Black cohosh

Botanical Name : Cimicifuga racemosa
Family: Ranunculaceae
Genus: Actaea
Species: A. racemosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms : Actaea racemosa

Common Names: Black cohosh, Black bugbane, Black snakeroot, Fairy candle,, Bugbane

Habitat : Black cohosh is native to eastern North America from the extreme south of Ontario to central Georgia, and west to Missouri and Arkansas. It grows in a variety of woodland habitats, and is often found in small woodland openings. (Moist, mixed deciduous forests, wooded slopes, ravines, creek margins, thickets, moist meadowlands, forest margins, and especially mountainous terrain from sea level to 1500 metres)

Description:
Black cohosh is a smooth (glabrous) herbaceous perennial plant that produces large, compound leaves from an underground rhizome, reaching a height of 25–60 cm (9.8–23.6 in). The basal leaves are up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) long and broad, forming repeated sets of three leaflets (tripinnately compound) having a coarsely toothed (serrated) margin. The flowers are produced in late spring and early summer on a tall stem, 75–250 cm (30–98 in) tall, forming racemes up to 50 cm (20 in) long. The flowers have no petals or sepals, and consist of tight clusters of 55-110 white, 5–10 mm (0.20–0.39 in) long stamens surrounding a white stigma. The flowers have a distinctly sweet, fetid smell that attracts flies, gnats, and beetles. The fruit is a dry follicle 5–10 mm (0.20–0.39 in) long, with one carpel, containing several seeds….....CLICK & SEE  THE PICTURES

Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist humus rich soil and some shade. Grows well in dappled shade. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil and tolerates drier soils. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c. A very ornamental species. The flowers have an unusual, slightly unpleasant smell which is thought to repel insects. Plants grow and flower well in Britain, though they seldom if ever ripen their seed. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Fragrant flowers.
Propagation:
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Only just cover the seed. It germinates in 1 – 12 months or even longer at 15°c[. The seed does not store well and soon loses its viability, stored seed may germinate better if given 6 – 8 weeks warm stratification at 15°c and then 8 weeks cold stratification. Prick out the young seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Division in spring or autumn. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer or following spring.
Edible Uses: …Leaves – cooked. Some caution is advised,   see the notes below   on Known Hazards.

Medicinal Uses:
Black cohosh is a traditional remedy of the North American Indians where it was used mainly to treat women’s problems, especially painful periods and problems associated with the menopause. A popular and widely used herbal remedy, it is effective in the treatment of a range of diseases. The root is alterative, antidote, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypnotic, sedative, tonic and vasodilator. It is harvested in the autumn as the leaves die down, then cut into pieces and dried.

Black cohosh root improves blood circulation and lowers blood pressure and body temperature by dilating blood vessels and increasing peripheral circulation. The constituents responsible for these actions are so resinous, the traditional virtues of this herb are best extracted by using hot water and preferably alcohol on the fresh root. A central nervous system depressant, black cohosh directly inhibits vasomotor centers that are involved with inner ear balance and hearing. One of the uses for black cohosh recognized by doctors is for relief of ringing in the ears. The Native Americans knew that it encouraged uterine contractions and used it to facilitate labor. It is also used to reduce the inflammation and muscular pain of rheumatism and inflammatory arthritis, especially when it is associated with menopause and to treat problems of the respiratory system. Chinese physicians use several related plants to treat headache, to ripen and bring out skin rashes such as measles, diarrhea, bleeding gums and some gynecological problems.

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Black cohosh has estrogenic effects, meaning it acts like the female sex hormone estrogen. This may lend support to its traditional use for menstrual complaints. It is thought to reduce levels of pituitary luteinizing hormone, thereby decreasing the ovaries’ production of progesterone. A German trial published in 1995, revealed that black cohosh in combination with St. John’s wort was 78% effective at treating hot flashes and other menopausal problems. Black cohosh is used to optimize estrogen levels perhaps by competing with estrogen receptor sites when estrogen is overabundant but may promote estrogen production when estrogen is low. It is the prime women’s tonic for any uterine condition involving inflammation, pain, or low estrogen. It promotes fertility and softens the impact of menopause. Using black cohosh during menopause can reduce intensity and frequency of hot flashes, support and ease the body’s changes, helps counteract menopausal prolapses, improves digestion, relieves menstrual pain and irregularity, relieves headaches, relieves menopausal arthritis and rheumatism.

Cimicifugin, the ranunculoside in black cohosh, exhibits antispasmodic and sedative properties in the fresh root. When the root is cut or bruised, an enzyme is released which reacts with cimicifugin to produce protoanemonine, which is unstable in water but, when dried, is readily oxidized to an anemonic acid which has no physiological activity. The antispasmodic and sedative properties of black cohosh are only present in the whole, fresh root. The dried, powdered black cohosh in common use today contains only the irritating principles.

The root is toxic in overdose, it should be used with caution and be completely avoided by pregnant women.   The medically active ingredients are not soluble in water so a tincture of the root is normally used. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, as a sedative and an emmenagogue. It is traditionally important in the treatment of women’s complaints, acting specifically on the uterus it eases uterine cramps and has been used to help in childbirth. Research has shown that the root has oestrogenic activity and is thought to reduce levels of pituitary luteinizing hormone, thereby decreasing the ovaries production of progesterone. The root is also hypoglycaemic, sedative and anti-inflammatory. Used in conjunction with St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) it is 78% effective in treating hot flushes and other menopausal problems. An extract of the root has been shown to strengthen the male reproductive organ in rats. The root contains salicylic acid, which makes it of value in the treatment of various rheumatic problems – it is particularly effective in the acute stage of rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica and chorea. Its sedative action makes it useful for treating a range of other complaints including tinnitus and high blood pressure. The roots are used to make a homeopathic remedy. This is used mainly for women, especially during pregnancy. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cimicifuga racemosa (Actaea racemosa) for climacteric (menopause) complaints & Premenstrual syndrome.

Other Uses : Both the growing and the dried plant can be used to repel bugs and fleas

Known Hazards: The plant is poisonous in large doses. Large doses irritate nerve centres and may cause abortion. Gastrointestinal disturbances, hypotension, nausea, headaches. Not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Do not take concomitantly with iron.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actaea_racemosa
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Cimicifuga+racemosa+(Actaea+racemosa)
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail67.php

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

 

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