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Cimicifuga racemosa - (L.)Nutt.

Common Name Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane
Family Ranunculaceae
USDA hardiness 4-10
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous in large doses[7]. Large doses irritate nerve centres and may cause abortion[268]. Gastrointestinal disturbances, hypotension, nausea, headaches. Not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Do not take concomitantly with iron [301].
Habitats Moist, mixed deciduous forests, wooded slopes, ravines, creek margins, thickets, moist meadowlands, forest margins, and especially mountainous terrain from sea level to 1500 metres[270].
Range Eastern N. America - Massachusetts to Ontario, south to Georgia and Tennessee.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade
Cimicifuga racemosa Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane
Cimicifuga racemosa Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane

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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Late summer, Mid summer Late summer, Mid summer UPDATE 10.12.12: Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt. is a synonym of Actaea racemosa L. Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Cimicifuga racemosa is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 0.6 m (2ft in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Jul to October, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.


Actaea racemosa L.


Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves.
Edible Uses:

Leaves - cooked[105]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Alterative;  Antidote;  Antiinflammatory;  Antirheumatic;  Antispasmodic;  Astringent;  Birthing aid;  Cardiotonic;  
Diaphoretic;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Expectorant;  Homeopathy;  Hypnotic;  Hypoglycaemic;  
Sedative;  Tonic;  Vasodilator;  Women's complaints.

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[254]. A popular and widely used herbal remedy, it is effective in the treatment of a range of diseases[4]. The root is alterative, antidote, antirheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, cardiotonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, hypnotic, sedative, tonic and vasodilator[4, 7, 21, 46, 57, 165, 192, 222]. It is harvested in the autumn as the leaves die down, then cut into pieces and dried[4]. The root is toxic in overdose, it should be used with caution and be completely avoided by pregnant women[222]. See also the notes above on toxicity. The medically active ingredients are not soluble in water so a tincture of the root is normally used[222]. It is used in the treatment of rheumatism, as a sedative and an emmenagogue[213]. 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[222, 268]. 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[222, 254]. The root is also hypoglycaemic, sedative and anti-inflammatory[222]. Used in conjunction with St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) it is 78% effective in treating hot flushes and other menopausal problems[254]. An extract of the root has been shown to strengthen the male reproductive organ in rats[222]. 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[268]. Its sedative action makes it useful for treating a range of other complaints including tinnitus and high blood pressure[254]. The roots are used to make a homeopathic remedy[232]. This is used mainly for women, especially during pregnancy[232]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cimicifuga racemosa (Actaea racemosa) for climacteric (menopause) complaints, Premenstrual syndrome. (see [302] for critics of commission E).

Other Uses


Both the growing and the dried plant can be used to repel bugs and fleas[211].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Woodland garden. Prefers a moist humus rich soil and some shade[1, 111, 200]. Grows well in dappled shade[28, 31, 88]. Succeeds in ordinary garden soil[1] and tolerates drier soils[233]. Plants are hardy to at least -20°c[187]. A very ornamental species[233]. The flowers have an unusual, slightly unpleasant smell[188] which is thought to repel insects[213]. Plants grow and flower well in Britain, though they seldom if ever ripen their seed[4]. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, North American native, Naturalizing, Suitable for cut flowers, Suitable for dried flowers, Fragrant flowers.


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[1]. Only just cover the seed. It germinates in 1 - 12 months or even longer at 15°c[164]. The seed does not store well and soon loses its viability[200], stored seed may germinate better if given 6 - 8 weeks warm stratification at 15°c and then 8 weeks cold stratification[164]. 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[K]. Division in spring or autumn[1]. 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.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Cimicifuga dahuricaXing An Sheng Ma13
Cimicifuga foetidaFoetid Bugbane13
Cimicifuga heracleifoliaKomarov's Bugbane02
Cimicifuga racemosa (Actaea racemosa)Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot, Bugbane14
Cimicifuga simplex 10


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Readers comment

Ruth Baker   Mon Jun 29 2009

You are an excellent resource for the general public - would be even better if you could have more peer review articles for reference. Thanks Ruth Baker Herbal medicine student

k.   Sun Sep 6 2009

You have two opposing statements in the same paragraph. Please correct. "The root is toxic in overdose, it should be used with caution and be completely avoided by pregnant women[222]" "This is used mainly for women, especially during pregnancy[232]." This herb is commonly used toward the end of pregnancy or during labor. Please correct this information.

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Subject : Cimicifuga racemosa  
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