Actaea racemosa, commonly known as black cohosh, is a flowering woodland plant, native to the eastern United States. The root of black cohosh, also known as squaw root, has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for menstrual pain and for menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.
Recent studies have backed up this traditional use to some extent, and the herb is approved in Germany as a prescription alternative to hormone therapy. It is thought that black cohosh mimics the effects of oestrogen, and also that it binds and activates serotonin receptors. This appears to be what helps to relieve hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety and low mood, particularly during menopause. Black cohosh is also said to be effective against the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Early research suggests that black cohosh may also have beneficial effects on bone mass post-menopause, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Preliminary studies also suggest that black cohosh may help to relieve the inflammation associated with arthritis.
Black cohosh is widely regarded as safe to use for short periods of time; however, there is some concern that long term use may weaken liver health, so consult a medical professional if you are considering taking black cohosh over a lengthy period.