Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh (Sheng Ma)

Botanical Name: Western – Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa. Eastern – Cimicifuga foetida.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) is best known in Western medicine for its ability to treat menopausal symptoms, including excessive sweating, night sweats, osteoporosis, restlessness, vaginal dryness, and heart palpitations. It is also used to treat premenstrual syndrome, including menstrual cramping. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the species used (Cimicifuga foetida) has similar properties and is additionally used for treating early stages of measles, chills and fever, and prolapse of the uterus and anus. Black cohosh has become an endangered species. Please use products created from cultivated sources.

Watch a short video, from Ann Christensen, Founder and Creator of White Rabbit Institute of Healing™ – Common Dosage and Using Black Cohosh.

Below is an overview of black cohosh, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of black cohosh.

How to take FULL advantage of Black Cohosh's healing powers...

Black Cohosh (Sheng Ma)

JOIN ME in an exploration of the healing herb, Black Cohosh (Sheng Ma). Explore the benefits and applications of Black Cohosh, from Eastern and Western perspectives, and so much more!


Western Name: Black Cohosh

Also Known As: Black Snakeroot, Macrotys, Bugbane, Bugwort, Rattleroot, Rattleweed, Rheumatism Weed

Organs/Systems: Uterus, Nervous System, Endocrine System

Key Actions: Antispasmodic, Emmenagogue, Expectorant, Alterative, Nervine, Parturient, Uterine Tonic, Diaphoretic, Antirheumatic, Antibacterial, Antipyretic, Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic

Medicinal Uses: Hot flashes, night sweats, osteoporosis, restlessness, vaginal dryness, heart palpitations, mood swings, infertility, menstrual cramping, sore throats, prolapsed uterus, hemorrhoids, fever, lower cholesterol.


Pin Yin: Sheng Ma (translates as “Ascending Hemp”)

Also Known As: N/A

Meridians: Lung, Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestines

Key Actions: Disperses Wind Heat, Clears Heat, Clears Toxins, Raises Yang Qi, Tonifies the Kidney

Medicinal Uses: Vents measles (early stages of measles). Clears toxins in the upper part of the body (toothache, ulcerated lips or gums, canker sores). Stimulates the uterus in the late stages of pregnancy to aid childbirth. Acts as a guide herb to upper regions of the body. Treats sore throat, headaches, chills and fever, diarrhea due to Spleen Qi deficiency, fatigue, shortness of breath, prolapse, adrenal tonic, asthma, menopausal symptoms, menstrual disorders.

Basic Habitat / Botany:

Black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. It is an herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 6 ft. tall, producing large compound leaves from underground rhizomes. Its broad basal leaves are up to 3 ft long, forming repeated sets of three leaflets with coarsely serrated margins. It flowers in late spring and early summer. It bears tall tapering racemes of white flowers that are white without petals or sepals and grow in tight clusters. They have a distinctly sweet, fetid smell that attracts flies, gnats, and beetles and also repels insects.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) is native to North America. It grows in a variety of woodland habitats, and is often found in small woodland openings from southern Ontario, Canada to central Georgia, U.S. Cimicifuga foetida is native to Europe and Siberia.

Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Rhizome

Flavors/Temps: Acrid, Slightly Sweet, Slightly Bitter, Cool

Caution: Generally considered safe, black cohosh is not recommended for pregnant women, especially in the first trimester as the herb is a uterine stimulant and may stimulate contractions. An overdose could lead to headaches or tremors. While used to help vent measles in the early stages it is not used to treat cases of fully erupted measles.

Key Constituents: Polyphenols, Estrogen-like compounds, Triterpene glycosides (including Actein) Resins, Caffeic acid, Isoferulic acid, Fukinolic acid, Glycosides, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, and K, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Tannins

History/Folklore: Black cohosh is best known for its ability to treat gynecological disorders, including menopausal symptoms and menstrual cramping, and inducing labor. The herb is also used to treat menopausal symptoms of vaginal dryness, heart palpitations, foggy brain, tinnitus, vertigo, insomnia, osteoporosis, and restlessness.

Black cohosh has been used by Native Americans and the Chinese for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments. Native Americans have used the herb to treat gynecological disorders, musculoskeletal pain, fever, coughs, pneumonia, and sluggish labor. Early European settlers were taught how to use the herb by the Native Americans and began to use it as a tonic to support women’s reproductive health.

Native Americans, including the Algonquin, Iroquois, and Cherokee used the plant as an alcohol extract to support the immune system, improve energy, and treat bronchial disorders.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the species Cimicifuga foetida is used. It has similar properties to the western variety C. racemosa, but it also has its own unique applications. In China, Cimicifuga foetida is commonly used to help vent the early stages of measles and can be toasted with honey to help treat uterine, anus, or stomach prolapses. The typical recommended dose is 1.5 to 9g. For clearing Heat and Toxins 15g of raw root or rhizomes is recommended. For headaches, sore throat, chills and fever, and Yang-ascending ailments 3 to 6g is recommended.

The Chinese name, Sheng Ma, which translates as “Ascending Hemp”, refers to its leaves’ similarity to hemp leaves and its ability to treat Yang-ascending conditions. Sheng Ma is considered one of the top herbs in the Shen Nong Herbal Classic and is mentioned in Li Dong Yuan’s famous work on the Spleen and Stomach. His combination of astragalus and cohosh (Cimicifuga foetida) based recipes account for almost half of all his famous prescriptions.

Sheng Ma can be combined with bupleurum, codonopsis, and astragalus for raising sagging Yang Qi (prolapse, hemorrhoids, etc.).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, sheng ma is considered a messenger herb that can guide other herbs to the upper part of the body, such as the head and sinuses. It is often used to treat toothaches and gum diseases.

The herb fell out of use in the west but became popular again in the 1950s for treating women’s health issues. Since then its healing properties have started to be used to treat coughs, anxiety, warts, and sore throats, all ailments that it had previously been used to treat.

Black cohosh is being studied for its ability to both raise and lower estrogen levels in various parts of the body. At this time, further study is needed to confirm its active ingredients and potential properties.

The plant’s phyto-estrogenic properties seem to impact the brain, bones, and nervous system, without negatively affecting the uterus. It is known for effectively toning the uterus and countering prolapse of both the uterus and the anus.

Black cohosh has been used by some women with breast cancer to reduce the menopause-like symptoms caused by their cancer treatments. It has also been shown to be effective in treating women who have had hysterectomies. This requires using the herb for 2 to 6 months for best results.

The dried roots and rhizomes can be taken in 300 to 2,000mg per day. Powdered extracts are generally recommended at a dose of 250mg taken three times a day. The Chinese variety, sheng ma (Cimicifuga foetida), is recommended to be taken in doses of 1.5 – 9g. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the roots are also toasted with honey to help treat the prolapse of the stomach.

The common name for black cohosh is bugbane, which refers to its use as an insect repellent.

Remifemin, a commercial black cohosh extract, is standardized to provide at least 1mg triterpene glycoside per dose. It is this product that has been used in several studies confirming the herb’s ability to reduce menopausal symptoms. It currently contains 40mg black cohosh root/rhizome per daily dose of two tablets.

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Did you know?

Insect repellent

Black cohosh can be used as an effective insect repellent.


Dietary Supplement

Some commercial black cohosh products have been found to contain the wrong herb or mixtures of black cohosh and other herbs. Be sure to read product labels so you are clear about what you are taking.

Fun fact!

Not Blue Cohosh!

Don’t confuse black cohosh with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) which has different properties and may not be safe. The two herbs have sometimes been used together to induce labor, but this mixture has been linked to severe adverse effects in at least one newborn.

Take FULL advantage of Black Cohosh (Sheng Ma)!

Connecting Eastern and Western perspectives on HOW and WHY this herb works. Find out how to safely and effectively use this healing herb for treating conditions and for your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Find True Health. Explore uses, safety information, benefits, history, recipes, gardening tips, essential oil information, if it applies, and much, much more in this online course.

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ATTENTION: All material provided on this website is for informational or educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional or physician. Redistribution permitted with attribution. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Be Whole. Be Free.

ATENCIÓN: Todo el material proporcionado en este sitio web es sólo con fines informativos o educativos. No es sustituto del consejo de su profesional de la salud o médico. Esté sano. Sea feliz. Siéntase completo. Sea libre.

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