Today we’re featuring our bulk herb of the month, black cohosh, in honor of Native American Heritage Month! Actaea racemosa is a flowering perennial in the buttercup family, native to eastern and central North America. It thrives in shady, woodland habitats and has been used traditionally by Indigenous peoples in its native range for a variety of ailments, especially in the Appalachian Mountains. The Algonquians, Cherokee, and Iroquois used it for everything from snake bites and bee stings, to skin issues, throat and lung problems, backaches, arthritis, and rheumatism. Black cohosh is also known as “bugbane” because the flowers produce a strong odor and have also been used to effectively repel insects.
Nowadays, black cohosh is promoted as a dietary supplement for menopause symptoms like hot flashes and other estrogen-related conditions, including menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, and to induce labor. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western herbal tradition to reduce pain and support the nervous system. Studies show that black cohosh binds to the body’s opioid receptors, giving it a painkilling effect.
The part of the black cohosh plant that is used in herbal preparations is its black, twisting rhizome (underground stem), for which the plant is named. (The name cohosh is from the Algonquian tribe, and means rough, referring to the feel of the rhizome.) You can find the dried root in our bulk herbs department, from which you can brew a tea or add to tea blends (balancing flavor with warm and sweet herbs/spices). The dried root can also be powdered and made into capsules, tinctures, or tablets.
To brew at home:
• Simmer 1 cup water with ½ to 1 tsp of dried black cohosh root on low for 10-15 mins.
• Strain and drink up to 3 cups per day.