Black Cohosh Side Effects And Benefits

Black Cohosh is a perennial plant native to the woodlands of eastern North America, particularly southern Ontario to Georgia and as far west as Missouri and Arkansas. It is part of the buttercup family and also goes by the names bugbane, black snakeroot, bugwort, rattletop and rattleweed. The dried root of the plant has been used since the time of the native Indians for a list of ailments including gynecological disorders, menopause, malaise, rheumatism, constipation, hives, colds, neuropathy and inflammation.



There are always concerns regarding benefits and potential side effects like with any natural remedy. Regardless of your physical and/or mental constitution, black cohosh and any alternative remedy should be discussed with your doctor before using. Similar to a pharmaceutical commercial’s elongated disclaimer, herbal remedies also have their own. Keep in mind that the below side effects are rare and often considered coincidental or in correlation with an additional remedy or pre-existing condition.

Some Potential Black Cohosh Side Effects And Benefits:   

  • Stomach/abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Liver damage (hepatitis)
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sluggish heartbeat
  • Weight problems


Unfortunately, black cohosh has not been as popular as some other alternative remedies when it comes to laboratory tested studies. There are scattered results from a variety of studies with limited reputability and none have gone beyond a six month double blind protocol. Some preliminary results indicate that black cohosh may increase pre-existing cancerous tumors in mice. It has also been reported that this herb may cause liver failure (in 2006 Canada Health reported the possibility of liver damage when using black cohosh). However, in 2001, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated that, “black cohosh may be helpful in the short-term (less than 6 months) for menopausal hot flashes.”


According to a report published in JAMA by The National Institute of Health, entitled “Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) behaves as a mixed competitive ligand and partial agonist at the human mu opiate receptor”, black cohosh has linkage to “opiate agnostic activity”. This means that it may be able assist in releasing and/or controlling pain relieving chemicals (opiates) that can ease menopausal symptoms. Interestingly, the NIH also reported that “Striking similarities exist between opiate withdrawal (something a heroin addict may go through) and menopausal hot flashes.”

Avoiding Black Cohosh Side Effects:   

It is recommended to avoid black cohosh if you have any liver challenges. If specific ailments such as menopausal symptoms are your concern for using this remedy it is best to seek a professional naturopathic doctor or herbalist to guide your dosage amount. Overall, if any of the above side effects present themselves during use it is best to discontinue black cohosh altogether.

What’s Your Experience?   

Have you ever tried black cohosh? If yes, what has been your experience? Please put your comments below.

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