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Plant Your Pharmacy: Black Cohosh

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Got a "female problem"? Black cohosh may be able to help!

Black cohosh is known botanically as Cimicfuga racemosa, according to Richters.com. It is a perennial which grows hardily in Zones 3 through 8. Indianapolis is in Zone 5B, so it will grow here. It is sown in spring, late summer or early fall, and is considered difficult to germinate. Seeds require a warm period (70 degrees Farenheit), followed by a cold period (40 degrees Farenheit) for successful germination, then a warm period to develop properly.

According to "Indiana Shade Plants" on EHow.com, black cohosh grows in the shade.

Black cohosh is also known as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, cimicfuga, rattleroot, rattleweed, richweed and squawroot, according to The Herb Book by John Lust. It is an antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant and sedative. In other words, it eases spasms, lowers discharges, promotes urination, promotes menstruation, promotes coughing up mucus and helps people relax.

"Black cohosh is said to be a potent remedy for hysteria and for spasmodic problems such as whooping cough, consumption, and chorea (St. Vitus' Dance)," writes Lust. "It has a sedative effect on the nervous system, but it also acts as a cardiac stimulant. The infusion and decoction have been used for rheumatism and chronic bronchitis, and as emetics. American Indians used black cohosh to treat female complaints as well as for rheumatism Small doses are helpful for diarrhea in children."

According to the National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Office, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is researching its use in treating hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

According to WebMD.com, research has shown that black cohosh can help with some menopausal symptoms, although most of this research has involved Remifemin, a commercial black cohosh product. Research with Klimadynon or Menofem, black cohosh products, has shown these products can lead to improved bone formation for osteoporosis patients, although the bone may not be as strong as desired.

WebMD.com warns that pregnant or breast-feeding women should not take black cohosh. People with conditions affected by estrogen or with liver disease should not take black cohosh, either. There is concern that black cohosh may cause liver disease. Black cohosh interacts with Lipitor, Cisplatin, and other medications changed by the liver. Consult your healthcare professional before using black cohosh.

Lust warns that large doses can cause symptoms of poisoning, which WebMD.com describes as stomach upset, cramps, headaches, rash, feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting and weight gain.

According to Lust, black cohosh can be taken as a decoction, a tincture or a fluid extract. For the decoction, boil 2 teaspoons of root in 1 pint water, and take 2 to 3 tablespoons cold six times a day. For the tincture, take 10 to 60 drops. For the fluid extract, take 5 to 30 drops.

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