Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot – Actaea racemosa

Parts used: root

Traditional uses: Alcohol tincture used for rheumatic pains. Infusion taken to stimulate menstruation, and to help with symptoms of premenstrual tension, menopause and other gynecological problems.

“Astringent, emmenagogue, diuretic, alterative, expectorant. The root of this plant is much used in America in many disorders, and is supposed to be an antidote against poison and the bite of the rattlesnake. The fresh root, dug in October, is used to make a tincture. In small doses, it is useful in children’s diarrhoea. In the paroxyms of consumption, it gives relief by allaying the cough, reducing the rapidity of the pulse and inducing perspiration. In whooping-cough, it proves very effective. The infusion and decoction have been given with success in rheumatism. In infantile disorders, it is given in the form of syrup. It is said to be a specific in St. Vitus’ Dance of children. Overdoses produce nausea and vomiting.” ~Grieve MH

*** Cautions: Using black cohosh long term may cause thickening of the womb lining. This could lead to an increased risk of womb cancer. May cause liver damage. Adverse side effects can include dizziness, headaches, and seizures; diarrhea; nausea and vomiting; sweating; constipation; low blood pressure and slow heartbeats. ***

Used as an aphrodisiac – “A tea made from black snakeroot (Cimicifuga) is another powerful aphrodisiac, according to the wise men of the mountains, but it seems to upset the stomach if large doses are taken, and is best mixed with whiskey.” ~Randolph OMF 112

For “female troubles” – “A tea made of black snakeroot (Cimicifuga) is also used as a medicine for ‘female troubles’ which usually means amenorrhea.” ~Randolph OMF 194

Syrup used for malaria – “A good medicine for malaria fever is Black Snake roots…boiled down into a syrup.” ~Parler FBA III 2671

Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

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