Mother Earth Living

Every Herb Has a Story: Black Cohosh

By Staff

Randy Buresh (Registered Nurse and Herbalist), is the co-owner and founder of Oregon’s Wild Harvest. Oregon’s Wild Harvest grows, harvests and produces their own medicinal herbal products, many of which use the herbs grown on their certified Biodynamic® and Organic farm in Sandy, Oregon.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) grows in the wild from as far south as Florida, up to the Great Lakes, and centrally through the Ohio valley.

It is a conspicuous plant, which is easily found because of its tall stems and white flowers, reaching as high as 9 feet. The name “black” comes from the color of the root and “cohosh” refers to an Algonquin word meaning “rough.” Believe me, I have seen and worked with black cohosh roots, and the name fits!

Black cohosh growing on the farm.
Photo courtesy Randy Buresh

Although this plant has a long history, it was first written about and described as a favorite plant of the Native Americans as early as 1801. It’s interesting that when looking at the locations of most Native American settlements, the medicinal plants were always prevalent and grew in abundance in these areas.

The Native American tribes were living with the plants. This is something that we have lost–the connection with the plant world, and the understanding of how important this connection is to us. These plants were put on the earth for us to use, not only as a source of food and nourishment, but as a means to stay healthy and feel good.

Black cohosh has now become a very popular herb, and has been scientifically studied for supporting menopause. (Note: Although this herb seems to be very effective for treating the symptoms of menopause, it should NOT be considered a substitution for osteoporosis prevention, heart disease or other associated diseases associated with low estrogen.)

How does it work? Further scientific studies continue to unravel the mysteries of this special plant. Black cohosh root contains several key compounds including triterpene glycosides, which collectively are known as phytoestrogens, or plant-derived estrogens. Phytoestrogens are NOT the same as the estrogen, which is produced by the ovaries. But, they have the ability to bind with estrogen receptors in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. This, in turn, provides a balance between the highs and lows of estrogen production in the aging female reproductive system.

This is just one of the many benefits black cohosh offers, just as the Native Americans and early physicians knew before us. It’s just another natural approach to living a better life, staying healthy and feeling good.  

  • Published on Sep 28, 2011
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