Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family that can grow up to eight feet tall. It has fluffy white flowers and dark, ensnarled roots which contain most of its curative properties. Black cohosh has long been used as a natural medicine by Native Americans for a variety of complaints, but it has recently been embraced by the baby boomer women as its main benefit is in treating symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes.
Studies have shown that black cohosh lowers levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), a rise in which contributes to hot flashes. This herb also contains phytoestrogens which can bind with hormone receptors in the breast and uterus to relieve other complaints of menopause, without the potential side effects of hormone replacement therapy. Black cohosh has been used to treat menstrual cramps and to ease contractions during and after childbirth as it increases blood flow to the uterus. It may also play a role in alleviating symptoms of PMS.
An extract in the plant's rhizome seems to have anti-inflammatory properties, and so black cohosh may be effective in treating arthritis and neuralgia. The herb has also been used to soothe muscle aches, sciatica, coughs and ringing in the ears. There is some evidence to suggest it may reduce blood pressure.
This root of this herb dried, ground and formed into tablets or capsules to be used as dietary supplements. Compresses of black cohosh tea may be applied topically to aching muscles or joints.