Black cohosh plant pictures

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)

Description of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Stunning beautiful plant for shade. This wonderful woodland plant can grow up to 8′ at maturity when flowering. However it also produces mounding clumps of mid to dark green compound leaves that can be up to 4″ long and 3″ with course toothed edges. These are deeply lobed standing on stiff upright stems they can reach 2′ in height depending on location. In mid summer the plant puts up multiple stiff tall stems that can reach 6 feet in height. The flowers are produced on the top 1-3 feet of these stems. Flowering from the bottom up it produces small white flowers about 2/3″ across and look more like tiny exploding stars. The flower is made up mostly of the stamens with a single central pistil, the ‘petals’ are insignificant and drop very early. Flowers continued to bloom upwards along the stem providing an prolonged flowering period of a bout 6-8 weeks usually during mid to late summer. Flower stems are stiff and upright on plants grown in the sunshine but tend to bend over when plants are in shaded areas. The flowers are followed by short curved follicles that contain a few seeds each. The root system is rhizomatous and fibrous.

Growing of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) from Seed.
Black cohosh or bugbane is not the easiest plant to grow from seed. Its very fussy about its warm cold cycles and wont germinate until its had warm/cold/warm. This can be very frustrating for almost any grower. There are two main ways to deal with the seed. The easiest is to direct sow, and be patient. However if you live in an area where there is not significant cold period or you want to speed things along you can mimic the cycle yourself.

Direct sowing.
Choose a location that you want your black cohosh to grow in. This should have good organic material and hold moisture so it will stay moist for fairly long periods, but not wet. Sow the seeds by pressing them into the soil or scattering them. If scattering you may with to mix them with some sand that is a different color from your soil so you can see where the seeds have been sown.
The best time to do this is during the later summer and early fall, then the seeds get the benefit of the cold of the winter and may germinate in the following spring. However often they wont germinate until the spring after and you may need to wait a whole year for them to come up. Therefore you need to mark where you sowed the seeds and keep it free of other weeds to give the plants a chance.

Stratification process.
Since black cohosh is becoming a more important economic crop research has been done on germination techniques. The important thing to understand is that although the seeds need a warm/cold/warm cycle they also need to be moist during this time.
Research has found the best way to treat the seeds if for a period of darkness at 77°F (25°C) for two weeks, followed by incubation at 39-40°F (-40°C ) in darkness for 3 – 4 months and then cultivation at 77°F (25°C) with a 16-hour photoperiod to generate seedlings.

The best way to achieve this is to:
1.Wash seeds thoroughly. Then soak them for 20 minutes in a 10% bleach solution to sterilize the surface. This is to prevent the seeds from going moldy during the stratification process.
2.Place seeds in sterile seeding mix. Use a small plastic container with a good sealing lid. Add some sterile seeding mix to the bottom and moisten. Place the seeds on top of the mixture then cover with a fine layer of the mix. Spray the mix using a spray bottle with tap water. Make sure the water is fresh from the tap not some that has been sitting around and may contain microbes.
3. Put a label on the box. State what is in it and the date in which you put the seeds in. (you wont remember later).
3. Put seeds in a warm place, somewhere that will stay around 77°F (25 °C) for about two weeks.
4. After two weeks take the box and place it in the refrigerator. Make sure you label it well and place it somewhere that it will not get disturbed, turned over and otherwise mixed. Leave it there for 3 months.
5. After the three month period. Take the box out and carefully remove the seeds. Plant in small pots or individual cells in plug trays. Do not cover seeds as they now need light to germinate.
6. place in an area where the seeds will receive as much light as possible. Research showed that providing 12-16 hours of light gave the best germination results. If sowing in spring providing additional light rather than just sunlight is recommended.

Some sites report that germination is usually in spring no matter when the seeds were sown, but we have found following the method above that the seeds will germinate when you want them too. However this plant does take patience, but its well worth it for the plants you get.

Once plants have germinated transplant into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on as any other plant. Gradually acclimatize plant to the outside environment where you intend to plant them before transplanting to their final location. If seeds were sow late in the year, overwinter small pots in frost free environment and plant out the following spring to ensure high survival rates.

How was your seed handled before it got to you?
How effective your germination rate is can also depend on how your seed was handled. Many seed companies just leave their seed in a warm room until its time to ship it to you. This is not the best thing for seed viability especially black cohosh. All our seed was kept at room temperature briefly while it was cleaned then stored in a cool environment idea for seeds until it was shipped to you. We keep all our black cohosh seeds in a refrigerator to aid in the cold stratification process. However the seed is NOT moist. (its hard to ship moistened seeds without them going moldy). In many cases our customers have found that they can just sow the seeds as normal when they receive them and the plants will germinate. However the germination rate may be lower than if the seeds were moist stratified first. We suggest that you divide your seeds into two groups and experiment with both methods.

Location and Care of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Black cohosh is one of the best plants for shady areas. It thrives in woodland settings and will tolerate a lot more shade than most other plants. It is extremely hardy and can survive to hardy to-40°F (- 40°C). In colder zones black cohosh can grow well in semi shade or even in full sunshine. This is not recommended below zone 5a, semi shade can be used down to 7a but below that the plants should be in full shade in a location with good airflow to keep the plants cooler. Do not plant in a sheltered location below zone 7b or plants may not do well.

Black cohosh (bugbane) likes rich moist soils. An area under deciduous trees with good leaf litter is an excellent choice. It will not grow under coniferous (pines and fir) trees. Once established Black cohosh needs almost no maintenance although it may will need additional water in times of drought when forest soils dry out. If this happens the foliage can become scorched and wizen. Reversely it will not grow in waterlogged soils or those that become very sodden and drain poorly.

Ensure that enough space is allowed for these plants the clumps of leaves can reach 2-3 feet across in ideal locations and the flower spikes rise to 6 feet or more. In most cases they don’t need staking but in some locations of deeper shade the stalks may bend over and need assistance. Don’t plant any closer than 24″ when starting plants out.

Black cohosh is fairly slow growing. It can take many years for a plant to reach its maximum size, however the plants are extremely long lived with many plants reported to be thriving after 25 years. Once planted they are best left alone for several years to establish.
The only maintenance needed is possibly to cut down flower spikes before then next years growth appears.
Pruning of foliage can be done in the springtime if desired. This allows the leaves to brighten the woodlands during the winter months and provide interest that would otherwise not be available.

Leave leaf litter from trees to fertilize plants and if desired add a slow release fertilizer in spring. Some sources state that the plant prefers a slightly acidic soil. However in a good woodland setting the fallen tree leaves usually provide enough acidity to keep the plants happy. If your plants do appear are stunted you may wish to have a soil sample taken to ensure you have the ideal conditions for the plant.

Left alone they will grow into large plants that brighten any woodland area and produce flowers at a time when no other woodland plant is blooming.

Insects and Diseases of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
For the most part black cohosh is not susceptible to pests and diseases. However on some occasions it can develop leaf spots which can cause premature defoliation of the plant, reducing root growth and seed set. This is usually due to plants being located in areas where there is poor air circulation or plants have become very crowded. To combat. A fungicide can be applied to help the plants short term but to ensure the plants continued good health the airflow problem needs to be addressed. Either move plants to a location with better air flow or cut vegetation around them to allow more air flow. If plants have become overcrowded thin by removing some of the plants to allow for airflow.
Root rot can occur if plants have been located in a area where the soil is too moist or becomes waterlogged after rains.

Harvesting of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
Roots. This is best done in the fall when they contain the maximum bioactive compounds. Plants are usually dug by hand and the whole root, rhizomes and the fibrous roots are collected. They can then either be used fresh or dried for later use.

Medical uses of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
A very important herb in the treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and depression, vaginal dryness, mood swings and night sweats. It can also be used in younger women to aid with menstrual cramps. However it is also useful to treating tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and high blood pressure. The roots also contain a salicylic acid, making it useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica and chorea. Native Americans used it extensively to treat a variety of different problems including sore throat, muscles, indigestion and cough.

Large quantities of the root can be toxic so it should be taken with caution and completely avoided by pregnant women

Other uses of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
The juice of the plant, especially the flower stems has can be used as an insect repellent. Hence the name Bugbane .

A native American plant in possible danger.
In the wild this plant was most commonly found in mixed deciduous eastern North American forests and forest margins, often in mountainous terrain from Massachusetts south to Georgia, west to northwest and north central Arkansas and the adjacent Ozarks of Missouri , north through the Ohio River Valley to southern Ontario. However numbers are rapidly decreasing since most of the material for herbal supplement use is collect from wild plants. Since the demand for this plant is increasing and the black cohosh plants take quite a while to develop roots that are suitable for harvest the plant populations are declining rapidly.

What’s with the name change?
A dive into the literature reveals that there have been disagreements about the classification – and hence the name – of black cohosh dating back to about 1680. Botanists appear to have been bickering about the correct classification and name of this plant for more than 330 years. Steven Foster wrote an extremely interesting article about this subject which can be seen here. Sadly however half he article is missing.

In a nutshell botanists can’t seem to agree on where it should be lodged and every time there is a major change a long debate ensues. It can take 80 years or more for a name change to be accepted or totally rejected.
For more than 100 years black cohosh has been happily settled in the Cimicifuga genus as Cimicifuga racemosa var. cordifolia, which is where Linnaeus put it in the first place. This is based on morphology of the plant mainly that Actaea has a berry-like fruit and Cimicifuga has a dry follicle.
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) does indeed have a dry follicle and not a berry and everyone seemed happy with this taxonomy until a scientist in England – Dr James Compton – did some DNA analysis and announced that black cohosh had more DNA in common with most of the Actaea group than the Cimicifuga group and so he renamed it and moved it to Actaea based on the DNA totally ignoring the taxonomy of the plant altogether.

While some places are dutifully accepting the new name a lot are not. Many insist that since it has a dry follicle not a berry its not a Actaea but a Cimicifuga. Having read a lot of the literature over the past week before I wrote this I am inclined to agree.

Very few plants have had total DNA analysis performed on them and I suspect that if it was then a lot of plants would move around to different groups. This could cause a lot more confusion because taxonomically many plants (and animals) can look very different while having similar DNA. The system of classification that has always been used is to help us group plants that have similar characteristics so we can easily identify them. If we choose to use DNA rather than taxonomy its going to get very confusing for everyone.

Pure academic science of course does not care what the real world thinks. But enough people are unhappy about this change that the debate is going to continue for many years to come. So while we like many will make note of the name change we will wait until the debate has reached total agreement before we remove the Cimicifuga name from this plant.

Other names of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).
Fairy Candles, Bugbane, Appalachian bugbane, Black snakeroot, Baneberry, Black cohosh, macrotys, rattleroot, black snakeroot, rattleweed, and rattle top.

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa L.)

Horticulture Information Leaflets

Cultivation Practices

Skip to Cultivation Practices

Site Selection
Black cohosh prefers a rich, moist, soil that is high in organic matter. In its natural habitat, it is usually found in shaded or partially shaded areas, although it will grow in full sun. Black cohosh can be grown successfully in raised beds in the woods (referred to as “woods cultivated”), in raised beds under an artificial shade structure (referred to as “shade grown”), or in a low-density, low-input method mimicking how it grows in the wild (referred to as “wild simulated”). Regardless of the cultivation system used, it is important to choose a site with well-drained, but moist, soil. Black cohosh has been known to tolerate more light and soil variations than ginseng or goldenseal, provided there is adequate moisture available. Raised beds are highly recommended, especially for clay soils or areas that tend to stay wet after a heavy rain. Make sure sufficient compost or other organic material is added to raise the organic matter content of the soil. Soils with pH of 5 to 6 are ideal for growing black cohosh.

If an open field is used for production, until the influence of full-sun on plant growth and root quality is determined, it is recommended that a shade structure be erected. Typically, a wood lath structure or polypropylene shade structure is used. Build the structure seven feet tall or higher with two opposite ends open to the prevailing breeze. For woods cultivated or wild simulated production, select a site shaded by tall, hardwood trees or a mix of hardwood and pine trees. Look for a site where other woodland plants grow such as mayapple, trillium, bloodroot, ginseng, or a native stand of black cohosh.

Black cohosh is most easily propagated by dividing the rhizomes in spring or fall. Plants can also be started indoors from seed or seed can be directly sown into the ground, but rhizome divisions provide a more uniform plant stand and allow for a faster harvestable root. Plus, large quantities of seed are not readily available at this time.

To propagate by rhizome divisions, cut rhizomes into vertical sections, two to three inches in length, making sure there is at least one bud attached to each piece. There can be up to 15 buds on the rhizome of one black cohosh plant. Any fibrous roots connected to the rhizome pieces should remain attached. In a well-prepared bed, three to five feet wide, plant the rhizome pieces deep enough to cover the top of the rhizome with two inches of soil (usually means digging a four to six inch deep hole or trench). Stagger plantings 18 to 24 inches apart, making sure the bud is pointed upright when placing the rhizome pieces in the ground. Cover beds with at least three inches of shredded hardwood bark mulch or leaf mulch. Add mulch as needed throughout the life of the planting. Roots should be ready to harvest three to five years after planting.
Black cohosh seeds must be exposed to a warm/cold/warm cycle before they will germinate. The easiest way to grow plants from seed is to harvest the mature seed in the fall and then sow in the ground immediately, allowing nature to provide the necessary temperature changes. To do this, collect the seed when the capsules have dried and started to split open and the seed “rattle” inside. Plant them 11⁄2 to 2 inches apart, approximately 1⁄4 inch deep in shaded, prepared seedbeds. Cover with a one-inch layer of hardwood bark or leaf mulch and keep moist. Some germination may occur the following spring, but most seeds will not emerge until the second spring. To speed up the germination process and improve the germination rate, grower Richo Cech suggests exposing the seeds to warm temperature (70°F) for two weeks, followed by cold temperature (40°F) for three months.

If you purchase seed, ask how the seeds have been handled, whether they have been stratified (exposed to warm and cold temperatures) and for how long, and what the anticipated germination rate is. Purchased seed often has a much lower germination rate than seed that has been collected and sown immediately. Purchased seed frequently takes over two years to germinate after sowing. Transplant seedlings into regular planting beds when a second set of true leaves emerges. Roots should be ready to harvest four to six years after seeding.

Insects and Diseases
Common diseases found on black cohosh consist of several leaf spots and root rots, including Rhizoctonia. Leaf spots can cause premature defoliation of the plant, reducing root growth and seed set. To prevent leaf spots, avoid planting in areas with poor air circulation and do not crowd plants. Once the disease is identified, collect and destroy all foliage with the disease symptoms. If more than a few plants are infected, and a positive identification of the disease has been made, an organic fungicide may be applied.

Rhizoctonia solani caused damping-off in young emerging black cohosh seedlings in a study done in Canada. Control of Rhizoctonia may be achieved by planting in well-drained soils and by rotating black cohosh plantings with non-susceptible plants, such as corn, to prevent the buildup of pathogenic organisms.

Common insects that attack black cohosh include cutworms and blister beetles. Consult the Organic Materials Review Institute for approved organic insecticides that can be tried. Other pests that forage on black cohosh include deer, opossum, rabbits, slugs, and snails. Fencing and repellents may be effective in deterring these pests.

Harvesting, Cleaning, and Drying
Most black cohosh is harvested in the fall, primarily because that is when the roots are at their peak in weight and bioactive constituents. There are some buyers who will also purchase it in the spring. The entire root, including rhizome and fibrous roots, is harvested. Digging is usually done by hand using a spading fork.

Shake the harvested roots free of soil and carefully separate out any roots that are not black cohosh. All soil, sand, rocks, and other foreign matter must be removed. Protect from the sun and heat and do not allow the roots to dry out. If the roots are to be used as planting stock, they should be planted immediately or mixed with moist sphagnum moss and stored in mesh bags, burlap bags, or cardboard boxes in a cooler at about 40°F. Check often to ensure the roots do not dry out and stir the roots to aerate and prevent mold and mildew. If the roots will be sold for processing, wash them carefully with a pressure water hose or a root washer. A common root washer consists of a rotating drum with water nozzles positioned to spray the roots as they tumble, thoroughly cleaning them. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to remove all soil and sand from the roots. This can be challenging because of the knotty nature of black cohosh roots. Some roots will need to be cut to get them clean, but dirty roots will bring a low price or be rejected by the buyer.

If a dried product is desired, once the roots are clean, dry them at low heat with high airflow. If a special herb dryer is not available, a food dehydrator, a bulk tobacco barn, or a small room outfitted with racks, a heater, dehumidifier, and a fan can be used. There are several different temperature regimes for drying black cohosh, but the simplest one is to dry them at 80 to 95°F for several days to a week. Once the roots are completely dry, store in burlap bags, polysacks, or cardboard drums, in a cool, dark, and dry location. Keep no longer than one year. The dry-down rate for black cohosh is approximately one-third of its fresh weight. Potential yield per acre of the dried roots ranges from 750 to 2,500 lbs per acre.

Wildflower of the Year 2017 Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)

The slender wands of flowering Common Black Cohosh beckon us to explore woodlands.

Photo by Richard Stromberg

Common Black Cohosh is a perennial rhizomatous forest herb. Its horizontal rhizomes bear numerous adventitious roots on the underside and aerial stems of annual duration on the upper side, along with knobby scars left from aerial stems of previous years. Leaves are alternate, twice or thrice compound in ternate or pinnate patterns, and large — up to a meter in length. Individual leaflet size and shape vary with position in the large compound leaves, with position of a leaf on the stem, and from population to population. Most often leaflets are coarsely serrate, lobed to deeply incised, with a truncate to cuneate base and an acute to acuminate apex and range 3-10 cm in width and 2–10 cm in length.

Drawing by Nicky Staunton

Inflorescences are terminal, held well above the leaves, sparsely branched, and up to about 1 m long, resulting in a total height of robust flowering specimens to 2 m or so; flowering commences at the bottom of each raceme and progresses apically. The white flowers possess 4 or 5 concave sepals about 5 mm long that promptly drop at anthesis. Just above the position occupied by sepals one finds a series of organs that can be interpreted either as petals or staminodes (sterile stamens); these are oblanceolate to oblong, about 3 mm long, and bear a pair of somewhat irregular lobes at the apex. Functional (fertile) stamens are numerous, ranging 55–100 per flower, and form a globelike mass roughly 2.5 cm in diameter; stamens are 8–10 mm wide and each consists of a slender filament supporting two anther sacs of pollen. Usually there is just a single pistil at the center of the flower but, rarely, 2 or 3 may be present. Ovaries are stout and barrel-shaped, arising from a short stipe at the base and capped with a short style and flat stigma. Fruits are dry follicles, 6–9 cm long. During fruit development stigmas become displaced laterally, and transversely oriented veins of the ovary wall become prominent. Seeds are semicircular, with minutely roughened sides, about 2 mm long and are produced in a double row inside the follicle.

Photo by W. John Hayden

Name and Relationships

Black Cohosh is a member of Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup Family. Linnaeus published the name Actaea racemosa in his monumental work Species Plantarum (1753). Actaea is the ancient Greek name for Elderberry, but why Linnaeus might have applied that name to this plant is difficult to fathom; racemosa refers to its elongate inflorescence. In 1818 Thomas Nuttall transferred this species to Cimici­fuga, forming the combination Cimicifuga racemosa, the name by which Black Cohosh was known for many years. Insight from cladistic analysis of gene-sequence data has led to reinstatement of Black Cohosh in Actaea, along with several other species once classified in Cimicifuga. Black Cohosh is understood to be closely related to Actaea pachypoda, White Baneberry or Dolls’-eyes. As now interpreted, the genus Actaea contains about 28 species found throughout temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.

Human Uses

Drawing by Nicky Staunton

Native Americans used Black Cohosh for a variety of medicinal purposes, and some of these uses continue to this day. The plant is reputed to possess analgesic, sedative, and anti-inflammatory effects. Further, there are commercially available dietary supplements used by some to treat a variety of gynecological conditions. The VNPS makes no endorsement for (or against) the use of Black Cohosh for medical purposes.

In the Wild

Black Cohosh is a plant of mesic to dry forests, thriving in soils rich in base elements. Flowers emit a sweet/fetid odor that attracts flies, gnats, beetles, and bumblebees, its presumed pollinators; nectar and pollen constitute pollinator rewards. Black Cohosh is larval host for the Appalachian Azure butterfly (Celastrina neglectamajor).

In the Garden

Cultivation of Black Cohosh is easy if appropriate garden requirements of light shade, rich soil, and sufficient moisture are met; it is prized for its graceful midsummer blooms. Plants can be propagated by seed or rhizome division. To germinate, seeds require exposure first to warm temperatures followed by cold; sowing outdoors as soon as ripe seed are available should yield good germination, but it may take years before plants attain flowering size. Variety dissecta, with deeply cut leaflets, and var. cordifolia, which has shallowly lobed leaflets resembling maple leaves, are available in the nursery trade. In addition, a number of cultivars have varying degrees of purple (anthocyanin) pigmentation.

Where to See It

Black Cohosh is found throughout Virginia except in the outer Coastal Plain. It is most frequent in the mountains, becoming progressively less common through the Piedmont and inner Coastal Plain. Further, Black Cohosh is widely distributed in eastern North America, from western Massachusetts to Missouri and south to Tennessee and Georgia.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of Actaea racemosa is secure, but as with all native plants, populations are subject to habitat alteration.

Gardeners should not collect Black Cohosh in the wild and should be certain that all native plants purchased for home gardens have been nursery-propagated, not wild-collected.

For a list of retail sources of nursery-propagated plants and responsibly collected seeds, check out our list of Regional Native Plant Nurseries, or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Virginia Native Plant Society, Blandy Experimental Farm, 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Unit 2, Boyce, VA 22620; e-mail [email protected]; or call 540-837-1600.

To see and learn more about interesting species of plants native to Virginia, contact your chapter of VNPS for the times and dates of programs and wildflower walks in your area.

W. John Hayden
VNPS Botany Chair

Plant of the Week: Fairy Candles (Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot)

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Black Cohosh, Fairy Candles, Black Snakeroot
Latin: Cimicifuga racemosa

Black cohosh, or fairy candle, is a summer-blooming woodland plant that played an important role in patent medicine.

Most woodland wildflowers are spring bloomers, completing their life cycle before the forest is fully foliated. But one wildflower, known by a long list of common names – black cohosh, black snakeroot, bugbane or fairy candles – (Cimicifuga racemosa), blooms when the shade is at its peak. It not only grows well in the woodland garden, but it has an interesting story to tell.

Black cohosh is an herbaceous perennial with large, three-branched compound leaves emerging directly from the below-ground crown. The compound leaflets are large, dark green and deeply notched. The leaves stand about two feet tall.

When plants flower in late June or early July, the ascending, usually three-forked spike may reach 6 to 7 feet high. The white- to cream-colored flowers are individually small and crowded down the length of the spike. The true petals fall as the flower opens, leaving behind clusters of stamens that give the spike a bottle-brush look.

Plants with lots of common names usually have a long history with humankind. Black cohosh derives its name from an Algonquin name for the plant. Native Americans used the roots in a number of medicinal remedies ranging from snakebite to female ailments. Squawroot was a name sometimes applied to the plant, indicating its use for treating female distress during menstruation and menopause.

Until recent times, medicine has been the domain of men, even the treatment of female disorders. Though the male doctors may have had lots of book learning on the subject, their lack of first-hand experience and empathy sometimes lead to treatments that went beyond the medical dictum of “first, do no harm.”

Following the Civil War, one of the prescribed treatments for severe menstrual cramping was the surgical removal of healthy ovaries. That 40 percent of the patients died from the procedure because of poor sanitary conditions, makes the cure far worse than the problem. This was the medical state of affairs when one of America’s first widely successful businesswoman introduced a patent medicine offering a non-surgical alternative.

The woman was Lydia Pinkham (1819-1883), a Massachusetts woman who suddenly found herself obliged to support her family after her husband lost his fortune in the economic crash of 1873. For years, she had been treating herself and female neighbors with an herbal homebrew that worked wonders on the female constitution.

These were during the days before the Food and Drug Administration, so all you had to do was promote a product heavily, and you were assured a good market. Some of these patent medicines (called such because their ingredient list was patented) worked and some didn’t, but you couldn’t tell by the elaborate hucksterism used to promote the products.

Lydia patented her product, Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, in 1876 and began selling it door to door for $1 a bottle. A couple years later, one of her sons had the idea of adding her picture to all promotional material, and the business took off. By the time of her death, she was selling $300,000 per year.

Another touch that improved her outreach was that she started soliciting questions from her customers. Her responses were always hand written and signed “Mrs. Pinkham.” In these responses, her other pills and elixirs were shamelessly promoted. The fact that she was still writing the letters 30 years after she died didn’t seem to bother her faithful customers, though one ladies’ magazine printed a photo of her tombstone in 1905.

Her vegetable compound was a mixture of five herbs, all dissolved in 18 percent alcohol. If the herbs didn’t cure you, the alcohol content certainly made you forget your aches and pains.

The company survived into the 1920s when it had its highest sales of $3.8 million. Her formula – minus the alcohol – is still available and manufactured by Numark Labs. As so often happens, her remedy was a much better solution to menstrual problems than that suggested by the surgeons. Modern studies now suggest that the drug interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain that regulate body temperature.

Black cohosh is a good woodland wildflower, doing best in moist, fertile but well drained sites. It’s a bit gawky in the landscape when used alone, so use it in groups of three or five. It can be propagated by division or seed, which should be planted in the fall to ensure they receive their wintertime chill to aid in germination.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – July 15, 2005

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

Black Cohosh Plant

Black Cohosh – Actaea racemosa For Sale Affordable, Grower Direct Prices Tennessee Wholesale Nursery

Black Cohosh – Actaea racemosa. Also called black bugbane and fairy candle, black cohosh is flowering, a perennial plant capable of growing up to two feet tall. It produces large leaves, and flowers appear on the plant in late spring and early summer. The flowers have no petals. Instead, they appear as clusters.
Black cohosh is a native, North American plant, growing from southern Ontario to central Georgia and as far west as Missouri. The plant prefers to build in woodland areas.
Just like blue cohosh, black cohosh has a long history as a medicinal herb used by the Native Americans as a sedative and to treat inflammation.

Affordable Black Cohosh For Every Landscape

The roots of this plant can often be used to help with lupus, menopause, PMS and also help balance female hormones. It is usually created in essential oil or ointment and can also be used as an astringent to clean areas on the skin. It can also be designed with a tea that can help with coughing. Throughout history, this plant has been known for more than just its beauty. In the early days, it was used by women as a contraceptive and even to help with endometriosis and cervical dysplasia.Black Cohosh will also help with menopause symptoms!

Black Cohosh is a lovely member of the buttercup and daffodil family. It is also known as Actaea Racemosa and is a native plant to Eastern North America. Moist but well-drained soils will provide the best growing conditions for this particular plant. During April and all the way into June, this plant will have stalks that shoot up with beautiful yet subtle flowers at the top. These light white colored blooms are just the thing to make a garden even more beautiful and vibrant. Throughout history, this plant has been known for more than just its beauty.

This plant is relatively low maintenance and will not require a whole lot of attention during the year. It is a perennial and is quite popular due to its long flowering season as well as its unique appearance. In the wild, it is commonly found alongside other plants such as ginseng, bloodroot or trillium. The foliage on this plant will be bushy and full looking which adds to the reasons that this should be included in any landscape. Black Cohosh

Uses and side effects of black cohosh for menopause

Share on PinterestPeople with pre-existing conditions may have a higher risk of experiencing adverse side effects.

There is little to no long-term data on the risks associated with black cohosh use.

As black cohosh preparations are not regulated by the FDA, there is also a chance that products may contain other botanical or chemical ingredients that could cause harm.

Because of these uncertainties, the North American Menopause Society do not recommend the use of the herb for the treatment of menopause symptoms. Most health authorities and studies suggest that if black cohosh is used, it should only be taken for a maximum of one year.

Though rare, liver injury is the most studied, and potentially the most dangerous, complication associated with black cohosh use. Those with signs of jaundice or liver failure should immediately see a doctor. If the signs are severe, they should seek emergency care.

Common signs of jaundice include:

  • yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • severe upper stomach pain or cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • extreme tiredness not related to exercise or lack of sleep
  • dark urine

Many additional health complications of varying severity have been connected with the use of the black cohosh.

As the herb acts as a blood thinner, bleeding and blood pressure disturbances may occur with use. A doctor should assess symptoms that involve bleeding or become severe.

The full list of currently known side effects of black cohosh use includes:

  • abnormal or increased vaginal discharge
  • vaginal bleeding or stimulation of menstrual flow
  • abnormal heartbeat or altered blood pressure, typically lowered
  • blood clots, especially in the legs
  • breast cancer recurrence
  • fluid buildup
  • headache
  • irritability, moodiness, depression
  • breast pain or tenderness
  • chest discomfort
  • constipation
  • liver damage or failure
  • hepatitis infection
  • muscle weakness
  • minor skin irritations or lesions
  • eye inflammation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness or vertigo
  • overgrowth of the uterine lining
  • seizures
  • excessive sweating
  • general swelling
  • fatigue
  • mild visual impairments
  • weight gain

Certain people may be at a higher risk of complications if using black cohosh. Those on estrogen or hormone therapies may not be able to take it safely.

Factors that increase the likelihood of adverse reactions to black cohosh include:

  • hormone-sensitive conditions, such as breast and uterine cancers, and endometriosis
  • seizure disorders
  • liver disease
  • history of stroke
  • conditions involving blood clots
  • medication that lowers blood pressure
  • estrogen medications and hormone replacement therapies
  • blood-thinning and antiplatelet medications
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • alcohol use

In many classes of medications, there are ones that increase the risk of complications and interaction when used alongside black cohosh. These classes include:

  • liver medications
  • osteoporosis and arthritis medications
  • depression and mood medications
  • anti-seizure medications
  • antihistamines
  • cancer medications
  • cholesterol medications

Some people are allergic to black cohosh and its components. The herb may also contain small levels of salicylic acid, the active component in aspirin. People with aspirin intolerance or allergies should avoid it.

Black cohosh may also interact negatively with other herbs or traditional remedies. Supplements used to treat conditions, such as those considered risk factors for black cohosh use, might also raise the chance of side effects when used alongside this herb.

Natural supplements to avoid while using black cohosh include:

  • chaste-tree berries
  • evening primrose oil
  • blue cohosh
  • pennyroyal
  • ginkgo biloba
  • garlic
  • saw palmetto
  • willow bark
  • St. John’s wart

Black Cohosh


  • Black cohosh, a member of the buttercup family, is a plant native to North America. Native American and Chinese herbalists have traditionally used black cohosh for a variety of ailments and as an insect repellent.
  • Currently, people use black cohosh as a dietary supplement for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. It’s also been used as a dietary supplement for other conditions, including menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome, and to induce labor.
  • The part of the black cohosh plant used in herbal preparations is the root or rhizome (underground stem). Black cohosh is sold as the dried root, in tablets and capsules, and as an extract.

How Much Do We Know?

  • Black cohosh has been studied for menopause symptoms in people, but most of the studies were not of the highest quality. Therefore, knowledge of the effects of black cohosh is limited.

What Have We Learned?

  • Studies that tested black cohosh for menopause symptoms have had inconsistent results. The overall evidence is insufficient to support using black cohosh for this purpose.
  • There are not enough reliable data to show whether black cohosh is effective for other uses.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is funding research to identify active components in black cohosh and understand their effects in the body.

What Do We Know About Safety?

  • In clinical trials, people have taken black cohosh for as long as 12 months with no serious harmful effects. The only reported side effects were minor problems such as upset stomach or rashes.
  • Some commercial black cohosh products have been found to contain the wrong herb or to contain mixtures of black cohosh and other herbs that are not listed on the label.
  • Cases of liver damage—some of them very serious—have been reported in people taking commercial black cohosh products. These problems are rare, and it is uncertain whether black cohosh was responsible for them. Nevertheless, people with liver disorders should consult a health care provider before taking black cohosh products, and anyone who develops symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice, while taking black cohosh should stop using it and consult a health care provider.
  • The risk of interactions between black cohosh and medicines appears to be small. NCCIH is funding research to learn more about possible interactions involving black cohosh.
  • It’s not clear if black cohosh is safe for women who have had hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer or for pregnant women or nursing mothers.
  • Black cohosh should not be confused with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), which has different effects and may not be safe. Black cohosh has sometimes been used with blue cohosh to stimulate labor, but this use was linked to severe adverse effects in at least one newborn.

Keep in Mind

  • Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Black Cohosh: Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Black cohosh is a flowering plant. It grows in parts of the United States and Canada.

The perennial produces white flowers from June to September, but it gets its name from its black roots. The roots are believed to have healing properties.

The black cohosh root has a long history of being used to treat medical conditions. Native Americans used black cohosh in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • kidney issues
  • malaria
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • joint inflammation
  • sore throat
  • helping with labor
  • menstrual cramps
  • menopause

Early American colonists used black cohosh to treat snake bites, uterus issues, nervous disorders, and more. Black cohosh was also an ingredient in Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, an herbal menstrual cramp remedy popular in the early 1900s.

Today, black cohosh is mainly used to help treat symptoms associated with menopause. Read on to learn more about how it’s used and the potential side effects.

How is black cohosh used?

The roots of black cohosh are dried and made into teas, liquid extracts, and put into capsule form. Sometimes, black cohosh is used as one ingredient in an herbal mixture.

Remifemin is an example. It’s a mixture that’s been sold as a menopause tablet for 40 years in Europe. It contains 20 milligrams (mg) of black cohosh extract.

You can buy supplements with black cohosh as a concentrated liquid, in pill form, or as part of an herbal combination formula. It’s available in most drug stores or online.

There’s no standardized dose for the herb. Extracts and mixtures can vary in the amount they contain. Generally, 20 to 40 mg is used to treat menopause symptoms.

What are the benefits of black cohosh?

The most widely studied treatment use of black cohosh has been for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. But research is still mixed as to whether it’s effective or not.

Some studies say it does help reduce hot flashes and improves mood and sleep patterns for women during menopause. Other research has shown the herb to be ineffective.

Experts aren’t sure exactly how black cohosh works or why it might be helpful for menopause symptoms. One theory is that it may have estrogenic activity, though this has not panned out in studies. For this reason, it’s possible that black cohosh is harmful for women going through treatment for breast cancer, at least for estrogen-positive tumors.

What does research say about the effectiveness of black cohosh?

Studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reported conflicting findings regarding the effectiveness of black cohosh used alone or in combination with other herbs in reducing hot flashes and/or night sweats. Women in the study were premenopausal or menopausal.

One recent study in the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine found black cohosh, along with a few other herbs used in Iranian medicine, to be an effective alternative treatment for women experiencing hot flashes.

Most of the clinical studies have focused on treating menopause symptoms. The women in the studies have only been evaluated for about six months. For this reason, the current American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines on herbs as treatment for menopause support only using black cohosh for six months or less.

What are the side effects of black cohosh?

Black cohosh is associated with generally mild side effects, though some are more serious than others. One of the major side effects is liver damage.

Don’t use black cohosh if you have a history of liver disorders. Also avoid it if you’re experiencing symptoms that can signal liver trouble, like abdominal pain, jaundice, or dark-colored urine.

Other side effects of black cohosh include:

  • upset stomach
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • low blood pressure
  • changes in heart rhythm

The black cohosh plant is in the same family as the buttercup plant, so people who have allergies to buttercups should not try black cohosh.

Black cohosh isn’t recommended for use during pregnancy or breast-feeding. There’s a risk of causing early labor for women who are pregnant. It’s not yet known if the herb is safe for breast-feeding women. It is also not recommended for use in children.

Other considerations when using black cohosh

Herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other plant extracts are considered dietary supplements. These aren’t required to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means these products don’t have to meet standards set by the FDA the way medications and food do.

It’s possible for manufacturers to make misleading claims about the product’s effectiveness. The ingredients can also vary. In some cases, particularly with mixtures, the supplement might not contain what it claims to.

Before buying dietary supplements, check to see if the supplement maker has a large amount of negative reviews or outstanding lawsuits. Buy only from good, reputable sources.

Herbs have the potential to interact with other medications, so you should always talk to your doctor about adding supplements to your treatment plan.

Next steps

There’s some evidence that black cohosh can help treat hot flashes. But experts don’t know enough to say for sure if it will offer relief from menopausal symptoms. It’s likely a safe alternative treatment if used for six months or less.

If you’re considering trying the herb, first talk to your doctor. Taking black cohosh might help, but it’s not a substitute for any recommended treatments.

Overall At-Risk Score:40

Latin Name:

Actaea racemosa L.; previously Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.

Common Name:

Black Cohosh; Black Bugbane, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candle


Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family)

Geographic Region:

Southern Ontario and Quebec to Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi – Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.


“…tolerates a variety of soil types, but prefers rich cove habitats—cool, well-drained, moist, semi shaded woodland locations”




Monoecious; flowers on long, white spikes between May and September; from Peterson’s Field Guide: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs: “Seeds require a warm period to break radicle dormancy and a cold period to break epicotyl dormancy.” “Under normal conditions, complete germination (both radicle and epicotyl) can occur in 6 months.”
Can be effectively reproduced through rhizome cuttings, which could lead to sustainable farming practices of Actaea racemosa.

Ability to withstand disturbance and over harvest:

Since the part of the plant used and harvested is the root system and the larger rhizomes, Actaea racemosa lacks the ability to quickly regenerate populations after heavy disturbances or harvesting.

Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):

Endangered in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Vulnerability of habitat/changes of habitat quality and availability:

Development and logging continue to impact the Eastern Hardwood region of our continent. This impact weakens or removes entire populations of Actaea racemosa and threatens the genetic diversity within these populations and the species as a whole.

Demand and Relative Acreage Needed to Meet Demand:

Annual harvest of Black Cohosh can equate to as much as 500,000 pounds in dry weight per year, 97% of which is sourced from wild habitat.
In-depth information on amount sold, prices by weight, and international trade of Actaea racemosa can be found in the “Wild Harvest” and “Industry Report” sections of Mary L. Predny, et al. “Black Cohosh: An Annotated Bibliography.”

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:

Due to the massive demand for Black Cohosh and the similarity in appearance of North America’s eastern Actaea species, the wild harvest of Black Cohosh is having a dramatic impact on populations of plants that are mistakenly harvested. Black Cohosh (A. racemosa) is often confused with Mountain Bugbane (A. podocarpa), White Baneberry (A. pachypoda), and Appalachian Bugbane (A. rubifolia). A. podocarpa has been listed as endangered in Illinois and rare in Pennsylvania; A. pachypoda is listed as exploitably vulnerable in New York; and A. rubifolia is threatened in Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee and endangered in Indiana. This is all due to habitat loss and wild harvest, which is only exacerbated by misidentifying and harvesting them as Black Cohosh.

Recommendations for industrial and home use:

Cultivated harvest would be the best option to take to maintain a secure and diverse wild population. As better population surveys are completed throughout its range, bans on wild harvest of Actaea racemosa should be applied where appropriate.

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