = 10 to 30 drops in water total daily
DECOCTION = 1/2 to 1 tsp dried root to 1 cup water, simmered 10 to 15 minutes; taken 3 times daily
TINCTURE = 1 to 2 ml, 3 times daily, or 10 to 60 drops
CAPSULES = 1 to 3 daily

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for discomfort in late pregnancy, labor pains, headaches, and depression.

OTHER:
Leaves were once used to repel bedbugs.





©2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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